Editor's note: This story was updated to note details of the platform that Texas GOP convention delegates approved.
SAN ANTONIO — Texas Republicans on Saturday mapped out which issues the state GOP should support ahead of the 2019 legislative session — a list that again included a version of the “bathroom bill” and “constitutional carry."
Nearly 10,000 delegates and alternates at the state GOP convention here capped off their three-day gathering by taking votes on more than 300 proposed platform planks and a handful of legislative priorities after a few hours of relatively mild debate.
Some of those legislative priorities — which are meant to represent the party’s policy goals when the Texas Legislature convenes in January — carried over after they didn’t pass during the 2017 legislative session. They included legislation to abolish abortion, a proposal to let Texans carry a handgun without a permit and language regulating which restrooms transgender Texans can use. The "bathroom bill" measure, which drew hours of testimony and debate during the 2017 legislative session, was not a focus of debate at the 2018 convention.
The party also outlined a priority to "abolish all forms of taxpayer-funded lobbying" and to end the state's practice of collecting membership dues for public employees who are members of labor associations or unions. Legislation similar to the latter failed during both the regular and special sessions in 2017.
The Texas Tribune confirmed Saturday that delegates approved all 331 planks in the party's 30-page platform, plus a resolution censuring retiring state Rep. Byron Cook, a Corsicana Republican aligned with the more moderate wing of the party.
One of the more notable planks is one that supports decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana. “We support a change in the law to make it a civil, and not a criminal, offense for legal adults only to possess one ounce or less of marijuana for personal use, punishable by a fine of up to $100, but without jail time,” the plank reads. The party also approved a plank that recognizes industrial hemp as a “valuable agricultural commodity” and urges state lawmakers to pass measures “allowing cultivation, manufacture, and sale of industrial hemp and hemp products.”
Other notable planks include:
- Opposition to the requirement of personal firearm storage. “We oppose mandates on personal firearms storage, maintaining that it is the responsibility of an individual to safely store his or her firearms and choose responsibly when and how to make them available to minors,” reads plank 74. In the wake of last month’s mass shooting at Santa Fe High School, Gov. Greg Abbott has proposed strengthening the state’s firearm storage law.
- Opposition to the removal of Confederate monuments in Texas: “We believe all historical war memorials including Confederate monuments in Texas should be protected from future removal or defacement and that those monuments that have been removed should be restored to their historical locations,” plank 315 reads.
- Softening the state party’s previous language on homosexuality. “We affirm God’s biblical design for marriage and sexual behavior between one biological man and one biological woman, which has proven to be the foundation for all great nations in Western Civilization. We oppose homosexual marriage, regardless of state of origin. We urge the Texas Legislature to pass religious liberty protections for individuals, businesses, and government officials who believe marriage is between one man and one woman. We oppose the granting of special legal entitlements or creation of special status for homosexual behavior, regardless of state of origin. We oppose any criminal or civil penalties against those who oppose homosexuality out of faith, conviction, or belief in traditional values,” reads plank 316. The party had described homosexuality in its 2016 plank as “a chosen behavior that is contrary to the fundamental unchanging truths.”
- Support of selecting the next Texas House speaker within the lower chamber’s GOP caucus. “Republicans in the Texas House should select their Speaker nominee by secret ballot in a binding caucus without Democrat influence,” plank 83 reads. The House Republican Caucus in December agreed to elect the next speaker within the group using secret ballots.
- Changes for toll roads and taxpayer-funded toll projects. “We believe that tolls should come off the road when the debt is retired, and if the debt is ever restructured or refinanced, the pay-off date needs to remain the same or receive voter approval in order to extend the toll tax longer. Maintenance should then revert to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). We oppose public-private partnerships, specifically regarding toll projects. We oppose conversion of existing roads or lanes to toll roads,” reads plank 44. The party also approved a plank that opposes taxpayer funds for toll projects. “We oppose the use of taxpayer money to subsidize, guarantee, prop up, or bail out any toll projects, whether public or private, and we call upon both state and federal lawmakers to adequately fund our highways without hidden taxes, tolls, or raiding emergency funds,” reads plank 45.
Ahead of the convention’s official Thursday kickoff, delegates spent a few days in committee shaping the party platform and legislative priorities. Delegates approved the party’s rules that morning with little drama.