Chairman's Update: June 2011
In the month of June, the primary focus of the RPT's efforts was on the special session. Of prime importance to the RPT was the completion of congressional redistricting, passage of the sanctuary cities bill, completion of a budget without raising taxes, school finance reform, and preserving the rainy day fund. In addition, at the last meeting of the SREC, the SREC requested that we advise legislators of concerns over TSA practices.
The budget and school finance reform were completed during the special session, thereby avoiding the necessity of a second special session. The overall amount of revenue spent was approximately $172.3 billion. During the last biennium, the state spent approximately $187.5 billion. Thus, the Republican-controlled legislature was able to actually reduce the size of government by over 8%.
It is important to note that not only did our Republican legislators not raise a single penny in taxes but were also still able to provide for basic state services. There is a lot of misinformation put out in the press and by Democrats concerning this issue. Specifically, the press and Democrats imply or outright state that the legislature cut spending for education. This is a blatant falsehood. The truth of the matter is the Legislature spent approximately $3 billion more of state dollars on public education this biennium than last biennium. There was a reduction of federal dollars contributed to state education, but even with the loss of billions of federal dollars - the state still spent $125 million more on education this session than last session from all funds. When you hear in the press or through Democratic spokespersons the allegation that the Legislature cut $4 billion from state spending, they are utilizing a projected formula figure of what the state would have spent had there not been school finance reform. They are not comparing what we spent last session to what we spent this session. Furthermore, despite Democratic statements to the contrary, the Republican Legislature made education a priority in our budget. This session, 57.1% of all spending was allocated to education. The school finance reform bill also provided school districts the flexibility to control spending in a way that should maintain the ability to retain the current level of teachers. It should be noted that 10 years ago, approximately 70% of all school district employees were teachers, and 30% non-teachers. Today, that ratio is approximately 50% teachers to 50% non-teachers. This fact demonstrates that it is possible for school districts to control spending without teacher layoffs.
I am also pleased to report that a Congressional redistricting map was accomplished. The state of Texas will have four new Congressional districts. The RPT believes that a fair and legal map was drawn. This map creates a new district extending from eastern Harris County to East Texas, a new district in the Arlington area, a new district in the Hill Country, and one in the Corpus Christi area. We believe two of these districts are likely Republican seats and two are likely Democratic seats. However, existing Congressional District 25 currently occupied by Lloyd Doggett, should now also be a winnable Republican seat. The Republican Party of Texas is setting as a goal for the 2012 elections to increase the number of Republican Congressmen from 23 to 26. Unfortunately, I have been sued in my capacity as State Chairman of the Republican Party of Texas in three lawsuits pertaining to redistricting. These are efforts by Democrats to re-draw the lines in a manner more favorable to Democratic candidates. Although it will take money to do so, we are committed to vigorously defending these lawsuits and have already employed counsel to represent the Party.
The sanctuary city bill did not pass. While this is a disappointment for the RPT, I am happy to report that an alternative measure pertaining to border security and illegal immigration did get passed, which arguably may have even greater effect than the sanctuary city bill. Legislation was passed to require that all persons holding a drivers license must present valid proof of citizenship upon renewal of their license. This legislation is a step in the right direction on the state level. At the RPT, we are discussing ways to bring this issue to the national forefront, where even more can be done. I plan to present a proposal to the SREC this September on this issue. Stay tuned for more announcements.
Likewise, TSA reform bill did not get passed; however, the RPT is considering ways in which concerns over TSA practices can be addressed on a federal basis. Hopefully we will have some positive developments to report to you in upcoming months on this issue.
Overall, the regular and special sessions in aggregate were successful. The party's main priorities were addressed. A sonogram bill, voter ID bill, redistricting bills, proof of citizenship bill, and a conservative, responsible state budget all were passed.
Now that the session is over, our attention is shifting toward preparing for the all-important 2012 elections. I will be proposing in the next few weeks to start the Victory committee early this fall. Last election cycle, the Victory committee was not constituted until approximately 5 months before the election. It is my hope that the Victory committee will be in place and fully operational at least a full year before the election and possibly even sooner than that. We are already in the process of drafting a Victory plan to present to the statewide elected officials for approval this summer.
As part of our preparations for the 2012 elections we have reinstituted Campaign Management Schools. We held the first Campaign Manager School in four years and it was a successful event. A recent survey of the graduates of the school yielded a 100% approval rating and extremely positive feedback on the helpfulness of the instructors and material. Because of the success of the school, we plan on putting on several more of these, as well as candidate schools, grassroots training, and county chairman training. (Please see our recent recap). I would like to thank all those that participated as faculty, and to give kudos to our staff members who participated - Jesse Lewis, Beth Cubriel, Chris Elam, Travis Griffin, and Keri Mason.
Also during the month of June, I had two meetings with members of the Convention Committee to go over their recommendations. I am very excited about the work accomplished so far under committee chairman and SREC member Hal Talton. They have already put together a proposed timeline, entertainment schedule, and an outline of a budget. In the past, the convention was planned almost exclusively by outside consultants and staff. It has been one of my goals to increase participation of the SREC, and this Convention Committee is a first step toward that. I would like to thank the committee members: Hal Talton, Becky Berger, Janet Jackson, Neal Katz, Angie King, Jean McIver, Tom Washington, Montie Watkins, Rena Peden, Jeanie Kilgore, Jane Burch, Angie Flores, Jan Koehne, David Halvorson, Bonnie Lugo and Rebecca Williamson.
