A number of interesting issues came up at this meeting, which was one of the longest meetings ever -- the meeting started at 9 AM and was adjourned at around 7 PM. These are the highlights as I noted them:
1. Discussion and approval of Texas GOP budget for 2012 -
State Chairman Steve Munisteri presented a 2012 State GOP budget which is around $105k per month; the budget was approved with minimal discussion.
2. Consideration of SREC By-Law changes for legislative reports -
On the contentious issue of “scorecards” or "legislative reports" or whatever “accountability” directive you want to call it, that was based in the June, 2010 Platform Directive - which grassroots Republicans have been chewing on for months, the SREC rejected any SREC by-law change (to Art. 9, Sec 3-4) to provide an exception for such SREC approved reports. The by-law change which came out of the Rules Committee (chaired by Dan Pickens) wasn't as simple, or as strong, as the rule change proposed by Mr. Halvorsen last meeting (which more closely resembled the simple changes passed by some County GOP Executive Committees), but it certainly did capture the essence of making exception to allow SREC legislative reports to move forward. The vote was 32 – 28 in favor of by-law change, but a 2/3rds majority is required to change by-laws, so it fell short. I was on the losing side of that by-law vote. Someone immediately moved for a recorded (roll call) vote on that by-law change – I voted for a recorded vote, but it also failed, 12 for - 39 against. My SD-14 colleague voted opposite to me on both these issues (and on most other issues of the day), which means, all SD-14 Republican positions got a vote on the crucial issues, no matter what their position.
The other matter on this issue regarded an opinion from a committee led by RPT counsel, "clarifying" that a platform plank could not require or compel actions of others (or something to this effect). The clarification wasn't completely clear to many of us, and after some debate it was postponed (until a later, unspecified SREC meeting) by a vote of 37 for postponing, 17 against.
3. Discussion of court action nullifying the Texas legislature's redistricting --
Paul Bettencourt (former Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector) gave an extensive review of the redistricting, mentioning several times that the San Antonio court's redrawing of lines is so egregiously lopsided in Democrat's favor that even a Democrat controlled state legislature would not be able to pass it. There is a possibility the US Supreme Court could reverse the new maps, but Bettencourt believes it's likely the Texas legislature will end up redrawing maps in 2013; it's looking like a repeat of what happened 10 years ago. Bettencourt also argued effectively to make redistricting one of the top 5 Primary Ballot Initiatives.
4. Selection of March 2012 primary ballot issues -
The Resolution Committee reported that about 58 (non-duplicate) potential issues were submitted to that Committee; the Committee also discussed and recommended approval of a Resolution for the State Chairman to ".... assemble a special political team to garner statewide public support..." for the the redistricting issue. That resolution was easily passed.
The Resolution Committee discussed numerous issues and recommend five issues to the SREC for ratification:
Repeal of Obamacare
Balanced Budget & Limited Government Growth
Enforcement of Immigration Laws * (the SREC body substituted issue on Redistricting)
Considerable debate and language alteration was done, and a redistricting issue was substituted for the immigration issue; other than that the issues above were approved. Final ballot language will be reported in official SREC minutes.
5. Consideration of "censure resolution" for incumbent Upshur County Republican Chairman -
Later in the evening, Steve Findley (SD-1) introduced a group of about 10 people (mostly precinct chairs) who drove down from Upshur County to present a case for censuring the Upshur County (a rural county at the north east Texas border with Oklahoma) incumbent Republican Chairman. The debate on this issue was evenly divided and passionate, and a number of close votes were taken, and considerable time was taken considering whether the motion of censure was out of order. In my view, since we had argued for months about whether the SREC should do official “reports” or scorecards, and the SREC has just said no earlier in the day, I could not follow how was it that they would now consider an official censure of an incumbent Republican Chairman. I’ve been hearing about the Upshur County problems for about a year, and my sense was the Upshur County chair was similar (if not worse) to the former Travis County chair's behavior (2000 – 2008), but since the SREC already voted “NO” on issuing reports for incumbents, it made no sense for us to give the Upshur County chair an official censure – which I’d say the average Republican primary voter would consider a report card of “F”. After losing the fight to change by-laws so we could issue report cards to incumbent legislators, I felt it my responsibility to oppose issuing a report card to the incumbent Upshur County chair, so I voted to uphold the point of order ruling the “censure” out of order, and later voted against the censure resolution itself.
After hours of contentious debate, the censure eventually passed.
After a few other items were quickly decided, the meeting was adjourned at around 7 PM.
Special note of commendation goes out to Chairman Steve Munisteri, who in my observation presided over a long and contentious meeting with impressive skill; as an SREC member on the losing side of many votes, I still commend the chairman for conducting the meeting with remarkable fairness.