General Land Commissioner: The Basics

The land commissioner is chosen via statewide election and serves four-year terms with no term limits.  There are no specific constitutional or statutory qualifications to serve as land office commissioner.  In 2016, the land commissioner was compensated $210,695/year.

The land commissioner oversees the General Land Office, which is the oldest state agency (originally established by the Texas Constitution of 1836).  “Because the federal government would not take Texas’ land as debt payments, Texas entered the Union owning its public land” (Texas General Land Office, n.d.).  Texas also retained ownership of the state’s submerged lands (i.e., tidelands) three marine leagues (about 10.3 miles) into the Gulf of Mexico.  As a result, the need to continue to maintain a General Land Office continued, and the office – and the role of the land commissioner – was incorporated into future state constitutions, including the Texas Constitution of 1876.

The land commission was originally responsible for a variety of functions, including administering state-owned lands (approximately 13 million acres, or nearly 12% of Texas), providing maps, surveying land, and controlling the permanent school fund (PSF), which is a fund set aside to finance K-12 public education in Texas and is Texas’s largest source of investment income.  Over time, additional responsibilities have been assigned to the land commissioner, including controlling leases for the development of mineral resources and other resources on public lands and making low-interest loans available to veterans.

Map of public lands managed by Texas General Land Office (GLO)