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  • Writer's pictureBen Yee

Breakdown: 7/25/17 State Committee Meeting

Last Tuesday the Democratic State Committee met with eight Resolutions on the agenda - six of which were changes to the very bylaws governing the Party.

Here’s my report:

Summary of the State Committee Meeting

Four resolutions were passed - including one of mine:

  • Anti-Independent Democratic Conference (substantive changes)

  • Sanctuary State (minor changes)

  • New Rule: Meeting notices go from 15 to 25 days (no changes)

  • New Rule: Re-adding missing language from the bylaws (no changes)

While the bylaw change I wrote calling for transparency in the Party budget was not passed, it was Monday’s lead article on Politico’s NY page!

The remaining resolutions, all of which were bylaw changes, were tabled - effectively killing them. However, a Committee to review the Party rules was promised by leadership. It should have recommended changes for the next meeting on October 2. No word yet on who’s on the Committee.

As a new State Committee Member, it is important to note older activist members heavily stressed that this level of activity is virtually unprecedented. I want to express my deepest gratitude to the nearly 200 people who signed the form in support of the resolutions, who asked others to sign and who are paying attention to these deeply obscure facets of our political system.

What the Democratic Party chooses to do, and not to do, directly affects who gets elected and the policies we see implemented. I am extremely confident that, without your attention, all of the proposed resolutions would have been stopped.

If there is any lesson we should learn from last week, it’s that voters matter. You matter. Thank you for your participation.

Speaking of participation - I’m going to Virginia with You Matter Nation for a day of action on Saturday. Please join us!

Video Of The Meetings

The Resolutions That Passed and What They Mean

1. Sanctuary State (Or Welcoming and Inclusive State)

The first resolution I wrote for the State Committee was also the first to pass. Honestly, it was more of a test of the Party than anything else. If they wouldn’t allow a resolution protecting our immigrants from the harmful policies and rhetoric of Donald Trump I don’t know where we’d be.

Happily, it passed with only small changes:

  1. The term “Sanctuary” was replaced with “Welcoming and inclusive”. Because sanctuary has no legal meaning, but has come to represent many different ideas, it was considered best to just say what we mean. This also aligns the resolution with those passed in several cities around the State.

  2. Specific reference to passing the Liberty Act was removed under concern that the language of the bill was not ready for passage. Instead, we let the resolution define the principles we’re calling for in legislation. For those who have taken (Real) Politics 101, you might recognize me taking a taste of my own medicine in forsaking malleable text for definitive ideals.

2. Independent Democratic Conference

Politically speaking, this was the most contentious of all the resolutions. After failing to pass for years, IDC anger has reached a tipping point. Therefore, it would have been extremely difficult for the Party to kill the resolution. What’s more, Party leadership told us that tackling the IDC has become a priority for the Governor, who is currently engaged in sensitive negotiations to broker an alliance between them and the Democratic conference.

Since holdouts on both sides are against a deal, Party leadership urged amending the resolution so that it could not be used as an excuse for hardliners to dig in and leave the Senate in Republican hands. This resulted in two general changes:

  1. Any personal attacks against the IDC or their allies were removed. This change had little impact on the substance of the resolution.

  2. A clause calling for local Democratic organizations to forsake petitioning for IDC candidates were removed. This was based on objections from local Committee members that the State organization should abstain from dictating to organizations on the ground.

  3. A clause calling for the State Democratic Party not to channel funds to, or aid the IDC in any way, was removed. It was claimed that the State Party doesn’t do this and therefore the clause is irrelevant.

While the first change is symbolic, the latter two are not. Practically speaking, however, there are several more meetings of the State Committee before State Senate elections in 2018. This provides an opportunity to watch the Party, see how negotiations proceed and revisit the topic with an updated approach in the coming year. If the changes made do, in fact, allow for a Democratic Senate we should know soon enough.

Most importantly, these trade-offs secured a nearly unanimous vote the State Committee. This means that the Party, and particularly the Governor, have publicly tied themselves to a Democratic State Senate; opening the door for more pressure later.

3. New Rule: 25 Day Notice of State Committee Meetings

Not long ago, I posted on Facebook about how frustrating it was that the State Committee meeting date was constantly being moved and members were given minimal notice. Happily, that shouldn’t be a problem anymore. With one vote, the notification requirement has jumped from 15 to 25 days. Everyone seemed to agree this was an issue and the resolution passed unanimously.

This also seems to fix a glaring hole in the rules which required resolutions to be submitted before notification of the next meeting was even given. A situation which made it very difficult to organize support for resolutions and plan events around the main conference.

FYI, the next meeting is on October 2.

4. New Rule: Re-adding missing language

This isn’t so much a new change as correction of an error when the latest version of the bylaws was printed. Language which had been erroneously cut was re-added.

5. Committee to Review the Rules

While technically not a resolution, Party leadership promised that a new Committee would be formed to holistically review the Party bylaws and report recommendations at the next State Committee meeting.

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