Comprehensive Final Essay Exam (Gov't 2306)

You may take the final comprehensive exam to earn 200 points. It will cover all the chapters of the textbook. It will have five questions. You will answer only three of those questions. All questions will be in essay format. If you decide to take the final exam, you must complete the exam by the published deadline. It is your responsibility to contact me and make arrangements for taking the final exam.

As to the length of answers, I am looking for the key facts about the questions.  If you cover them, you will be ok.  To quantify the answers by the number of sentences or paragraphs is a risky proposition.  The quality of your writings are more important than the length.  The essay questions are not short answer types.  Your essay must have an introduction, body paragraphs with the key facts and conclusion.

You must bring your own blue book to complete the final comprehensive exam.  The blue book is a small booklet available from the bookstore.

If you take the final, any project will be an extra credit for you.

In lieu of the comprehensive final essay exam, you may complete one of the optional published projects in this class. 

Essay Study Questions for the Comprehensive Final Exam (Gov't 2306)

Here are some examples of essay questions:

Chapter 1

Compare and contrast Elazar’s three political subcultures.   Which of these most accurately describes Texas’ political culture, and what explanations can you provide for the prevalence of these views and attitudes among Texans?   

Describe the ethnic diversity of the population of Texas including the major ethnic groups. Briefly describe what Hispanics have faced throughout their history in Texas.  What has shaped their level of political involvement?  

Briefly describe what African-Americans have faced throughout their history in Texas.   What has shaped their level of political involvement?    

Where do the majority of Texans reside, and what are some of the policy implications of these settlement and residential patterns?   

How do size and geography affect Texas politics?  

Discuss the “peaks and valleys” of the Texas economy during the 1980s and 1990s.   What is the prediction for the new century?   

Texas shares common borders and common problems with Mexico.  Discuss the issues and challenges that are present in that relationship, such as trade, and environmental issues.    

There are three ethnic groups which constitute 98 percent of the Texas population. Trace the history of each group in the state. What are their present approximate percentages in the population? What population trends are probable in the next generation?

Chapter 2 

Describe some of the budgetary restrictions that Texas faces.  What are some implications of these restrictions?   

Compare and contrast the unitary system with federalism.  Describe how federalism in the United States and subsequently Texas is an evolving process.

Name one way in which the Texas Constitution of 1876 is different from the state’s previous constitutions.   Name one way in which it is similar.      

Discuss the constitutional convention of 1875.  How did the socio-economic makeup of the delegates influence the outcome?   

Discuss the weakness and criticisms of the Constitution of 1876.  

Compare and contrast the Texas Constitution with the U.S. Constitution.  What are the similarities and major differences?       

Trace the evolution of Texas constitution.  How is different the Texas Constitution of 1876 from the state’s previous constitutions.  Include the weakness and criticisms of the Constitution of 1876.  Discuss the constitutional reform efforts of 1971-1975.

Discuss attempts and successes in changing the Texas Constitution through amendments and adaptation.  What has been the ultimate impact on the state constitution?    

Discuss the constitutional reform efforts of 1971-1975.  Include issues that were debated, why the convention failed to present a document to the voters, and why voters rejected proposed reforms.   

Chapter 3

List the basic forms of local governments in Texas, and briefly explain the basic characteristics of each form.   

Describe the system of elections used at the municipal level in Texas.  

Describe some of the problems facing urban areas of Texas.  How are these problems different from those in rural areas in Texas?  How are they different from urban areas in other states?     

Describe the role of the county tax assessor-collector in Texas.   

What are special districts and, in general terms, what are their functions?  What are some criticisms of special districts?    List at least four examples of special districts and describe the structure and tax base for one of the governmental entities.

Chapter 4 & 5

After reviewing the various categories of interest groups that participate in Texas police and the policy-making processes, which groups are more likely to be successful?

List two or three examples of how lobbyists affect Texas politics?   

How has the Religious Right changed the two-party system in Texas?

Trace the development of a two-party system in Texas.  How do you explain the pattern of one-party politics for much of Texas’s history?  

Describe the permanent political party organization in Texas, and compare it with the temporary party organization in the state.   Explain the responsibilities of each component.

 Discuss the increased participation of minorities and women in Texas electoral politics.  

How do you account for the rapid increase in campaign costs?  What are the implications for high costs of contemporary campaigns?

Trace the various constitutional, legal, and judicial devices by which the franchise has been broadened in Texas in the twentieth century. How do you explain the fact that, even though Texas has virtually universal adult suffrage, well under one-half of Texas citizens vote. Do you vote? If you do, why do you vote? If you do not, why don't you vote?
Describe the provisions in the Texas Election Code relating to the conducting, financing, and scheduling for primary, general, and special elections. Though elections in Texas are essentially honest, occasionally fraud does occur. For example, in 1994, 136 absentee ballots were all mailed to the same address in Duval County and marked by the same hand. Can you think of anything in the administration of elections to further enhance the validity and honesty of the ballot?
What do the terms conservative and liberal mean in Texas politics? Which are you? Explain what you perceive to be the weaknesses in the particular political philosophy which you embrace.
Why have campaign costs for public office in Texas risen so sharply over the past couple of decades? Assume that you will run for a seat in the Texas House of Representatives. Upon what will you have to spend campaign funds? With which state laws must you comply? From where will you raise these funds?

