Article III, Section 35 of the Texas Constitution

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As amended November 4, 1986:

(a) No bill (except general appropriation bills, which may embrace the various subjects and accounts for and on account of which moneys are appropriated) shall contain more than one subject.

(b) The rules of procedure of each house shall require that the subject of each bill be expressed in its title in a manner that gives the legislature and the public reasonable notice of that subject. The legislature is solely responsible for determining compliance with the rule.

(c) A law, including a law enacted before the effective date of this subsection, may not be held void on the basis of an insufficient title.

Editor Comments

This section has historically been one of the most litigated sections in the state constitution.

As adopted in 1876, the section read: "No bill (except general appropriation bills, which may embrace the various subjects and accounts for and on account of which moneys are appropriated) shall contain more than one subject, which shall be expressed in its title. But if any subject shall be embraced in an act which shall not be expressed in the title, such act shall be void only as to so much thereof as shall not be so expressed." The section has been amended once.

Due to the 1986 amendment, a person negatively affected by a law may no longer challenge it in court on the basis of an insufficient title. However, such a person may still litigate whether the underlying legislation violated the one-subject rule. Cf. Texas Legislative Council Drafting Manual at 141 ("A bill containing more than one subject is subject to a point of order. A law enacted in violation of the rule is also subject to attack in court . . . .").

Steve Smith

Recent Decisions

  • Ex parte Jones, 440 S.W.3d 628, 637 (Tex.Crim.App. 2014) ("Appellant argues that we should adopt Oklahoma's 'germaneness' test that asks 'if the provisions are germane, relative, and cognate to a readily apparent common theme and purpose.' . . . . Because Texas's Constitution now prohibits the voiding of an act based on a deficient title, we decline to adopt the 'germaneness' test that focuses on the title. Rather, in accordance with the Texas constitutional prohibition against judicial invalidation of a bill for title deficiencies, we consider the title only for limited informational purposes in deciphering a bill's subject or subjects.")
  • Ford Motor Co. v. Sheldon, 22 S.W.3d 444, 452 (Tex. 2000) ("But in 1986, the people amended this section to further provide that '[t]he legislature is solely responsible for determining compliance with the rule' and that 'a law . . . may not be held void on the basis of an insufficient title.' TEX. CONST. art. III, § 35(b), (c). Thus, laws will no longer be struck down because of a deficiency in title, no matter how egregious. See Baggett v. State, 722 S.W.2d 700, 702 (Tex.Crim.App. 1987) (determining that a court 'no longer has the power to declare an act of the legislature unconstitutional due to the insufficiency of its caption').")

