The State Republican Executive Committee (SREC) met this last weekend on Friday, December 2nd and Saturday, December 3rd in Austin, Texas.
On Friday, the various committees of the SREC met. The Volunteerism Committee chaired by Leslie Recine, met to discuss among other things, participating with a Habitat for Humanity build last week in Fort Worth. The Chairman also stopped by to thank them for providing the funds to provide for hiring Cassie Daniel to work on the recruitment of County Chairs. Cassie Daniel stopped by to outline her progress. The Officials Committee met and the Chairman provided them with an overview of the financial condition of the Party, redistricting, staff, and Victory efforts. Hal Talton gave an update on the Convention. The prime business of the Officials Committee was to vote to recommend the proposed budget for 2012.
The Grassroots Club committee met chaired by Vice-Chairwoman Melinda Fredricks. She detailed her ideas for an incentive program to sign people up for the Grassroots Club. Specifically, she wants to create a competition among Senatorial Districts at the State Convention, which will reward those Senatorial Districts that sign up the most members.
The Resolutions Committee chaired by Dr. Johnny Lovejoy, met to consider over 100 submitted potential ballot propositions. When they eliminated the duplicates, there were still 57. The committee voted out five proposed ballot propositions for recommendation to the full body.
The Rules Committee chaired by Dan Pickens, met and considered among other things, various proposals to change RPT bylaws to allow legislative scorecards.
During the Auxiliaries and Coalitions Committee meeting chaired by Jane Burch, the Party was given updates from the Texas Young Republican Federation, GOP is For Me, the Latino National Republican Coalition, Texas College Republicans, and the Texas Republican Assembly on their current activities.
That evening, Amy Clark and Toni Anne Dashiell sponsored a dinner at Carmelo's Restaurant where they heard from a speaker who talked about an environment for dispute resolution and creating win-win solutions at meetings. The RPT would like to thank Rachel Woods from L-Trek Consulting for donating her time and expertise to help in the development of our party leaders.
Saturday morning kicked off with a prayer service. Pastor Rex Johnson had a family conflict, so his associate pastor Mitch Rose filled in. Christian Life Church also provided Randy Davenport and his guitar skills for the service and it was a very uplifiting start for the day.
First order of business for the SREC on Saturday was hearing reports from the Party officers. In his report, Chairman Steve Munisteri announced that the financial condition of the Party is still solid. He noted the Party continues to pay its obligations to zero every two weeks and had just paid all its obligations to zero on Friday, December 2nd. He reported at that time that the total of all accounts as of December 2nd was $859,897.14. He cautioned that of this amount, only $626,451.12 was non-allocated funds and of this, $100,000 is held in reserve in the "Rainy Day Fund". He stated that overall, the financial health of the Party is good at present, but he anticipated a decline of approximately $100,000 in cash balances by the end of the year as a result of the Party doing no significant fundraising in December and the holiday season. He predicted the Party will have about $100,000 less at the start of 2012 than it did at the start of 2011, but that the Party is still in decent shape considering it is an off-election year and that it is very difficult to raise money in the current economic climate as well as the competition with so many Republican candidates who are presently raising money in the state.
The Chairman noted that as a result of the Party’s improved financial condition, RPT has been able to expand its staff and recently added a temporary full-time person, Rachel Wilson, to help with the primary election. The Party also added another temporary full-time person who may become permanent, Cassie Daniel, to work on County Chairman assistance and recruitment. Also, we were able to fill the vacancy of the minority outreach director with David Zapata. Chairman Munisteri also made a pitch for his resolution to authorize the State Chairman to request that all of our candidates for the Texas Legislature support redistricting next session if court-imposed maps are implemented. He also stated his position that he favored a bylaws rule change proposed by Rules Chairman Dan Pickens, that would allow for a legislative report, and that he hoped that if the body passed a bylaws change, they would seriously consider his recommendation to allow Ryan Data & Research, to compile voting records for all the legislators in an easily-disseminated format. However, he also told the body that they should vote on this issue as their conscience dictates, and not because of the position of the Chair. He finally noted, that the SREC meeting had many contentious issues before it and made a plea that everybody remain civil to each other, so that when the debate is over – the Party remain unified as we have an important election year which requires all Republicans to work together if we are going to be successful in retaking the White House, the U.S. Senate, maintaining our control of Congress, and defending our Republican majorities in the Texas Legislature.
Vice-Chairwoman Melinda Fredricks gave her report. She detailed her work on the Grassroots Club and put the SREC on notice that she was going to ask all of them to participate in a membership drive at the State Convention.
Treasurer Tom Mechler and Assistant Treasurer Tom Washington provided a detailed report of the balances of each and every one of the Party's accounts. Tom Washington also went over a chart which showed all of the expenditures of the Party up to date. He reported that the Party had taken in $77,000 more dollars than it had spent up to this point of time in 2011. Tom Mechler reported that the Party has filed all of its FEC and TEC filings on time, and that there are no issues with regulatory authorities. We are only one of a handful of states that has not had to amend at least one report this year.
