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Texas (i /ˈtɛksəs/) is the second-largest U.S. state in both area and population, and the largest state in the contiguous United States. The name, meaning "friends" or "allies" in Caddo, was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in East Texas. Located in the South Central United States, Texas is bordered by Mexico to the south, New Mexico to the west, Oklahoma to the north, Arkansas to the northeast, and Louisiana to the east. Texas has an area of 268,820 square miles (696,200 km2), and a growing population of 24.7 million residents.
Houston is the largest city in Texas and the fourth-largest in the United States, while San Antonio is the seventh largest in the United States. Dallas–Fort Worth and Houston are the fourth and sixth largest United States metropolitan areas, respectively. Other major cities include San Antonio, El Paso, and Austin—the state capital. Texas is nicknamed the Lone Star State to signify Texas as an independent republic and as a reminder of the state's struggle for independence from Mexico. The "Lone Star" can be found on the Texas State Flag and on the Texas State Seal today.
Due to its size and geologic features such as the Balcones Fault, Texas contains diverse landscapes that resemble both the American South and the Southwest. Although Texas is popularly associated with the Southwestern deserts, less than 10% of the land area is desert. Most of the population centers are located in areas of former prairies, grasslands, forests, and the coastline. Traveling from east to west, one can observe terrain that ranges from coastal swamps and piney woods, to rolling plains and rugged hills, and finally the desert and mountains of the Big Bend.
The term "six flags over Texas" came from the several nations that had ruled over the territory. Spain was the first European country to claim the area of Texas. France held a short-lived colony in Texas. Mexico controlled the territory until 1836 when Texas won its independence, becoming an independent Republic. In 1845 it joined the United States as the 28th state. The state's annexation set off a chain of events that caused the Mexican–American War in 1846. A slave state, Texas declared its secession from the United States in early 1861, joining the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War. After the war and its restoration to the Union, Texas entered a long period of economic stagnation.
One Texas industry that thrived after the Civil War was cattle. Due to its long history as a center of the industry, Texas is associated with the image of the cowboy. The state's economic fortunes changed in the early 1900s, when oil discoveries initiated an economic boom in the state. With strong investments in universities, Texas in the mid twentieth century developed a diversified economy, including many high tech industries. Today it has more Fortune 500 companies than any other U.S. state. With a growing base of industry, the state leads in many industries, including agriculture, petrochemicals, energy, computers and electronics, aerospace, and biomedical sciences. It leads the nation in export revenue since 2002 and has the second-highest gross state product.
Texas lies between two major cultural spheres of Pre-Columbian North America: the Southwestern and the Plains areas. Archaeologists have found that three major indigenous cultures lived in this territory, and reached their developmental peak before the first European contact. These were:
No culture was dominant in the present-day Texas region, and many peoples inhabited the area. Native American tribes that lived inside the boundaries of present-day Texas include the Alabama, Apache, Atakapan, Bidai, Caddo, Coahuiltecan, Comanche, Cherokee, Choctaw, Coushatta, Hasinai, Jumano, Karankawa, Kickapoo, Kiowa, Tonkawa, and Wichita. The name Texas derives from táyshaʔ, a word in the Caddoan language of the Hasinai, which means "friends" or "allies".
Whether a Native American tribe was friendly or warlike was critical to the fates of European explorers and settlers in that land. Friendly tribes taught newcomers how to grow indigenous crops, prepare foods, and hunt wild game. Warlike tribes made life difficult and dangerous for Europeans through their attacks and resistance to the newcomers.
The first historical document related to Texas was a map of the Gulf Coast, created in 1519 by Spanish explorer Alonso Álvarez de Pineda. Nine years later, shipwrecked Spanish explorer Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca and his cohort became the first Europeans in Texas. European powers ignored Texas until accidentally settling there in 1685. Miscalculations by René Robert Cavelier de La Salle resulted in his establishing the colony of Fort Saint Louis at Matagorda Bay rather than along the Mississippi River. The colony lasted only four years before succumbing to harsh conditions and hostile natives.
In 1690 Spanish authorities, concerned that France posed competitive threat, constructed several missions in East Texas. After Native American resistance, the Spanish missionaries returned to Mexico. When France began settling Louisiana, mostly in the southern part of the state, in 1716 Spanish authorities responded by founding a new series of missions in East Texas. Two years later, they created San Antonio as the first Spanish civilian settlement in Texas.
