Examining some basic information on the structure, size and scope of activity of the state bureaucracy helps to illustrate how large and complex the public bureaucracy in Texas has become, despite the ethic of small government that pervades the state's political culture. The particular configuration of the bureaucracy, as mentioned above, is largely consistent with the underlying intent of the Texas Constitution and the political traditions in the state. The state bureaucracy has a decentralized and varied organizational structure. Its characteristics reflect efforts to disperse executive power, to meet a range of mandates in the state constitution, and to work within the framework of federal structures and mandates.
Yet, the state bureaucracy is much larger and more far-reaching in its activities than the framers of the constitution could ever have imagined. In fairness, they probably never could have imagined the vast and complex nature of the state's population and economy either. For example, the Office of the Attorney General was created to serve as the chief lawyer for the state. Yet in contemporary Texas, one of the largest day-to-day roles of the Attorney General's office is the enforcement of child support agreements, including the collection of delinquent payments, as this chapter's feature The Business of Child Support in Texas and Beyond illustrates. The Attorney General's office involvement in this area could not have been foreseen at the time the Constitution was drafted, and it is but one of many examples of how historical change has overtaken nineteenth century conceptions of the role and functions of government.
(The features describing the overall size and scope of the state bureaucracy from section 1 are included again on the right side of this page for easy reference.)
The decentralized nature of the Texas bureaucracy means that no single individual has overall responsibility for what the administrative arm of state government does. Not even the governor exerts complete control over the state executive bureaucracy, as we have seen in the Exective Branch chapter.
As is typical of state governments (in contrast to the U.S. federal bureaucracy), authority over the various departments and agencies in Texas is divided among a number of independently elected or appointed executives. This means that cooperation and coordination among these organizations is inherently difficult, often depending on the goodwill and sometimes self-interest of these executive branch leaders.
With over 200 departments, agencies, boards, and commissions, the Texas bureaucracy is both complex and diverse. Over the decades, incremental expansion and amendment to the original constitutionally specified structure (which left to the legislature many important details in building out the administrative apparatus), has left the Texas bureaucracy extremely complex. Indeed, there is no uniform structure across these numerous bureaucratic organizations, and there are numerous exceptions to the fundamental organizing principle of hierarchical authority.
For a general overview of the methods of leadership selection in the executive bureaucracy, this chapter's table Taxonomy of Bureaucratic Leadership (also presented in section 4.4 of this chapter) classifies the state administrative apparatus into three types according to how the executive leadership is selected and the number of persons occupying top leadership positions. The single elected executives are discussed in detail in the "Plural Executive" section in the Executive Branch chapter.