General Counsel Patrick O'Daniel, in conjunction with Rules Committee Chairman Dan Pickens, provided a report from an ad hoc committee related to the legislative report card platform plank. They reported that a bylaws change was necessary to issue a legislative-type scorecard and noted that there had been two proposed bylaws changes which would come before the body that allowed various types of legislative reports. They reported that the committee took no position as to whether the bylaws should be changed or not – but did note that the committee was not opposed to a bylaws change.
Prior to consideration of the bylaws changes and the consideration of issuing a legislative report card, the SREC heard from several candidates for statewide office. These were Justice Elsa Acala, Representative Warren Chisum and Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett. Justice Acala went over her impressive background and life story. She was orphaned at the age of 13, and by the time she was 15, she and her siblings were on their own. She overcame this adversity to graduate from college and law school and went on to be board-certified in criminal law. She later became a district judge and is now Governor Perry's appointment to the Court of Appeals. She talked about the values that were instilled in her and how these serve her well on the bench.
Representative Warren Chisum talked about his background in the legislature as a conservative stalwart, and his familiarity with Railroad Commission issues. He outlined the importance of the energy industry to Texas and the country. Justice Don Willett discussed his long history of conservative activism and made the case that he is as conservative, if not more conservative, than anyone else on the bench. He also discussed his humble upbringings in a small town and how that instilled in him the values of the Republican Party.
After hearing from the guest speakers, the SREC took up the bylaws change proposed by Rules Committee chairman Dan Pickens, which would allow the RPT to publish a legislative report on the voting records of state legislators. SREC member David Halvorson rose to state that he was withdrawing his proposed bylaws change, and to throw his support behind Mr. Pickens' bylaws change. As the issue of the legislative report card was debated for hours at the previous meeting, a motion was made to limit debate to three representatives for each side. The motion overwhelmingly passed, and each side had three representatives to speak in favor of their positions. A detailed recitation of the arguments for and against on this issue are contained in the previous SREC report. As a brief recap, those in favor of the bylaws change felt it was important to have a measure of accountability with the legislators. One speaker who favored the Chairman's recommendation for the format proposed by Ryan Data & Associates, noted that he had seen a demonstration of how easy the programming was to access votes on specific issues on specific legislation with a description. Those against the proposal generally argued that the information on the voting issues was already easily accessible on various websites. It was also pointed out that there are numerous groups that already rate and rank legislators. Also, it was discussed that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to reach a consensus on a fair way to compile a record, and that the end result would be the Party would be involving itself in primary fights. At the conclusion of the debate, 31 SREC members and the Chairman voted for the measure for a total of 32, and there were 28 opposed, with four not voting. Although a majority supported the bylaws change, the bylaws require a two-thirds vote, so the motion to pass the change to the bylaws failed. Because the bylaws were not amended, it became a moot issue on what form such a report should take, as did the Chairman's proposal to release the legislative accountability report he had compiled by Ryan Data & Research.
During the lunch session, we heard reports from heads of several RPT auxiliaries. Bill Calhoun of Texas Federation for Republican Outreach reported that he had met the day before with Chairman Munisteri on a new effort to reach African-Americans in Texas using overlays of marketing lists and targeted marketing and that the Chairman is favorably disposed towards underwriting a pilot program. Toni Anne Dashiell reported that the TFRW had a successful state convention in Fort Worth with over 800 attendees. She also noted that Chairman Munisteri's middle school social studies teacher Carolyn Hodges, was elected the new statewide chairwoman of TFRW. Mark Brown of the Texas Young Republican Federation reported on their recent conference in Austin and the creation of several new chapters. Texas Republican County Chairs Association was represented by Linda Rogers who reported that they had a successful event in Austin during the Secretary of State's training period.
Comptroller Susan Combs, who graciously agreed to sponsor the SREC meeting, gave a rousing speech on the Texas economy and the regulatory burden Washington is placing on our state. She also announced at the end of her speech, that she is renewing her membership in the Chairman's Circle.
Co-sponsor Robin Armstrong spoke as a candidate for RNC National Committeeman and detailed his personal background as a Christian conservative, and his past involvement in the Party. He also discussed his family and personal background. He outlined his reasons for running for the office which include representing conservative values at the national level, and he pledged to work with the other RNC members from Texas in a harmonious way. Christi Craddick, candidate for Railroad Commissioner, also spoke as a co-sponsor of the event. She outlined her qualifications for serving on the Railroad Commission, including that she is a lawyer who deals with issues involving energy, that she has familiarity with the legislative process, and that she has a long history of involvement on behalf of the Republican Party.