Hostile native tribes and distance from nearby Spanish colonies discouraged settlers from moving to Texas. It was one of New Spain's least populated provinces. In 1749, the Spanish peace treaty with the Lipan Apache angered many tribes, including the Comanche, Tonkawa, and Hasinai. The Comanche signed a treaty with Spain in 1785 and later helped to defeat the Lipan Apache and Karankawa tribes. With more numerous missions being established, priests led a peaceful conversion of most tribes. By the end of the 1700s only a few nomadic tribes had not converted to Christianity.
When the United States purchased Louisiana from France in 1803, American authorities insisted that the agreement also included Texas. The boundary between New Spain and the United States was finally set at the Sabine River in 1819. Eager for new land, many United States settlers refused to recognize the agreement. Several filibusters raised armies to invade Texas. In 1821, the Mexican War of Independence included the Texas territory, which became part of Mexico. Due to its low population, Mexico made the area part of the state of Coahuila y Tejas.
Hoping that more settlers would reduce the near-constant Comanche raids, Mexican Texas liberalized its immigration policies to permit immigrants from outside Mexico and Spain. Under the Mexican immigration system, large swathes of land were allotted to empresarios, who recruited settlers from the United States, Europe, and the Mexican interior. The first grant, to Moses Austin, was passed to his son Stephen F. Austin after his death.
Austin's settlers, the Old Three Hundred, made places along the Brazos River in 1822. Twenty-three other empresarios brought settlers to the state, the majority of whom were from the United States. The population of Texas grew rapidly. In 1825, Texas had a population of approximately 3,500, with most of Mexican descent. By 1834, Texas had grown to approximately 37,800 people, with only 7,800 of Mexican descent.
Many immigrants openly flouted Mexican law, especially the prohibition against slavery. Combined with United States' attempts to purchase Texas, Mexican authorities decided in 1830 to prohibit continued immigration from the United States. New laws also called for the enforcement of customs duties angering both native Mexican citizens (Tejanos) and recent immigrants.
The Anahuac Disturbances in 1832 were the first open revolt against Mexican rule and they coincided with a revolt in Mexico against the nation's president. Texians sided with the federalists against the current government and drove all Mexican soldiers out of East Texas. They took advantage of the lack of oversight to agitate for more political freedom. Texians met at the Convention of 1832 to discuss requesting independent statehood, among other issues. The following year, Texians reiterated their demands at the Convention of 1833.
Within Mexico, tensions continued between federalists and centralists. In early 1835, wary Texians formed Committees of Correspondence and Safety. The unrest erupted into armed conflict in late 1835 at the Battle of Gonzales. This launched the Texas Revolution, and over the next two months, the Texians successfully defeated all Mexican troops in the region. Texians elected delegates to the Consultation, which created a provisional government. The provisional government soon collapsed from infighting, and Texas was without clear governance for the first two months of 1836.
During this time of political turmoil, Mexican President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna personally led an army to end the revolt. The Mexican expedition was initially successful. General Jose de Urrea defeated all the Texian resistance along the coast culminating in the Goliad Massacre. Santa Anna's forces, after a thirteen-day siege, overwhelmed Texian defenders at the Battle of the Alamo. News of the defeats sparked panic amongst Texas settlers. The newly elected Texian delegates to the Convention of 1836 quickly signed a Declaration of Independence on March 2, forming the Republic of Texas. After electing interim officers, the Convention disbanded. The new government joined the other settlers in Texas in the Runaway Scrape, fleeing from the approaching Mexican army. After several weeks of retreat, the Texian Army commanded by Sam Houston attacked and defeated Santa Anna's forces at the Battle of San Jacinto. Santa Anna was captured and forced to sign the Treaties of Velasco, ending the war.
While Texas had won their independence, political battles raged between two factions of the new Republic. The nationalist faction, led by Mirabeau B. Lamar, advocated the continued independence of Texas, the expulsion of the Native Americans, and the expansion of the Republic to the Pacific Ocean. Their opponents, led by Sam Houston, advocated the annexation of Texas to the United States and peaceful co-existence with Native Americans. The conflict between the factions was typified by an incident known as the Texas Archive War. Mexico launched two small expeditions into Texas in 1842. The town of San Antonio was captured twice and Texans were defeated in battle in the Dawson Massacre. Despite these successes, Mexico did not keep an occupying force in Texas, and the republic survived. The republic's inability to defend itself added momentum to Texas's eventual annexation into the United States.