Historic Decisions

  • Strake v. Court of Appeals for First Supreme Judicial Dist., 704 S.W.2d 746, 748 (Tex. 1986) ("This Unity-in-Subject Clause has been construed to mean that appropriations is a single subject and that any rider to an appropriations bill must relate to the appropriation of funds. Any rider dealing with a different subject is general legislation and prohibited by the Unity-in-Subject Clause. See Jessen Associates, Inc. v. Bullock, 531 S.W.2d 593, 600-01 (Tex. 1975); Moore v. Sheppard, 192 S.W.2d 559, 561-62 (Tex. 1946). A rider which attempts to alter existing substantive law is a general law which may not be included in an appropriations act.")
  • Ex parte Jimenez, 317 S.W.2d 189, 194 (Tex. 1958) ("But Art. 9.02, supra, does not violate either the latter provision nor the one requiring that the subject be 'expressed in its title'. Since the legislature undoubtedly has as much power to enact a code as it does a single law of narrowest scope, and since any sort of 'code' necessarily involves many different kinds of individual provisions, none of these latter will violate the 'one subject' restriction, if it has any logical relationship to the general subject. . . . The latter is merely one of the many different means stipulated in the code to insure a more pure and orderly conduct of elections.")
  • Gulf Ins. Co. v. James, 185 S.W.2d 966, 970 (Tex. 1945) ("The purpose of Section 35 of Article III of the Texas Constitution is to require that the bill shall advise both the Legislature and the people of the nature of each particular bill, such purpose being stated in [cited case] as follows: 'To advise the legislature and the people of the nature of each particular bill, so as to prevent the insertion of obnoxious clauses which otherwise might be ingrafted on it and become the law, and to obviate legislation through the combination upon a composite bill, of the votes of the proponents of different measures included in it, some of which would not pass upon their merits if separately considered.'")
  • Missouri, K. & T. Ry. Co. of Texas v. State, 113 S.W. 916, 917 (Tex. 1908) ("A title is not bad merely because of comprehensiveness; but it is bad if it is so indefinite as to express no subject, or if it does not express the particular subject of the act. The title must not only express a subject, but must express that which is dealt with in the body of the act. No authority but the plain language of the Constitution is needed for that proposition. But the authorities recognize, as they must, that a title may be so indefinite as not to express any subject of legislation sufficiently, or that it may fail to express the subject of the body of the act.")
  • McMeans v. Finley, 32 S.W. 524, 525 (Tex. 1895) ("It is admitted that the subject is expressed in the title, but the contention is that the act contains more than one subject. It was doubtless intended by Section 35 to prevent certain practices sometimes resorted to in legislative bodies to secure legislation contrary to the will of the majority,—one, that of misleading members by incorporating in the body of the act some subject not named in the title; the other, that of including in the same bill two matters foreign to each other, for the purpose of procuring the support of such legislators as could be induced to vote for one provision merely for the purpose of securing the enactment of the other.")
  • Gunter v. Texas Land & Mortg. Co., 17 S.W. 840, 843 (Tex. 1891) ("The title of that act, besides naming the chapters to be amended, expressly gave the subject of the act to which the amendment was to relate, which was ' . . . ;' and the court doubtless considered this a sufficient designation of the chapters to be amended, and deemed the part of the act then under consideration germane to the subject named. There is nothing in the title of the act under consideration from which the subject may be known, and, were we to hold it a compliance with the requirement of the constitution, we would deny to that clause the effect which its letter and spirit show it was intended to have.")
  • Day Land & Cattle Co. v. State, 4 S.W. 865, 872 (Tex. 1887) ("Former constitutions of this state used the word 'object' in the same connection in which the word 'subject' is used in section 35, art. 3, of the constitution now in force; but the latter word perhaps expresses more accurately the meaning and intent of the constitutional provision. As used in the constitution, the word 'subject' is that which is to be dominated or controlled by the particular law. . . . A title or act essentially single in subject, which does not thus conceal or disguise the real purpose, is not subject to constitutional objection, although the ends intended to be reached through the one subject may be many.")
  • Breen v. T. & P. R. R. Co., 44 Tex. 302, 305-06 (1875) ("The purpose intended to be effected by this section of the Constitution was no doubt to prevent the 'bringing together into one bill subjects diverse in their nature and having no necessary connection, with a view to combine in their favor the advocates of all, and thus secure the passage of several measures, neither of which could succeed on its own merits.' It was also intended to remedy another practice 'by which, through dexterous management, clauses were inserted in bills of which the titles gave no intimation,' and thereby pass bills through the legislature while many members were unaware of their real scope and effect.")
  • Tadlock v. Eccles, 20 Tex. 782, 792 (1858) ("The terms employed in the title of the act are sufficiently significant of the subject of its provisions; and that was what the clause in the constitution intended. It could not have meant that the word 'object' should be understood in the sense of 'provision;' for that would render the title of the act as long as the act itself. Various and numerous provisions may be necessary to accomplish the one general object, which an act of the legislature proposes. Nor could it have been intended that no act of legislation should be constitutional which had reference to the accomplishment of more than one ultimate end.")
  • Cannon v. Hemphill, 7 Tex. 184, 208 (1851) ("The 24th section of article 7 of the Constitution declares . . . . The consequences of such a restriction on legislative discretion and power, of the application of such a test of the validity of special provisions, years, nay ages, after their passage, and after rights under them have accrued, may be very inconvenient and destructive. But such results were for the consideration of the convention; and, in their wisdom, such restriction was deemed salutary and proper. It would be irrational to suppose that this provision of the Constitution is merely a directory one, which may be obeyed or disregarded at the will and caprice of the Legislature.")

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