After the speeches from the co-sponsors, we heard committee reports from the Party Organization committee. Chairman Amy Clark reported that she and SREC member Eric Opiela had sponsored a series of seminars on how to build local parties. Leslie Recine reported on the Volunteerism Committee's successful dinner, contributing money to hire Cassie Daniel, and their upcoming efforts to support charitable causes. Jane Burch reported on the outstanding progress of our Auxiliaries and Coalitions committee to grow the Republican Party in all communities. Jane Cansino reported that the CRC committee had already raised approximately $58,000 for candidates for down-ballot races in Texas. Angie King reported on proposed policy procedures manual and its status – she hopes to have something to present to the SREC at its March 2012 meeting.
Paul Bettencourt, former Tax Assessor-Collector of Harris County was asked to give the Redistricting report. He presented maps on a slideshow which detailed the negative impact of the court of appeals panel in Bexar County. He noted numerous deficiencies with the map that included: having districts split county lines, having districts that don't have any land bridges, the packing of Republicans into districts, etc. He also made recommendations as to future handling of the issue.
Hal Talton then had a presentation on the RPT State Convention. He distributed a proposed contract for the production of the convention with RM Squared productions. He also indicated that they had a preliminary budget of approximately $800,000 in expenses, and that it is hoped that the revenue would generate a six-figure profit from the convention. He also noted that VIP packages and hotel packages for VIP's had already been distributed, well in advance of the time schedule from 2010, and that we had already collected some additional monies. He announced that the committee was working on the possibility of bringing a live elephant to the convention as well as some additional surprises. He asked that if any of the SREC members had any objections to the proposed contracts to let them know prior to the Officials Committee meeting immediately following the SREC meeting, where they would approve the proposed contracts.
Chairman Munisteri then went over the proposed budget for 2012. He presented the budget in the same format as he did last year, divided between the base budget which is composed of locked-in, necessary expenses, and a wish-list budget which included additional expenditures for staff and projects which would be dependent on additional monies being raised. The proposed budget called for spending of approximately $106,000 per month net of fundraising costs, excluding expenditures for the State Convention and for Victory. He explained that the difference between the 2012 and 2011 budgets was the inclusion of some wish list items into the base budget, which include some things the Party has been able to fund such as the finance director, minority outreach director, and County Chair recruitment. He noted the budget is substantially less than the approximately $140,000 a month that the Party was spending on its base budget when he arrived, but an increase over the approximately $97,000 a month from the base budget one year ago. He noted that the Party has enough cash on hand to last about six months, and that he would anticipate another $300,000 to $400,000 in net fundraising revenues would be collected during that six month period of time so as to maintain the current cash reserves, another $300,000 will need to be raised over the next six months (excluding Victory funds). He expressed confidence that if the convention netted $100,000 profit, that the Party should be able to raise $200,000 in other funds in the next six months – allowing the Party to go into the summer months with $500,000-600,000 in cash on hand. He noted that the Victory expenditures were previously approved at the prior SREC meeting and reported that County Judge Ed Emmett and RPT staff have already met and are working on revising the Victory plan, timeline and budget. He also reported that County Judge Emmett had pledged to raise some seed money before January and that it is still our hope to raise between $2 to $4 million separately for the Victory effort. The budget was unanimously approved.
The afternoon was taken up in considering proposed ballot initiatives. The Resolutions Committee reported five ballot propositions, however one of the ballot propositions was dropped to allow room for redistricting, which Paul Bettencourt recommended and the Chairman supported. There were several amendments and a lively debate. The end result was five ballot propositions to survey the position of Republican primary voters on: School Choice, Repealing Obamacare, Public Prayer, Balanced Budget Amendment and Redistricting.
Curt Nelson, Bexar County GOP Chairman, spoke as a candidate for national committeeman and gave a passionate speech about the need for strong Republican leadership at the state and national level.
Becky Berger, SREC member and candidate for Railroad Commissioner, also spoke to the group. She outlined her qualifications which include being a geologist by profession. She made the point that it was important to have people on the Railroad Commission who have expertise in the industry and that she possesses that expertise. She also discussed the importance of the energy industry to Texas.
Another SREC member, Michael Truncale, addressed the SREC as a candidate for Congressional District 14. He gave a fiery speech outlining his heartfelt convictions for conservative principles such as fiscal responsibility, family values, and reforming Washington.
The final issue of the night was a discussion of the RPT's position relative to a dispute in Upshur County as to the conduct of the Republican Party in that county. SREC member Steve Findley outlined numerous concerns that he and a delegation for Upshur County had concerning the way business was conducted by the county party in Upshur. He asked for the approval of a resolution from the state party to the county chairman, emphasizing that the state party insists that the election code and party rules be followed. After much debate and some amendments, a resolution was passed. A second resolution was passed by the SREC, recognizing a secretary elected by a group of precinct chairman as the official county party secretary.
The meeting concluded a little after 7:00pm, which was the longest SREC meeting in recent memory, if not ever. The next meeting of the SREC is scheduled for March 31, 2012.