As early as 1837, the Republic made several attempts to negotiate annexation with the United States. Opposition within the republic from the nationalist faction, along with strong abolitionist opposition within the United States, slowed Texas's admission into the Union. Texas was finally annexed when the expansionist James K. Polk won the election of 1844. On December 29, 1845, Congress admitted Texas to the U.S. as a constituent state of the Union.
After Texas's annexation, Mexico broke diplomatic relations with the United States. While the United States claimed that Texas's border stretched to the Rio Grande, Mexico claimed it was the Nueces River. While the former Republic of Texas could not enforce its border claims, the United States had the military strength and the political will to do so. President Polk ordered General Zachary Taylor south to the Rio Grande on January 13, 1846. A few months later Mexican troops routed an American cavalry patrol in the disputed area in the Thornton Affair starting the Mexican-American War. The first battles were fought in Texas: the Siege of Fort Texas, Battle of Palo Alto and Battle of Resaca de la Palma. After these decisive victories, the United States invaded Mexican territory ending the fighting in Texas.
After a series of United States victories, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended the two year war. In return, for US $18,250,000, Mexico gave the U.S. undisputed control of Texas, ceded the Mexican Cession in 1848, most of which today is called the American Southwest, and Texas's borders were established at the Rio Grande.
The Compromise of 1850 set Texas's boundaries at their present form. Texas ceded its claims to land which later became half of present day New Mexico, a third of Colorado, and small portions of Kansas, Oklahoma, and Wyoming to the federal government, in return for the assumption of $10 million of the old republic's debt. Post-war Texas grew rapidly as migrants poured into the cotton lands of the state.
Texas was at war again after the election of 1860. Abraham Lincoln's election triggered South Carolina's declaration of secession from the Union. A State Convention considering secession opened in Austin on January 28, 1861. On February 1, by a vote of 166–8, the Convention adopted an Ordinance of Secession from the United States. Texas voters approved this Ordinance on February 23, 1861. Texas joined the Confederate States of America, ratifying the permanent C.S. Constitution on March 23, 1861. Not all Texans favored secession initially, although many of the same would later support the Southern cause. Texas's most notable unionist was the state Governor, Sam Houston. Not wanting to aggravate the situation further, Houston refused two offers from President Lincoln for Union troops to keep him in office. After refusing to swear an oath of allegiance to the Confederacy, Houston was deposed as governor.
While far from the major battlefields of the American Civil War, Texas contributed large numbers of men and equipment to the rest of the Confederacy. Union troops briefly occupied the state's primary port, Galveston. Texas's border with Mexico was known as the "backdoor of the Confederacy" because trade occurred at the border, bypassing the Union blockade. The Confederacy repulsed all Union attempts to shut down this route, but Texas's role as a supply state was marginalized in mid-1863 after the Union capture of the Mississippi River. The final battle of the Civil War was fought near Brownsville Texas at Palmito Ranch with a confederate victory.
Texas descended into anarchy for two months between the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia and the assumption of authority by Union General Gordon Granger. Violence marked the early months of Reconstruction. Juneteenth commemorates the announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation in Galveston by General Gordon Granger, over two and a half years after the original announcement. President Johnson, in 1866, declared the civilian government restored in Texas. Despite not meeting reconstruction requirements, Congress readmitted Texas into the Union in 1870. Social volatility continued as the state struggled with agricultural depression and labor issues.
On January 10, 1901, the first major oil well in Texas, Spindletop, was found south of Beaumont. Other fields were later discovered nearby in East Texas, West Texas, and under the Gulf of Mexico. The resulting "Oil Boom" transformed Texas. Oil production eventually averaged three million barrels per day at its peak in 1972.
The Great Depression and the Dust Bowl dealt a double blow to the state's economy, which had significantly improved since the Civil War. Migrants abandoned the worst hit sections of Texas during the Dust Bowl years. Especially from this period on, blacks left Texas in the Great Migration to get work in the Northern United States or California and to escape the oppression of segregation.
