Article III, Section 53 of the Texas Constitution ("Payment of Extra Compensation or Unauthorized Claims Prohibited")

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Adopted February 15, 1876:

The Legislature shall have no power to grant, or to authorize any county or municipal authority to grant, any extra compensation, fee or allowance to a public officer, agent, servant or contractor, after service has been rendered, or a contract has been entered into, and performed in whole or in part; nor pay, nor authorize the payment of, any claim created against any county or municipality of the State, under any agreement or contract, made without authority of law.

Editor Comments

This section first appeared in the Texas Constitution of 1876. Neither the Republic of Texas constitution (1836) nor any of the state's first four constitutions (1845, 1861, 1866, 1869) contained a provision with similar substantive language. Cf. Hardin County v. Trunkline Gas Co., 330 F.2d 789, 791 (5th Cir. 1964) ("[S]ince these constitutional provisions [were adopted] at the end, and because of, an era of spoilation and abuse of power in the reconstruction period under the rule of carpetbaggers and scalawags and their henchmen and minions, these constitutional safeguards, against Legislative usurpation of power, must be given full and vigorous support and application, as they were in Constantin v. Smith, against usurpation by the Executive.").

The Texas Attorney General, in Tex. Att'y Gen. Op. GA-746 (2009), opined that: "The focus of our analysis then shifts to the issue of whether the proposed payments would constitute prohibited 'extra compensation' under article III, sections 44 and 53 []. The key question when analyzing the proposed payments under these provisions is whether the payments about which you inquire were authorized under the employment contracts or laws in place at the time the services were provided."

Attorney Steve Smith

Recent Decisions


Historic Decisions

  • Dallas County v. Lively, 167 S.W. 219, 220 (Tex. 1914) ("The Constitution does not forbid the fixing of compensation after service rendered, but forbids increasing the agreed or prescribed sum after service rendered or work performed. Had the salary been specified before the ex officio duties were performed, any additional sum would be extra compensation, which the Constitution forbids. No authority has been cited which sustains the contention of the county, and we have found none. Justice Hawkins has made a laborious and extensive search . . . which failure on the part of our honored associate we consider to be a reliable support to our conclusion.")

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