by Linda Curtis
I was in San Antonio this weekend at the Republican convention with delegates who are also members of the organization I founded in 2001, Independent Texans. Independent Texans supports candidates of all party persuasions who will help us win political rights for independent voters, now a 35% plurality. Key to this is such political reforms as giving Texans the right to statewide initiative and referendum (I&R). I&R, enjoyed by voters in 24 states for a century, gives citizens the right to petition for a vote of the people on issues (initiative), including the reversal of legislative decisions (referendum). Texans already have I&R, including the right to recall, but only at the municipal level.
A decade ago, the Republican Party faithful knew all about I&R. I&R was in the platform when its leaders more closely followed the platform. But since the Republicans took power in Texas, they dropped I&R, and they’ve allowed a tiny faction within the party to demonize I&R as “mob rule”. Of course, they don’t say what they stand for which is “minority rule”.
It became clear, as the convention proceeded, what the minority rule, anti-I&R faction currently in control of the Republican Party, is really afraid of. This was best expressed by two floor fights that broke out on Saturday, the significance of which was underreported by the press. First was the term limits fight. The rules committee decided to eliminate term limits on state party representatives to the Republican National Committee. Apparently the RNC was pressuring the Texas state party to eliminate term limits on their reps to the RNC, as other states without term limits supposedly had an advantage. The delegates resoundingly rejected this with a message to the RNC to instead urge the other states to enact term limits on their RNC officers!
The second and more important fight was about the Governor’s newly passed HB 3 -- the Business Franchise Tax. The Harris County delegation, led by some of the most loyal longtime builders of the Republican Party of Texas -- Dr. Steven Hotze, his brother Bruce, Norm Adams and others -- did a remarkable job of educating the 3,500 delegates at this convention (that’s live bodies as opposed to the 10,000 apportioned votes reported in some papers). At every point these loyalists were shut out by leaders who cautioned that if they crossed the Governor, it would hurt his chances in this election. They even trotted out Congressional leaders to hammer delegates.
Why was the debate so hot on HB 3? In a few words, Carole Keeton Strayhorn. She would repeal HB 3 because it has brought, through the back door, a state income tax to Texas, for which our constitution requires a vote of the people. Furthermore, Strayhorn is challenging all the candidates in all state races to support I&R rights for all Texans. More to the point, the Grandma is giving voters, including loyal Republicans, another place to go.
The Governor’s people so much as admitted that the reason for HB 3 is that they do not believe that they could get the people to pass a state income tax. Perhaps they are right. But is the answer then to cram an unfair tax down our throats? We need a fair, uniform, and easy to understand tax system that is voted on by the people of this state. Will this ever happen? Not likely without statewide I&R. Will statewide I&R ever happen? Not likely without a full blown independent political movement. One tough grandma has opened the door for a full blown debate on the floor of this entire state. Let’s have at it and really open it up.
Linda Curtis, founder of Independent Texans, is the leading tactician for the Texas independent political movement. She can be reached at 512-535-0989 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.