World War II had a dramatic impact on Texas, as federal money poured in to build military bases, munitions factories, POW detention camps and Army hospitals; 750,000 young men left for service; the cities exploded with new industry; the colleges took on new roles; and hundreds of thousands of poor farmers left for much better paying war jobs, never to return to agriculture.
Texas modernized and expanded its system of higher education through the 1960s. The state created a comprehensive plan for higher education, funded in large part by oil revenues, and a central state apparatus designed to manage state institutions more efficiently. These changes helped Texas universities receive federal research funds.
On November 22, 1963, president John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.
Texas is the second largest U.S. state, behind Alaska, with an area of 268,820 square miles (696,200 km2). It is 10% larger than France and almost twice as large as Germany or Japan, though it ranks only 27th worldwide amongst country subdivisions by size. If it were a country, Texas would be the 40th largest behind Chile and Zambia.
Texas is in the south-central part of the United States of America. Three of its borders are defined by rivers. The Rio Grande river forms a natural border with the Mexican states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas to the south. The Red River forms a natural border with Oklahoma and Arkansas to the north. The Sabine River forms a natural border with Louisiana to the east. The Texas Panhandle has an eastern border with Oklahoma at 100° W, a northern border with Oklahoma at 36°30' N and a western border with New Mexico at 103° W. El Paso lies on the state's western tip at 32° N and the Rio Grande.
With 10 climatic regions, 14 soil regions, and 11 distinct ecological regions, regional classification becomes problematic with differences in soils, topography, geology, rainfall, and plant and animal communities. One classification system divides Texas, in order southeast to west, into the following: Gulf Coastal Plains, Interior Lowlands, Great Plains, and Basin and Range Province. The Gulf Coastal Plains region wraps around the Gulf of Mexico on the southeast section of the state. Vegetation in this region consists of thick pineywoods. The Interior Lowlands region consists of gently rolling to hilly forested land is part of a larger pine-hardwood forest. The Great Plains region in central Texas is located in spans through the state's panhandle and Llano Estacado to the state's hill country near Austin. This region is dominated by prairie and steppe. "Far West Texas" or the "Trans-Pecos" region is the state's Basin and Range Province. The most varied of the regions, this area includes Sand Hills, the Stockton Plateau, desert valleys, wooded mountain slopes and desert grasslands.
Texas has 3,700 named streams and 15 major rivers. The largest of these rivers is the Rio Grande. Other major rivers include the Pecos, the Brazos, Colorado, and Red River, which forms the border with Oklahoma. While Texas does not have any large natural lakes, Texans have built over 100 artificial reservoirs.
Texas's size and unique history makes its regional affiliation debatable. Depending on the source, it can be fairly considered either or both a Southern or Southwestern state. The vast geographic, economic, and cultural diversity within the state itself prohibits easy categorization of the whole state into a recognized region of the United States. The East, Central, and North Texas regions have a stronger association with the American South than with the Southwest. Others, such as far West Texas and South Texas share more similarities with the latter.
Texas is the southernmost part of the Great Plains, which ends in the south against the folded Sierra Madre Occidental of Mexico. The continental crust forms a stable Mesoproterozoic craton which changes across a broad continental margin and transitional crust into true oceanic crust of the Gulf of Mexico. The oldest rocks in Texas date from the Mesoproterozoic and are about 1,600 million years old. These Precambrian igneous and metamorphic rocks underlie most of the state, and are exposed in three places: Llano uplift, Van Horn, and the Franklin Mountains, near El Paso. Sedimentary rocks overlay most of these ancient rocks. The oldest sediments were deposited on the flanks of a rifted continental margin, or passive margin that developed during Cambrian time. This margin existed until Laurasia and Gondwana collided in the Pennsylvanian era to form Pangea. This is the buried crest of the Appalachian Mountains–Ouachita Mountains zone of Pennsylvanian continental collision. This orogenic crest is today buried beneath the Dallas–Waco—Austin–San Antonio trend.
The late Paleozoic mountains collapsed as rifting in the Jurassic era began to open the Gulf of Mexico. Pangea began to break up in the Triassic, but seafloor spreading to form the Gulf of Mexico occurred only in the mid and late Jurassic. The shoreline shifted again to the eastern margin of the state and the Gulf of Mexico passive margin began to form.