Ch. 6

Several factors are credited with permitting large-scale interest group influence in Texas politics. Describe the impact of constitutional and political arrangements on interest group influence. Is strong interest group influence a good or bad thing in your judgment? Explain your answer. Can you suggest constitutional reforms which might reduce interest group influence?

Based on what you have learned about interest group membership and objectives, and using your own socioeconomic circumstances as a starting point, which interest group would you most likely join? What are the objectives of that organization? Would you change its focus? From where would your strongest opposition come?

The Texas Good Roads and Transportation Association advocates the construction and maintenance of a first-class system of public roads. What techniques might this organization employ to achieve their objectives? Can you find anything in this process which creates ethical problems?

A triangular relationship is said to exist in Texas government. What are the elements of this triangle? How do they benefit one another? In your judgment, does this relationship pose a problem for democratic government? Defend your answer.

Chapter 7

Do you think Texas legislators are appropriately compensated?   Why or why not?

What are some of the recent issues/problems with redistricting in Texas?   

Discuss the issues of representation and redistricting in Texas.  What effect have these issues had on the Texas legislature?    

Who is more powerful in Texas, the governor or the lieutenant governor?   Give reasons to support your answer.    

How do you account for the strong leadership roles played by the lieutenant governor and speaker in the Texas Legislature?  What resources do these officers have to support their leadership roles?    

Discuss the committee system in the Texas legislature.  What role does standing committees play in the legislative process?  List the types of committees and their functions.   

 It is said that “there are a lot more ways to kill a bill than to pass one.”  Relate that statement to the basic steps of the Texas legislative process.    

Chapter  8

Describe what the typical Texas governor has been like.   Are there any signs that this pattern will change?    

How does the plural executive constrain the power of the governor, and what implications does this have for a governor in today’s increasingly partisan political atmosphere? 

Explain formal and informal powers of governor of Texas.  Make sure to give appropriate examples for each. 
Describe the Texas governor's legislative, executive, and judicial powers.  Then contrast the legislative powers with the executive and judicial powers to support the statement that the legislative powers are the most significance of the three powers.

 What institutional resources or formal powers does a governor have to shape and influence decisions of the legislature?    

 What makes the lieutenant governor so powerful in Texas?        

 List the offices of the Texas executive branch and briefly explain the role of each office.   Name the person who currently fills each office.     

 Has the government in Texas grown or reduced in size?   What are some of the reasons for the growth or decline.    

Discuss some of the strategies for controlling the bureaucracy–giving emphasis to the “revolving door,” sunset legislation, and performance reviews.     Pages 666-672

Discuss the state's policy regarding whistle-blowing.   Given the state’s record thus far, would you “blow the whistle” on agency wrongdoing if the opportunity arose?    

Chapter 10

 Explain the difference between a civil and criminal case.    

 How does a felony differ from a misdemeanor?   Would a felony be tried as a civil or criminal case?   How would a misdemeanor be tried?  

Describe the structure of the Texas court system and give the primary role and jurisdiction of each court and methods of selections of judges for each court.

Describe the jury system in Texas: the types of juries, their duties, requirements for eligibility, and how they reach their decisions.  

How do interest groups try to influence the composition of the state’s courts?  What have been some of the consequences of these efforts?   

 Discuss the history of minorities in the Texas judicial system and minority judicial appointments.   Has progress been made?  Explain your answer. 

Describe the structure of the local trial courts in Texas. Who are their officers and how are these persons chosen? What is their jurisdiction, and to where are cases appealed? There are arguments for and against requiring all judges to be attorneys. Fairly present both sides, and give your own view.


Chapter 9 & 11

Trace the economic history of Texas during the 1980s and 1990s. What are the principal factors in explaining the economic trends of those years? Explain how each affected the state. Why can the state government no longer rely on the petroleum industry as a major source of treasury revenues?

Education, transportation, prisons, and public assistance each have put pressure on state revenues. Describe the factors in each spending area. Give an argument why each should be increased; likewise, give an argument why each should be decreased. Show how you would increase and decrease each. Finally, argue for and against a tax raise to fund these budget areas.

 Approximately 50 percent of state revenues arise from taxation. What are these taxes? It is argued that the present state tax system is unfair. Explain this argument. Then, tell why you think the system is fair, and why it is unfair. How would you change the tax structure?

 Why do governments borrow money? In particular, describe the debt process in Texas, tracing its historic growth. Defend and criticize the various objects of public borrowing in Texas.

Describe the three principal spending objects by function in Texas. Give particular attention to how the state funds education, public assistance, and transportation. Should college tuition be raised to allow for the transfer of funding for imprisoning violent offenders and avoiding a tax raise? Argue both sides of this issue.