The State Senatorial Convention
By John D. Turner
16 March 2002

Texas, like many other states, and the United States as a whole, has a bicameral legislature. This is a fancy way of saying that the state legislature is composed of two houses, the Senate, and the House of Representatives. Each state Senator has an area he or she represents in the Senate, known as a Senatorial District (SD). Each state House member also represents a district in the House. As with the Federal government, there are fewer Senate members than House members, meaning that Senatorial Districts are "larger" in terms of population than House Districts. Currently, the State of Texas has 31 Senatorial Districts, and 150 House Districts.

Well, this is all very interesting, but how does it affect me, Al Franken? Remember in my last column I mentioned something called a "Senatorial Convention"?

The Senatorial convention is the next level up from the Precinct convention. Delegates at the Senatorial convention meet to conduct business at the Senatorial District level. As with the Precinct convention, the meeting is called to order, officers are elected, and old and new business is discussed. This includes adoption of the Party Platform at the SD level, and election of delegates to the State convention.

Due to the size of the SD convention, things are somewhat streamlined compared to the Precinct convention. A number of committees meet prior to the SD convention to prepare material for the delegates. One, the resolutions committee, takes all the resolutions (the "whereases") submitted at each precinct meeting and correlates them. First, they collect up all "like" resolutions, then they check to see if the resolution is already in the previous party platform or not. If it is, no further action is taken. If not, then the resolution, or part thereof, becomes a proposed amendment to the party platform. This is quite an undertaking! And as you may guess, this is also a rather important and influential committee, since they are the ones who draft the final platform amendments. Is it possible for you to become involved in this committee? Yes it is. How? Volunteer to be on the committee at your precinct convention. Your precinct chair will send your name forward, and you will be contacted. Likewise, if you desire to be a delegate to the State convention, let your Precinct chairperson know. Your name will go forward to the committee in charge of preparing the list of state delegates.

During the convention, there may be people (perhaps yourself) who may not like some of the proposed amendments, or even established parts of the platform. You can propose alterations from the floor. These proposals will be debated, much the same as happened at the Precinct convention. Here however, things take longer, and are more formalized. Also there are certain rules pertaining to length of time one may speak to an issue, and how many persons can speak to both sides. Don't worry, you will get the hang of it. Finally, after all is said and done, the platform as a whole will be voted on.

Another thing that happens at the Senatorial convention is that persons running for local offices are invited to give short speeches. This can be very interesting, as this may be the only opportunity you get to hear some of them explain what they stand for. These may range from the person running for the U.S. House of Representatives in your local Federal Congressional District (CD), to those running for judgeships, state offices, county offices, sheriff, Justice of the Peace, etc. This is your opportunity to hear them live, and form your own opinion. Afterward (or beforehand), you may get the opportunity to speak with them yourself if you desire. Remember, you are a delegate now, one of the few in your community who has taken the time to become involved. They will pay more attention to you and your views. By virtue of your being a delegate, they are pretty sure you will vote, and they want to make sure you vote for them. There is also a pretty good probability that you will have an influential role when it comes to talking to your family, friends, and co-worker’s concerning the upcoming election. Again, they want you to influence those around you on their behalf. Take advantage of this to ask them questions that concern you.

Finally, there will be a vote taken on the slate of delegates that will represent your Senatorial District at the state convention. There will be a list of Delegates, and a list of Alternates. Alternates will be seated as delegates if some of the delegates are absent. If you are on the alternate list, don't worry! You can still attend the convention. And there is a good probability you may still become a delegate. At the last state convention, all the alternates who showed up from my district were seated, as many of the elected delegates were not there.

Speaking of attendance. My Senatorial District (SD 26) holds its convention in the Business Careers High School auditorium here in San Antonio. If every possible delegate from every precinct were to attend, the building would not be big enough to hold us all. Last year it was approximately one third full. Our SD is comprised of several hundred precincts. Many precincts had no representation at all. There were exactly two precincts of size greater than one that had one hundred percent participation. They received ovations from the assembled delegates.

Once again, you can make a difference. Your level of participation is up to you. There is always need for is volunteers to help with the various committees, campaigns, and other things that go along with the election process. Helping out in these areas will help you to understand how things work and what's going on. It will also afford you the opportunity to get to know those running for office. You will meet interesting people, and even enter into spirited debate with those having common goals, but perhaps differing ideas on how to achieve the objective. Above all, you will become that which keeps our country free; an informed voter, and an active participant in the electoral process.

This year’s convention will be held on 6 April. Hope to see you there!