Today 9 miles (14 km) to 12 miles (19 km) of sediments are buried beneath the Texas continental shelf and a large proportion of remaining US oil reserves are located here. At the start of its formation, the incipient Gulf of Mexico basin was restricted and seawater often evaporated completely to form thick evaporite deposits of Jurassic age. These salt deposits formed salt dome diapirs, and are found in East Texas along the Gulf coast.
East Texas outcrops consist of Cretaceous and Paleogene sediments which contain important deposits of Eocene lignite. The Mississippian and Pennsylvanian sediments in the north; Permian sediments in the west; and Cretaceous sediments in the east, along the Gulf coast and out on the Texas continental shelf contain oil. Oligocene volcanic rocks are found in far west Texas in the Big Bend area. A blanket of Miocene sediments known as the Ogallala formation in the western high plains region is an important aquifer. Located far from an active plate tectonic boundary, Texas has no volcanoes and few earthquakes.
The large size of Texas and its location at the intersection of multiple climate zones gives the state highly variable weather. The Panhandle of the state has colder winters than North Texas, while the Gulf Coast has mild winters. Texas has wide variations in precipitation patterns. El Paso, on the western end of the state, averages as little as 8 inches (200 mm) of annual rainfall while Houston, on the southeast Texas averages as much as 54 inches (1,400 mm) per year. Dallas in the North Central region averages a more moderate 37 inches (940 mm) per year.
Snow falls multiple times each winter in the Panhandle and mountainous areas of West Texas, once or twice a year in North Texas, and once every few years in Central and East Texas. Snow rarely falls south of San Antonio or on the coast except in rare circumstances. Of note is the 2004 Christmas Eve Snowstorm was the first recorded White Christmas in Houston where 6 inches of snow fell as far south as Kingsville, where the average high temperature in December is 65° F.
Maximum temperatures in the summer months average from the 80s °F (26 °C) in the mountains of West Texas and on Galveston Island to around 100 °F (38 °C) in the Rio Grande Valley, but most areas of Texas see consistent summer high temperatures in the 90 °F (32 °C) range.
Night time summer temperatures range from the upper 50s °F (14 °C) in the West Texas mountains to 80 °F (27 °C) in Galveston.
Thunderstorms strike Texas often, especially the eastern and northern portions of the state. Tornado Alley covers the northern section of Texas. The state experiences the most tornadoes in the United States, an average of 139 a year. These strike most frequently in North Texas and the Panhandle. Tornadoes in Texas generally occur in the months of April, May, and June.
Some of the most destructive hurricanes in U.S. history have impacted Texas. A hurricane in 1875 killed approximately 400 people in Indianola, followed by another hurricane in 1886 that destroyed the town. These events allowed Galveston to take over as the chief port city. The Galveston hurricane of 1900 subsequently devastated that city killing approximately 8,000 people (possibly as many as 12,000), making it the deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history. Other devastating Texas hurricanes include the 1915 Galveston Hurricane, Hurricane Audrey in 1957 which killed over 600 people, Hurricane Carla in 1961, Hurricane Beulah in 1967, Hurricane Alicia in 1983, Hurricane Rita in 2005, and Hurricane Ike in 2008. Tropical storms have also caused their share of damage: Allison in 1989 and again during 2001, and Claudette in 1979 among them.
Texas emits the most greenhouse gases in the U.S. The state emits nearly 1.5 trillion pounds (680 billion kg) of carbon dioxide annually. As an independent nation, Texas would rank as the world's seventh-largest producer of greenhouse gases. Causes of the state's vast greenhouse gas emissions include the state's large number of coal power plants and the state's refining and manufacturing industries.
As of 2009, the state has an estimated population of 24,782,406, an increase of 1.97% from the prior year and 16.1% since the year 2000. The state's rate of natural increase (births and deaths) since the last census was 1,389,275 people, immigration from outside the United States resulted in a net increase of 801,576 people, and migration within the country produced a net increase of 451,910 people. As of 2004, the state had 3.5 million foreign-born residents (15.6 percent of the state population), of which an estimated 1.2 million are illegal immigrants. Texas from 2000–2006 had the fastest growing illegal immigration rate in the nation. In 2010, illegal immigrants constituted an estimated 6.0% of the population. This was the fifth highest percentage of any state in the country.
