Constitutional Amendments

By: Howard A. Calkins

Type: General Entry

Published: 1976

Updated: December 1, 1994

Article XVII, Section 1, of the Constitution of 1876 provides that two-thirds of all members of each house of the Texas legislature may propose amendments at any regular biennial session and specify the date on which proposed amendments will be submitted to the voters. Members of the legislature may also propose amendments at special sessions as long as the subject of them have been included among the session's purposes for convening. Since the days of the Constitution of the Republic of Texas publicizing an amendment has been required. The proposed amendment must be published twice in all newspapers that print official notices. The first printing can appear no sooner than sixty and no later than fifty days before an election, and the second is published on the same day of the following week. The secretary of state's office is responsible for preparing explanatory statements and arranging for newspaper publication. Explanatory statements require approval by the attorney general. A copy of the complete text of each amendment is also posted in every county courthouse at least thirty days before the election. An amendment is adopted if it receives a favorable majority of the votes cast on it. Most amendments are voted on in the November general election or in a special election called by the legislature. The legislature prepares the ballot language for each amendment.

In various Texas constitutions there has never been any limitation on the number of amendments proposed. By the end of 1950 the legislature had proposed 193 amendments, and 107 had been adopted by the voters. By the time of the Constitutional Convention of 1974, the legislature had submitted 343 amendments to the voters since 1876. Of this number, 219 had been approved. By the end of 1994, 521 amendments had been proposed, and 353 had been approved by Texas voters. The record number of amendments proposed in any one election year was twenty-five in 1987.

In 1972 an amendment was passed that allowed proposed constitutional amendments to be considered and adopted during special sessions, the only time Section 1 has been amended. The new language in Section 1 allowed for the proposal of amendments for revising the constitution. This opened the door to the possibility of comprehensive revision. On November 7, 1972, voters approved the adoption of an amendment that called for the establishment of a constitutional revision commission and for the convening of the Sixty-third Texas Legislature as a constitutional convention at noon on the second Tuesday in January 1974, for the purpose of writing a new constitution to be submitted to the voters of Texas. Proposals to voters in the November 4, 1975, election included eight amendments that, except for the Bill of Rights, composed a new constitution for Texas. All were rejected by the voters.

Howard A. Calkins, "The Need for Constitutional Revision in Texas," Texas Law Review 21 (May 1943). James Dickson, "Erratic Continuity: Some Patterns of Constitutional Change in Texas since 1975," Texas Journal of Political Studies 14 (Fall-Winter 1991). Janice C. May, Amending the Texas Constitution, 1951–1972 (Austin: Texas Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, 1972). Seth Shepard McKay, Seven Decades of the Texas Constitution (Lubbock, 1942). Practicing Texas Politics (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1971). L. C. Reithmayer, "Amendments to the Texas Constitution," Southwestern Social Science Quarterly 22 (September 1941). Irvin Stewart, "Constitutional Amendments in Texas," Southwestern Political Science Quarterly 3 (September 1922).

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Howard A. Calkins, “Constitutional Amendments,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 16, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

December 1, 1994