House Bill (HB) 1987 became the beneficiary of vehement fury when the conference committee report was blasted out into the ether. It featured substantial changes from its original purpose of preventing state party officials from running for another office during their state party term.
The most notable of those provisions is a requirement that the state party’s chair, vice-chair, and executive committee all be elected from the primary ballot. Currently, those positions are all elected at each party’s state convention by delegates, not voters at large.
The other kicker is that provision only applies to the RPT and not the Texas Democratic Party — or any other statewide political party.
On Sunday morning, the RPT released a statement strongly condemning HB 1987’s conference committee report.
“Whether you support the idea of Party leadership being elected on the primary ballot, by Executive Committee, by convention, or other means, to have a law that would apply state-mandated requirements over Party leadership to one political party only, is unconscionable,” RPT COO Brandon Moore stated.
The initial version was a simple closing of an inconsistency in state election law: that local party officials and precinct chairs had to resign their position to run for another office while state party chairs and members of the State Republican Executive Committee (SREC) do not.
HB 1987 author, Rep. Cody Vasut (R-Angleton), told The Texan early on, “In my opinion, this is an issue of fundamental fairness. The same eligibility rules should apply to our state party officials that apply to our local precinct and county chairs.”
“I believe a resign-to-run rule helps ensure our political parties are controlled by the grassroots they represent rather than the individuals they help elect.”
But after the Senate passed the bill exempting party chairs and vice-chairs from the requirement, a conference committee was necessary to bridge the gap between the two versions. The final version went with the House’s resign-to-run language, spurning the chair and vice-chair exemption.
During those proceedings, however, multiple extraneous provisions were added that took the bill in a whole other direction. One such provision includes language narrowing the bill’s scope to just the Texas GOP.
“This subchapter applies to a political party holding a primary election in this state if the party’s candidate for governor has received the greatest number of votes in at least six of the ten most recent gubernatorial elections,” the language reads.
Since former Governor George W. Bush knocked off Democratic incumbent Ann Richards in 1994, the Republican nominee has taken every gubernatorial election — generally by a wide margin.
Texas has an open primary system and so, if signed into law, this legislation would broaden the scope of authority over the RPT’s election of its own leadership. It would be possible for voters from different parties to cross over and influence the outcome of their opposing party’s election.
Additionally, the current SREC consists of one male and one female representative per Senate district. Under the new language, that separation no longer exists.
Under the conference committee version, the elected term for all applicable positions lasts for four years rather than the two years currently in place between conventions.
The members of the conference committee were Reps. Cody Vasut (R-Angleton), Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock), Charlie Geren (R-Fort Worth), Craig Goldman (R-Fort Worth), and Chris Paddie (R-Marshall) along with Sens. Larry Taylor (R-Houston), Carol Alvarado (D-Houston), Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels), Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola), and Eddie Lucio, Jr. (D-Brownsville).
But after inter-chamber jockeying over the weekend, that version was scrapped, and the House changed course to adopt the Senate’s version. That version, however, included the chair and vice-chair exemption. To nix that provision, the House then passed a correcting resolution reverting that provision back to its original form, and it must be approved by the Senate, too.
The resign-to-run legislation that at first flew under the radar — to then find itself under the white-hot spotlight — ended where it started, and now awaits the governor’s signature.
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Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.