Texas's population density is 34.8 persons/km2 which is slightly higher than the average population density of the US as a whole, at 31 persons/km2. In contrast, while Texas and France are similarly sized geographically, the European country has a population density of 110 persons/km2.
Two-thirds of all Texans live in a major metropolitan area such as Houston. The Dallas-Fort Worth Metropolitan Area is the largest in Texas. While Houston is the largest city in Texas and the fourth largest city in the United States, the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area is considerably larger than that of Houston.
As of the 2006 US Census estimates, the racial distributions in Texas were as follows:
Grouped by ethnicity, the population was:
German descendants inhabit much of central and southeast-central Texas. Over one-third of Texas residents are of Hispanic origin; while many have recently arrived, some Tejanos have ancestors with multi-generational ties to 18th century Texas. In addition to the descendants of the state's former slave population, many African American college graduates have come to the state for work recently in the New Great Migration. Recently, the Asian population in Texas has grown—primarily in Houston and Dallas. Other communities with a significantly growing Asian American population is in Austin, Corpus Christi, and the Sharyland area next McAllen, Texas. Currently, three federally recognized Native American tribes reside in Texas: the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe, the Kickapoo Traditional Tribe, and the Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo.
The largest denominations by number of adherents in 2000 were the Roman Catholic Church with 4,368,969; the Southern Baptist Convention with 3,519,459; and the United Methodist Church with 1,022,342.
Known as the "buckle" of the Bible Belt, East Texas is socially conservative. Dallas-Fort Worth is home to three major evangelical seminaries and a host of monasteries as well as the landmark University of Dallas, a Catholic school of theology and seminary. Lakewood Church in Houston, although not considered a "church" in the traditional sense of the word, boasts the largest attendance in the nation averaging more than 43,000 weekly. Lubbock, according to local lore, has the most churches per capita in the nation.
Adherents of many non-Christian religions reside predominantly in the urban centers of Texas. Approximately 400,000 Muslims live in Texas  while the Jewish population stands at approximately 128,000. Approximately 146,000 adherents of non-Abrahamic religions such as Hinduism and Sikhism live in Texas.
The state has three cities with populations exceeding one million: Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas. These three rank among the 10 most populous cities of the United States. As of 2000, six Texas cities had populations greater than 500,000 people. Austin, Fort Worth, and El Paso are among the 25 largest U.S. cities. Texas has four metropolitan areas with populations greater than a million: Dallas–Fort Worth–Arlington, Houston–Sugar Land–Baytown, San Antonio–New Braunfels, and Austin–Round Rock–San Marcos. The Dallas–Fort Worth and Houston metropolitan areas number about 6.3 million and 5.7 million residents, respectively. Three interstate highways – I-35 to the west (Dallas–Fort Worth to San Antonio, with Austin in between), I-45 to the east (Dallas to Houston), and I-10 to the south (San Antonio to Houston) define the Texas Urban Triangle region. The 60,000 square mile region contains most of the state's largest cities and metropolitan areas as well as 17 million people, nearly 75 percent of Texas's total population. Dallas and Houston have been recognized as beta world cities.
In contrast to the cities, unincorporated rural settlements known as colonias often lack basic infrastructure and are marked by poverty. As of 2007, Texas had at least 2,294 colonias, located primarily along the state's 1,248-mile (2,008 km) border with Mexico. Texas has the largest concentration of people, approximately 400,000, living in colonias.
The current Texas Constitution was adopted in 1876. Like many states, it explicitly provides for a separation of powers. The state's Bill of Rights is much larger than its federal counterpart, and has provisions unique to Texas.
Texas has a plural executive branch system limiting the power of the Governor. Except for the Secretary of State, voters elect executive officers independently making candidates directly answerable to the public, not the Governor. This election system has led to some executive branches split between parties. When Republican President George W. Bush served as Texas's governor, the state had a Democratic Lieutenant Governor, Bob Bullock. The executive branch positions consist of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Comptroller of Public Accounts, Land Commissioner, Attorney General, Agriculture Commissioner, the three-member Texas Railroad Commission, the State Board of Education, and the Secretary of State.
The bicameral Texas Legislature consists of the House of Representatives, with 150 members, and a Senate, with 31 members. The Speaker of the House leads the House, and the Lieutenant Governor, the Senate. The Legislature meets in regular session biennially, but the Governor can call for special sessions as often as desired. The state's fiscal year spans from the previous calendar year's September 1 to the current year's August 31. Thus, the FY 2008 dates from September 1, 2007 through August 31, 2008.
