When I was a reporter at the Capitol, 90 percent of the people who attended legislative committee hearings were paid to be there. That’s not a criticism of the many lobbyists, legislative, and agency staff members who attend hearings and play a valuable role in the legislative process—it’s just reality. Most Texans have jobs to go to and businesses to run and cannot afford the expense of taking time off work and traveling to Austin to let their voices be heard on legislative issues. The platform can be their voice.

In many states, the party leadership appoints a small group of people to lay out a few vague policy statements that dovetail with the elected class’ campaign themes and call it a platform. In Texas, members of a political party pick issues that are important to them, rather than the other way around.

The process starts at a precinct convention. (The time and place for precinct conventions are determined by the local county parties and can often be found on their websites.) Precinct resolutions don’t have to be long. “We support school choice” or “we want our property taxes cut” are perfectly acceptable precinct resolutions. In my senate district, every resolution that passes a precinct convention is read and considered.

Some in politics question the value of a detailed Republican platform, but it’s referenced at the Capitol more than people think. The GOP platform is the reason we don’t have expanded gambling in Texas. While we didn’t succeed at getting taxpayer-funded lobbying banned, we did get enhanced disclosure, and the emphasis on eliminating taxpayer-funded lobbying made it harder for moderate Republicans to justify carrying water for those paid to advocate for higher property taxes.

Some in the Republican Party of Texas want a general platform that does not take a stand on policy issues. Never mind the fact that the Texas Democratic Party also has a long and detailed platform. The people who stand to benefit from a vague platform are the lobby (especially taxpayer-funded lobbyists) and the elected class. A detailed platform makes it easier for grassroots conservatives to hold their elected officials accountable and lets elected officials know what issues matter to the grassroots.

At the 2018 convention, the gut-the-platform crowd introduced a stripped-down minority report. It wasn’t just short, however. It was liberal. The document didn’t contain any mention of school choice or the governor’s property tax limitation initiatives.

Should we try to streamline the platform and make the writing clearer and focus on issues most important to the grassroots? Of course. But we need to address real issues with enough detail where it matters.

Since 2014, I have proudly served on my senate district’s resolutions committee. In 2018, I had the honor of representing my senate district on the state committee. This year, I have six resolutions I’m filing at my precinct convention. They are as follows:

  • Opposition the Austin City Council’s authorization of homeless camping
  • Education reform
  • Reform of the Texas House of Representatives
  • Some revisions to the finance portions of the 2018 platform
  • Election integrity
  • A list of planks to eliminate or consolidate

I’ve uploaded my resolutions to a Google Drive. Feel free to adapt and use them if you like!

I want average Texans to have a voice in how our state is run. Will you join me?

This is a commentary submitted and published with the author’s permission. If you wish to submit a commentary to Texas Scorecard, please submit your article to submission@texasscorecard.com.

William Lutz

William Lutz was a writer and editor at the Texas Capitol 1998-2011. He has served on the Senate District 14 Republican Resolutions Committee since 2014. He served on the State Republican Platform Committee in 2018, serving as chairman of its subcommittee on finance.