Politics & Government

Bathrooms, guns, secession: Words you’ll hear from Texas GOP this week

Williamson County delegate Hal Talton, left, was joined by others as they cheered for U. S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison at the state Republican convention in the FWCC on Friday June 8, 2012.
Williamson County delegate Hal Talton, left, was joined by others as they cheered for U. S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison at the state Republican convention in the FWCC on Friday June 8, 2012. Star-Telegram

The national debate over restrooms continues to surge in Texas.

Already, transgender Texans and their bathroom use have been in the spotlight in a handful of Texas cities — Houston, Dallas and Rockwall, the North Texas suburb that recently rejected a proposal to weigh in on the issue.

Now the question of who can go into which public restroom, which at least one state official has said could come up in the Texas Legislature next year, might be among the hot-button issues the Texas GOP tackles this week.

Thousands of Republicans will gather in Dallas this week for their every-other-year state convention and work to hammer out a guide for their party that could include issues such as the bathroom movement, secession, immigration, reparative therapy, property taxes and more.

Issues “come from the grassroots,” said state Sen. Konni Burton, R-Colleyville, who will be a delegate at the convention. “This is the base of the party telling elected officials what their concerns are and what they hope we will address in the Legislature.

“It’s very important.”

The party’s ever-evolving platform, often known to draw national attention, is an outline of the party’s beliefs that candidates do not always, nor are required, to follow.

The lengthy document has drawn massive media attention in recent years for controversial positions such as changing stances on immigration and supporting reparative therapy to help gay Texans reject their homosexual lifestyle.

But one of the first decisions delegates will have to make is whether it’s time to shrink the 40-page mission statement.

I think it’s too long, delves into too much minutia.

Jonathan Gaspard, a Grapevine delegate proposing a smaller party platform

“I think it’s too long, delves into too much minutia,” said Jonathan Gaspard, a Grapevine delegate proposing a smaller party platform. “A lot of things are contradictory.

“It’s not a strong platform for what the intent and purpose should be — setting a statement of core values, goals and tenets for people to see what we believe in.”

The Texas Republican state convention runs Thursday through Saturday at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas.

Long or short?

Members of the platform committee will start meeting Monday to whittle down a lengthy list of topics proposed for the party platform.

Early on, they will have to decide whether to support a “brief” party platform, geared to “clearly (state) our core principles and beliefs,” or keep the platform around the length that it is.

“There is a movement to reduce the size of the platform although maybe not the scope,” said Steve Hollern, a former Tarrant County Republican Party chairman and delegate to this year’s convention.

“They want to leave the main planks in there and strip out superfluous stuff.”

Gaspard said he believes the platform should be smaller.

“It’s so long that not everybody can read it with complete comprehension,” he said.

If not reduced, it could grow even longer this year.

Republicans across the state have proposed adding tens of thousands of new planks to the platform; dozens of suggestions have come from Tarrant County residents alone.

Among the proposed planks from Tarrant County: reaffirming the state’s sovereignty, requiring drivers licenses to indicate whether the driver is a U.S. citizen, banning red-light cameras, requiring English-only government documents and legalizing medical marijuana.

Another proposed plank calls on state lawmakers to support constitutional carry, which would abolish licenses now required to carry firearms. This comes at the first convention since lawmakers last year approved open carry. Delegates will be allowed to openly carry or conceal at the convention.

For the first time, delegates won’t approve the overall party platform by a voice vote. They will discuss proposed planks, as usual, and then each delegate will use a scan tron ballot to vote on whether or not to include every single plank.

This will be “further empowering our grassroots,” said Michael Joyce, a spokesman for the Republican Party of Texas. “How the delegates vote on the planks will determine what goes into the platform. We’re a grassroots party, unlike the Democrats.

You shouldn’t have to vote yes on something to find out what’s in it; that’s what Democrats do, just like they did with Obamacare.

Michael Joyce, a spokesman for the Republican Party of Texas

“You shouldn’t have to vote yes on something to find out what’s in it; that’s what Democrats do, just like they did with Obamacare.”

Hot issues

Here’s a look at some of the issues that could be considered for the GOP party platform:

Bathroom ordinance: Texas Republicans may jump into the national debate over the rights of transgendered people to decide which bathroom they use. The question of who can go into which public restroom — based on the gender a person identifies with now or the one they were born with — became national news after North Carolina officials passed a law requiring transgendered people to use the restroom that corresponds with the sex on their birth certificate. It already has come up in Dallas, Houston and most recently Rockwall. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has said legislation may be needed to settle the issue once and for all in Texas. “I think the handwriting is on the bathroom wall,” Patrick has told reporters. “Stay out of the ladies room if you’re a man.”

Same-sex marriage: This will be the first state party convention since the U.S. Supreme Court in a landmark ruling swept away Texas’ longtime ban against same-sex marriage. Top GOP officials have long denounced the ruling, and grassroots Republicans may choose to weigh in on this issue — and on adoptions by same-sex couples.

Immigration: This has long been a top issue as Republicans have gone back and forth on whether a path to citizenship or guest worker program should be provided. In 2014, the Texas GOP took a harder stance on illegal immigration, approving a plank calling for securing the border, avoiding amnesty, banning in-state tuition for undocumented students and prohibiting “the knowing employment of illegal immigrants.” Two years before that, Republicans took a softer approach that included provisions for a guest worker program. This year, as they talk about border security, Texas Republicans could decide to get on board with presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump and his plan to build a tall wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and have Mexico pay for it.

Secession: Then-Gov. Rick Perry hinted at it in 2009, saying he understands how some Texans might become so frustrated with federal taxes and ever-increasing spending by Congress that they want to secede. But he also said that “we’ve got a great union. There’s absolutely no reason to dissolve it.” Even so, delegates at more than a handful of senatorial or county conventions this year approved planks to let Texas secede, making it likely that the move for secession could make it to the convention floor for discussion and a vote. But many in the party say they expect any such proposal, which comes from fringe movements in the GOP, to be shot down.

Property taxes: Property owners in Tarrant County and statewide have been astounded as appraisals in recent years have skyrocketed for homes and land alike. As some fear they may be taxed out of their long-held properties, grassroots Texas Republicans may weigh in on the issue. “A lot of people are up in arms over the property tax appraisals,” O’Hare said. “There was all the talk last session about how [state lawmakers] talked about saving us money, then everyone’s property tax appraisals shot up.”

Anna Tinsley: 817-390-7610, @annatinsley

  Comments