The judicial system of Texas is one of the most complex in the United States, with many layers and overlapping jurisdictions. Texas has two courts of last resort: the Texas Supreme Court, for civil cases, and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Except for some municipal benches, partisan elections select judges at all levels of the judiciary; the Governor fills vacancies by appointment. Texas leads the nation in executions– 442 as of October 2009 (see Capital punishment in Texas).
The Texas Ranger Division of the Texas Department of Public Safety is a law enforcement agency with statewide jurisdiction. Over the years, the Texas Rangers have investigated crimes ranging from murder to political corruption. They have acted as riot police and as detectives, protected the Texas governor, tracked down fugitives, and functioned as a paramilitary force both for the republic and the state. The Texas Rangers were unofficially created by Stephen F. Austin in 1823 and formally constituted in 1835. The Rangers were part of several important events of Texas history and some of the best-known criminal cases in the history of the Old West.
As in other "Solid South" states, whites resented the Republican Party after the American Civil War, and the Democratic Party dominated Texas politics from the end of Reconstruction until the late 20th century. When President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, he reportedly said "We have lost the South for a generation".
The Texas political atmosphere leans towards fiscal and social conservatism. Since 1980, most Texas voters have supported Republican presidential candidates. In 2000 and 2004, Republican George W. Bush won Texas with 60.1% of the vote, partly due to his "favorite son" status as a former Governor of the state. John McCain won the state in 2008, but with a smaller margin of victory compared to Bush at 55% of the vote. Austin consistently leans Democratic in both local and statewide elections. Houston, San Antonio and Dallas remain approximately split. Counties along the Rio Grande generally vote for Democrats, while most rural and suburban areas of Texas vote Republican.
The 2003 Texas redistricting of Congressional districts led by the Republican Tom Delay, was called by the New York Times "an extreme case of partisan gerrymandering". A group of Democratic legislators, the "Texas Eleven", fled the state in a quorum-busting effort. Despite these efforts, the legislature passed a map heavily in favor of Republicans. Protests of the redistricting reached the national Supreme Court in the case League of United Latin American Citizens v. Perry, but the ruling went in the Republicans' favor.
As of the general elections of 2008, a large majority of the members of Texas's U.S. House delegation are Republican, along with both U.S. Senators. In the 111th United States Congress, of the 32 Congressional districts in Texas, 20 are held by Republicans and 12 by Democrats. Texas's Senators are Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn. Since 1994, Texans have not elected a Democrat to a statewide office. The state's Democratic presence comes primarily from some minority groups and urban voters, particularly in El Paso, Austin, San Antonio, Dallas, and Houston.
Texas has 254 counties— the most nationwide. Each county runs on Commissioners' Court system consisting of four elected commissioners (one from each of four precincts in the county, roughly divided according to population) and a county judge elected at large from the entire county. County government runs similar to a "weak" mayor-council system; the county judge has no veto authority, but votes along with the other commissioners.
Although Texas permits cities and counties to enter "interlocal agreements" to share services, the state does not allow consolidated city-county governments, nor does it have metropolitan governments. Counties are not granted home rule status; their powers are strictly defined by state law. The state does not have townships— areas within a county are either incorporated or unincorporated. Incorporated areas are part of a municipality. The county provides limited services to unincorporated areas. Municipalities are classified either "general law" cities or "home rule". A municipality may elect home rule status once it exceeds 5,000 population with voter approval. Municipal elections are nonpartisan as are elections for school boards and community college districts.
As of 2008, Texas had a gross state product (GSP) of $1.224 trillion, the second highest in the U.S. Its GSP is comparable to the GDP of India or Canada which are ranked 12th and 11th worldwide. Texas's economy is the third largest in the world of country subdivisions behind California and Tokyo Prefecture. Its Per Capita personal income in 2007 was $37,083, ranking 22nd in the nation. Texas's large population, abundance of natural resources, and diverse population and geography have led to a large and diverse economy. Since oil was discovered, the state's economy has reflected the state of the petroleum industry. In recent times, urban centers of the state have increased in size, containing two-thirds of the population in 2005. The state's economic growth has led to excessive urban sprawl and its associated symptoms.
