My Overview of the First Bylaws & Structure Committee Conference Call

Please consider this my version of the Texas Liberty Campaign Bylaws & Structure Committee conference call, because I didn’t take that great of notes, and I’m sure the audio will be posted somewhere soon (hopefully on the OCATI Wiki), so you can listen for yourself. There are also other members of the Ft. Worth Meetup who participated. They might want to contribute, as I’m sure I made some mistakes. Leave any questions you have, and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. (For some backstory, you can read this summary of senate district caucuses earlier this year before February’s state convention in Austin.)

Overview

The conference call started at 7 p.m. on Tuesday after being called to order by Robert McDonald, the chair of the bylaws committee. He had taken a poll of the committee by e-mail to set up the best time for the greatest participation, so that’s how he arrived at that time and date. By my estimate, 15 to 18 people were on the call at any one time. The committee set a new meeting for next Wednesday and the conference call adjourned at about 9:15.

Topics

Meeting times:
Robert said he plans to hold 10 of these conference calls before the next convention at the end of July. There would be one each week for the next four weeks and then two each week for some three weeks. I don’t remember that anyone objected to that. He also wanted to limit each call to between two and three hours.

After asking the group of when the best time to meet would be, Robert said he intends to hold the meetings on Wednesday at the same time.

Quorum:
There are about 30 members of the bylaws committee, including any new members that have been added since the convention. At the start of the call, I recall that only 12 members had called in, and the question came about if the committee needed a quorum to pass any motions. The judgment of many familiar with parliamentarian procedures was that Robert’s Rules of Order states that there is no minumum number of members required to be present for an organization in the formational stages, and so it was permissible to conduct business. However, if participation was lacking, the opinion was that any committee reports presented at the next convention should note the general level of participation in forming the recommendations.

Since these reports are only recommendations, then it was felt that more harm would be done by not completing the tasks assigned to us at the convention.

Organizational structure:
The basic questions of what should this organization look like is still being debated. There are a total of at least four competing drafts, in addition to Jeremy Blosser’s compromise plan that he talked about at Friday’s Meetup. Two proposals (which are not on the OCATI wiki yet) came in Tuesday, so I didn’t get a chance to read those. You can read some of those plans here.

The drafts range in scope from a bicameral state organization to an initial unicameral structure, from a state body with more responsibilities to a state body that has virtually none, and from a fully engaged organization from the start to an organization that limits its scope and build on its successes.

In my opinon, this is a proxy debate on another concern. The crux of the matter is still deciding how much responsibility should the state organization have. We are hoping for the resolutions committee to provide that input, but that has not happened yet. Thus far, the general direction of the committee, I believe, has been to leave as much of that direction for the members themselves to decide by making the bylaws hospitable to whatever actions individuals deem necessary and worthy of their resources, a true marketplace of ideas.

Membership:
The particulars of the call then moved to membership. Most of the bylaws drafts followed the Robert’s Rules format, and the first two articles, name and purpose, had already been answered at the convention. The third section under Robert’s is membership. A motion carried that said individuals should “affirm” that they support the purpose statement of the organization in order to become members.

One of the drafts stated that a members should “do no harm” if his or her beliefs are in contradiction to the actions of the organization. But that didn’t receive support, in part, because it was interpreted that a member would be prohibited from acting counter to a policy stance that the state organization took, if any.

The next question was by what means would an individual affirm support. The idea was that individuals should overtly commit to supporting the the purpose statement. That could be as simple as ticking a check mark on an online form or sending a secure digital signature, for the purposes of protecting the integrity of membership voting. I don’t recall that the exact means were approved.

The last item was the age of members. One idea was to make the minimum age for “voting members” to be 16 years old, leaving the possibility of non-voting membership to those under 16. There were legal concerns that the state organization could be held responsible if a minor who was a full-fledged member committed some act of vandalism, for example, under the color of the Texas Liberty Campaign. The question was tabled, for now, until we’ve gotten some legal opinions.

That was the end of business, and the committee was adjourned until next Wednesday.

Conclusion

The most contentious issues have yet to be addressed. Some of those issues are membership dues (if any), the overall structure and scope, the checks and balances in place, the means of communication to members, the role of a spokesperson (if any), the method of affiliating with other groups (if any), the different levels of membership (if any), and the responsibilities and formation of standing committees (if any).

Also, I hope you’ll take a look at Jeremy’s plan. It provides a light footprint but allows for the organization to begin taking actions statewide that would allow for us to grow our ranks and build on our successes. Some of those actions are accepting donations, provide a means of communicating with members, establish membership requirements, and calling a state convention. After a certain membership threshold is met or at the request of the members, a state convention would be called to consider altering these responsibilities. (I’m sure Jeremy can speak more to these points than I can.)

If there are any specific questions that you have for me or any of the proposals, please forward those to me and I will try to get some answers.

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