I have also received reports this month from committee chairman Leslie Recine that the Volunteerism Committee is well underway with its planning for a fall Volunteerism event, as well as working on recruiting volunteers to assist the state party. Thanks to the committe members: Dianne Caron, David Bellow, Vicki Slaton, Tina Gibson, Golden Elkins, Hal Talton, Montie Watkins, Rex Teter, Josh Flynn and Jimmie Kerr.
Chairman Steve Munisteri, SREC SD 22 Janet Jackson, Tony Abad and Duke Machado who serve on the board of new RPT auxiliary GOPisForMe.
Jane Burch, the chairman of the Auxiliaries Committee, is working with our Communications Director Chris Elam to start a program which allows the website to feature video presentations from our auxiliary groups. Members of this committee work as direct liasion with RPT auxiliary groups and we thank them for their work with these groups: Paige McAleer - Texas Young Republican Federation, Rebecca Williamson - Texas Federation of Republican Women, David Halvorson - Republican National Hispanic Assembly, James Barnes - Latino National Republican Coalition, David Thackston - Texas Republican Assembly, Tina Gibson - Texas Republican County Chairs Association, Gayla Miller - Texas College Republicans, Bonnie Lugo - Texas Federation of Republican Outreach, Janet Jackson - GOPisForMe, and other committee members Golden Elkins and Humberto Zamora.
Another committee that has wound up its work but which deserves the thanks of all grassroots Republicans is the Redistricting Committee headed by committee chairman and SREC member Jason Moore. That committee provided regular input to the legislators involved in redistricting as to the concerns of the grassroots. I would like to thank all of the members for their work: Candy Noble, Weston Martinez, Eric Opiela, Rena Peden, Dennis Paul, Rex Lamb, Davida Stike, Bob Jones, Jeanie Kilgore and Paul Bettencourt.
Rules Committee member Clint Moore volunteered to assist on a proposed emergency rules change to address our problem of the manner in which we select our delegates to the national convention. As previously reported, the state party needed to move its primary to April in order to continue selecting delegates in the manner in which we have in the past. Otherwise, we risk losing half of the 155 delegates we are allocated for the 2012 Republican National Convention. There is a provision in our rules which allow us to change the delegate allocation on an emergency basis if there is a change in RNC rules or state law which necessitate this. The difficulty is that the rule change must occur before October 1st, and requires a 2/3 vote of the SREC. National Committeeman and RNC General Counsel Bill Crocker has been working on alternatives as well. It is my hope that with the help of Bill Crocker, National Committeewoman Borah Van Dormolen and Clint Moore, that we can come up with a consensus proposal.
On the financial front, on June 30th we paid all our invoices to zero. It has been our practice since November to pay all our invoices to zero at the end of the month. As of the first of July, the total amount of cash in all RPT accounts was approximately $787,000. Of those funds, a little over $61,000 is in dedicated accounts not usable for general overhead, and $101,000 is in the RPT Rainy Day Fund. While we remain in a solid financial position, currently I expect a deterioration of our cash position over the summer months as contributions typically dry up during the summer and we have no fundraisers planned until the fall. I outlined a goal to the SREC at our March meeting of trying to maintain a cash balance over half a million, coming out of the summer. I am now confident that we will be able to do so and hopefully improve some over this amount. On another positive note, the Grassroots Club has now exceeded the 600 member mark. It was our goal to sign up 1000 new members by the end of October, so this goal is now within reach. I would like to make special mention of our Executive Director Jesse Lewis for raising funds. He was given the goal of raising $50,000 during 2011, and as a result of his efforts he has already exceeded that goal. As of June 30th, he had collected $68,000.
Also in June, we had our SREC meeting for which I had previously provided an extensive report (please see recap).
After the SREC meeting, I did have time to visit a few cities during the special session. I had a chance to attend the Harris County GOP Town Hall Meeting on June 6th. Harris County Chairman Jared Woodfill did an excellent job of providing updates to party activists as to what was accomplished during the legislative session. I would like to thank Jared for allowing me a few moments to update the Harris County regulars on the state party's activities. The next day, I spoke to the Houston Pachyderm Club and that same evening, I hosted a statewide teleconference with party leadership. The next day, I traveled to Montgomery County at the invite of County Chairman Wally Wilkerson to introduce Michael Reagan. Wally is the longest serving county chairman in the state and possibly in the nation, having served in that capacity since 1964. His event was a tremendous success, attracting hundreds of attendees. The third week of June, I attended the majority of our campaign managers school held that week (previously mentioned above) and that weekend, I was a speaker at the Texas RED Conference in Williamson County. The following week, I was the guest speaker at a meeting of Austin businessmen. The last week of June, I spoke to the McLennan County Republican Women's Club and appreciate their invitation to the event.
Also during June, I attended the weddings of two sets of Republican activist couples. David White married Elizabeth Young - David is the former political director for Governor Rick Perry and the current Chief of Staff for State Comptroller Susan Combs. His new wife Liz is the legislative director for State Senator Brian Birdwell. Both David and Liz are former State Chairman of the Young Conservatives of Texas. I also attended the wedding of Travis Griffin and Jenny Sykes. Travis is the political director here at the RPT and his new wife Jenny is the former organizational director for the RPT and current finance director for Michael Williams. On behalf of the RPT we wish these two wonderful couples a lifetime of happiness together and extend our heartfelt congratulations!
I hope all of you enjoy your summer and are taking restful vacations with your family and friends. Rest up - we will need everyone's help starting this fall to lay the groundwork for electing a Republican president in 2012, gaining control of both the Congress and Senate, and maintaining our Republican majorities here in the Lone Star state.