A pastime historically enjoyed by political junkies – and maybe a few cynical editorial writers – around this time every two years are the resolutions/platform amendments proposed by delegates at the state Republican and Democratic conventions.
Party platforms, of course, are statements of policy by which party officeholders are supposed to agree, follow and vote for in their official jobs.
Platforms are what party’s “stand for.”
Resolutions are statements of intent, or feeling, on any number of topics.
At least on the Republican side, you usually find some “nutcake” ideas that would be an embarrassment to many Republican officeholders. Although they, of course, rarely would say so out loud since as candidates they, at some time, have to stand before these delegates for election.
One way around embarrassing resolutions is to not talk, or take votes, on them at all.
And in recent state Republican conventions the resolution debates come at the end of a long, sometimes heated, day of speeches and voting on candidates.
Enough delegates leave the convention hall that someone calls for a quorum count – which finds there is not a quorum present – and the remaining delegates go home without ever taking up platform changes and/or resolutions.
At one point GOP bosses tried to set up some kind of resolution screening process –- to keep the really crazy ideas out. But that didn’t work, either.
Who knows what will happen this Saturday at the state Democratic and Republican conventions.
Below are the four GOP items (one platform change, three resolutions).
As compared to bygone years, these are not too outlandish.
Still. . . . these are Republican delegates, after all. And who knows what can happen when they get together.
(Democrats have no convention resolutions.)
State GOP chairman James Evans has said before that the party will consider suing the state over SB54, a “grand compromise” bill passed last session that, basically, forces political parties in Utah to 1) allow for a dual track (caucus/convention or voter signature petitions) candidate nominating system or 2) adopt the Count My Vote direct primary process or 3) not have Republican candidates for county, state and congressional offices have their names under the Republican Party label on election ballots.
None of these choices, of course, are liked by most GOP delegates – who argue they are being blackmailed by lawmakers into accepting candidate nomination processes they don’t accept.
-- One resolution says SB54 is unconstitutional and violates the right of free assembly.
While the resolution doesn’t specifically talk about suing the state, it says delegates support Evans in any action to uphold the party’s and members’ constitutional right of free association – and urges him to take action to protect it.
This is a touchy issue, as courts have held that political parties are private institutions whose members do have free association rights.
But there are also rulings which say states have the right to decide what their taxpayer-funded primary ballots look like.
The Count My Vote folks went to great lengths last year in arguing their direct primary petition was legal.
If the convention adopts the anti-SB54 resolution, that gives Evans direction in going to court.
-- A party platform amendment generally states that the 50 states are sovereign, and that the GOP-controlled Legislature and Republican governor take what ever steps are necessary to protect Utah’s rights under the U.S. Constitution.
This applies to any number of state vs. federal conflicts, from Obamacare to BLM lands.
-- Another resolution says the state party supports transferring federal lands in Utah to control of the state government, and supports the similar transfer of federal lands in states west of Colorado, if those states want those federal lands.
This, of course, is an ongoing fight between the Legislature and Congress and federal land managers.
A national GOP leadership conference will be held in the Grand America Hotel this Thursday and Friday, with part of the discussion returning federal public lands to the states.
-- Finally, perhaps the most impactful (if GOP Utah lawmakers follow it) resolution calls for the State School Board to be partisan elected.
Currently the 15-member board has a rather odd election process.
Candidates file and then are screened by an independent commission. Names for each district up for election are sent to the governor, who picks two to be on the general election ballot.
While the political party affiliation of some of the candidates may be known in their communities, candidates do not run under the banner of any political party.
For several years there have been efforts in the Legislature to change this process – with one or two bills setting up partisan board elections usually in the mix.
However, Democrats (the minority party in Utah and the Legislature) fear that making the State Board partisan will lead to all kinds of troubles.
And even GOP lawmakers have refused to go the partisan route.
In the 2014 Legislature a bill that would have set up non-partisan State Board direct elections passed the House, but failed in the Senate. A bill to make the board partisan elected failed.
There have, over the years, been various attempts by the county and state GOP conventions to somehow make Republican officeholders uphold official party documents, and vote along the lines of the party platforms and approved resolutions.
At one point, GOP candidates were supposed to file a form with the state party outlining exactly which parts of the state party platform they would not vote to uphold in any state law.
A few candidates did, in fact, file such forms. But most just ignored the party’s attempts to control them, didn’t file any forms, and voted in the Legislature any way they pleased, in their jobs of representing all their constituents.