Discuss the informal and formal powers of the Texas Governor.

The governor of Texas has numerous formal powers, such as signing and vetoing legislation and making appointments. However, they have less power compared to governors of other states. More formal executive power is divided among several positions. Therefore, the governors of Texas use the informal powers of speech and behind-the-scenes networking to accomplish their goals.

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The governor of Texas is the head of the state's executive branch, and as such, he or she has been granted a set of formal powers. The governor, for instance, is the state's military commander-in-chief. He or she is also responsible for appointing the Secretary of State and members of various state departments and agencies as well as members of task forces and advisory boards.

The governor of Texas has the authority to sign bills into law or to veto them. He or she convenes special legislative sessions as required, declares special elections, and delivers the annual "State of the State Address." Financially, the governor is responsible for estimating taxes, accounting for funds he or she has received and spent, and recommending a two-year budget. The governor may also pardon people or commute punishments.

The Texas governor also exercises some powers informally, and his or her ability to use such informal powers effectively often determines his or her success as a governor. A governor must network with other state leaders, for instance, to work together to develop and meet common goals, including passing various legislation. A governor can use his or her influence to offer advice and support to various groups and departments.

A governor can also address the people and the media to try to affect public opinion. The governor is often one of the most recognizable people in the state, and people tend to look toward him or her for leadership and guidance. A good governor provides such in a fair, balanced, reasonable, and compassionate manner.

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This is a particularly relevant question considering how Texas has become a focal point of the coronavirus pandemic. Many people blame governor Greg Abbott for the spike of COVID-19 cases in his state.

When people criticize Abbott, we might say they’re criticizing his reluctance to utilize his "informal" powers. Remember, when we talk about “informal,” we're talking about something unofficial or broad.

For example, if you're invited to a party where you should wear "formal" attire, there's a certain, specific way you have to dress. Yet if the attire is "informal," there's not a certain way you have to dress. There's a wide range of things you can wear.

To talk about the Texas governor's informal powers, we need to talk about the broad powers the Constitution grants all governors. Think about the 10th Amendment. It states,

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

This is rather informal. What powers are we talking about? We could be talking about a wide range of powers, including the power to shut down business and ban peaceful gatherings during an emergency.

It might seem inappropriate that in a purported democracy one person has the power to make so many critical choices. When we think of governors—whether in Texas or in some other state—we typically think of their formal powers, such as their ability to sign laws, veto laws, pardon prisoners, and so on. Yet the coronavirus has shed light on the centrality of their informal powers.

Democrats in Texas have said that their governor "continues to lead from behind." Could that be another way of saying that he's not being assertive enough when it comes to enforcing his informal powers?

Meanwhile, there's reports that Texas Republicans are frustrated with their governor's increasing willingness to harness his informal powers. Could this be another way of saying that the governor has too many informal powers?

We might wonder why Abbott doesn’t pivot to more formal powers. Abbott has the clear, formal power to convene a special session of the Legislature for specific purposes. Why doesn't he? Maybe the Legislature can pass a law requiring its citizens to wear face masks. Then it’d be formal—or clear—and perhaps not so controversial.

The amount of informal powers the governor possesses (or perhaps doesn’t possess) seems to be making people in Texas, including the governor himself, rather uneasy.

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Unlike in most other states, the governor of Texas has less formal power than other governors. This is not an accident. The framers of the Texas Constitution were concerned that a strong state government could infringe on the independence of Texans. Therefore, executive powers in Texas are spread over numerous positions in what is known as a plural executive.

Like other states' governors, the governor of Texas has the power to ratify or veto legislation. However, they have little direct control over what bills actually make it to their desk. Instead, the lieutenant governor and legislators have more direct control in this matter. In fact, it is the lieutenant governor, not the governor, who controls the budgeting process. While the governor has the power to make appointments to boards and commissions, they have no power over these people once they are appointed.

Informally, the governor of Texas has other powers that are not officially ascribed. This often means building working relationships with other members of the state government. A persuasive governor can work with others to achieve a policy agenda that they support. The governor must use their personality, position, and influence to talk to legislators and other officials and build consensus. In this way, they can offer advice, support, and certain resources.

Furthermore, a large part of the governor's informal powers comes from the conspicuous nature of the position. They are often seen as the face of the state. Therefore, the governor can impact policy by making public speeches and addressing the press. As a result, the governor can influence the conversation and public mood around many important issues.

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