As of January 2010, the states unemployment rate is 8.2%.
Texas has a "low taxes, low services" reputation. According to the Tax Foundation, Texans' state and local tax burdens rank among the lowest in the nation, 7th lowest nationally; state and local taxes cost $3,580 per capita, or 8.7% of resident incomes. Texas is one of seven states that lack a state income tax. Instead, the state collects revenue from a state sales tax, which is charged at the rate of 6.25%. Texas is a "tax donor state"; in 2005, for every dollar Texans paid to the federal government in federal income taxes, the state received approximately $0.94 in benefits.
In 2004, Site Selection Magazine ranked Texas as the most business-friendly state in the nation in part because of the state's three-billion-dollar Texas Enterprise Fund. The state holds the most Fortune 500 company headquarters in the United States.
Texas has the most farms and the highest acreage in the United States. Texas leads the nation livestock production. Cattle is the state's most valuable agricultural product, and the state leads nationally in production of sheep and goat products. Texas leads the nation in production of cotton. The state grows significant amounts of cereal crops and produce. Texas has a large commercial fishing industry. With mineral resources, Texas leads in creating cement, crushed stone, lime, salt, sand and gravel.
Ever since the discovery of oil at Spindletop, energy has been a dominant force politically and economically within the state. According to the Energy Information Administration, Texans consume the most energy in the nation per capita and as a whole. Unlike the rest of the nation, most of Texas is on its own alternating current power grid, the Texas Interconnection. Despite the California electricity crisis, Texas still has a deregulated electric service.
The Railroad Commission of Texas, contrary to its name, regulates the state's oil and gas industry, gas utilities, pipeline safety, safety in the liquefied petroleum gas industry, and surface coal and uranium mining. Until the 1970s, the commission controlled the price of petroleum because of its ability to regulate Texas's oil reserves. The founders of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) used the Texas agency as one of their models for petroleum price control.
Texas has known petroleum deposits of about 5 billion barrels (790,000,000 m3), which makes up approximately one-fourth of the known U.S. reserves. The state's refineries can process 4.6 million barrels (730,000 m3) of oil a day. The Baytown Refinery in the Houston area is the largest refinery in America. Texas also leads in natural gas production, producing one-fourth of the nation's supply. Several petroleum companies are based in Texas such as: Conoco-Phillips, Exxon-Mobil, Halliburton, Valero, and Marathon Oil.
The state is a leader in renewable energy sources; it produces the most wind power in the nation. The Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center in Taylor and Nolan County, Texas, is the world's largest wind farm as of November 2008 with a 735.5 megawatt (MW) capacity. The Energy Information Administration states that the state's large agriculture and forestry industries could give Texas an enormous amount biomass for use in biofuels. The state also has the highest solar power potential for development in the nation.
With large universities systems coupled with initiatives like the Texas Enterprise Fund and the Texas Emerging Technology Fund, a wide array of different high tech industries have developed in Texas. The Austin area is nicknamed the "Silicon Hills" and the north Dallas area the "Silicon Prairie". Texas has the headquarters of many high technology companies, such as Dell, Inc., Texas Instruments, Perot Systems, AT&T and Electronic Data Systems (EDS, acquired by Hewlett-Packard, August 2008), as well as the former headquarters of Compaq Computer Corp, which exists today as the largest campus of Hewlett-Packard (headquartered in CA).
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center (NASA JSC) located in Southeast Houston, sits as the crown jewel of Texas's aeronautics industry. Fort Worth hosts both Lockheed Martin's Aeronautics division and Bell Helicopter Textron. Lockheed builds the F-16 Fighting Falcon, the largest Western fighter program, and its successor, the F-35 Lightning II in Fort Worth.
Texas's affluence stimulates a strong commercial sector consisting of retail, wholesale, banking and insurance, and construction industries. Examples of Fortune 500 companies not based on Texas traditional industries are: AT&T, Men's Warehouse, Landry's Restaurants, Kimberly-Clark, Blockbuster, Whole Foods Market, and Tenet Healthcare. Nationally, the Dallas–Fort Worth area, home to the second shopping mall in the United States, has the most shopping malls per capita of any American metropolitan area.
North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) contributes to Mexico, the state's largest trading partner, importing a third of the state's exports. NAFTA has encouraged the formation of controversial maquiladoras on the Texas/Mexico border.