Please note: As of April 2017, the bylaws of the Harris County Green Party are undergoing a lengthy and thorough process of revision. These are the current bylaws as presented to the General Membership, who have taken opportunities to propose amendments and approved them in sections. In the coming months, you may notice some changes in the language appearing on this page as further revisions are adopted. The Bylaws Committee, currently under the direction of Jerry Lawson, has worked extensively on these revisions.
I. Name and Affiliations
The name of the organization is the Harris County Green Party. In various places within this document, it shall be referred to as "the Party." The Party is affiliated with, and represented in, the Green Party of Texas (GPTX) and the Green Party of the United States (GPUS).
II. Purpose and Values
A. Purpose. The purpose of the Harris County Green Party is to promote the Ten Key Values of the Green Party Movement through participation in electoral politics, general education, and direct citizen action. First and foremost, the Party is a political organization, and its primary tasks should include recruiting and supporting candidates in their campaigns, as well as providing informative materials in a variety of media about the Party and its candidates.
B. Values. The Ten Key Values of the international green movement and of the Green Party are defined and described on the website and in various documents of the Green Party of the United States. They are as follows:
- Grassroots Democracy. Every human being deserves a say in the decisions that affect his or her life and should not be subject to the will of another. Therefore, we will work to increase public participation at every level of government and to ensure that our public representatives are fully accountable to the people who elect them. We will also work to create new types of political organizations which expand the process of participatory democracy by directly including citizens in the decision-making process.
- Social Justice and Equal Opportunity. All persons should have the rights and opportunity to benefit equally from the resources afforded us by society and the environment. We must consciously confront in ourselves, our organizations, and society at large, barriers (such as racism and class oppression, sexism and homophobia, discrimination based on age, and disability) which act to deny fair treatment and equal justice under the law.
- Ecological Wisdom. Human societies must operate with the understanding that we are part of nature, not separate from nature. We must maintain an ecological balance and live within the ecological and resource limits of our communities and our planet. We support a sustainable society which utilizes resources in such a way that future generations will benefit and not suffer from the practices of our generation. To this end we must practice agriculture which replenishes the soil; move to an energy-efficient economy; and live in ways that respect the integrity of natural systems.
- Non-Violence. It is essential that we develop effective alternatives to society's current patterns of violence. We will work to demilitarize, and eliminate weapons of mass destruction, without being naive about the intentions of other governments. We recognize the need for self-defense and the defense of others who are in helpless situations. We promote non-violent methods to oppose practices and policies with which we disagree, and will guide our actions toward lasting personal, community and global peace.
- Decentralization. Centralization of wealth and power contributes to social and economic injustice, environmental destruction, and militarization. Therefore, we support a restructuring of social, political, and economic institutions away from a system which is controlled by and mostly benefits the powerful few, to a democratic, less bureaucratic system. Decision-making should, as much as possible, remain at the individual and local level, while assuring that civil rights are protected for all citizens.
- Community-Based Economics. Redesign our work structures to encourage employee ownership and workplace democracy. Develop new economic activities and institutions that will allow us to use our new technologies in ways that are humane, freeing, ecological and accountable, and responsive to communities. Establish some form of basic economic security, open to all. Move beyond the narrow "job ethic" to new definitions of "work," "jobs," and "income" that reflect the changing economy. Restructure our patterns of income distribution to reflect the wealth created by those outside the formal monetary economy: those who take responsibility for parenting, housekeeping, home gardens, community volunteer work, etc. Restrict the size and concentrated power of corporations without discouraging superior efficiency or technological innovation.
- Feminism and Gender Equity. We have inherited a social system based on male domination of politics and economics. We call for the replacement of the cultural ethics of domination and control with more cooperative ways of interacting that respect differences of opinion and gender. Human values such as equity between the sexes, interpersonal responsibility, and honesty must be developed with moral conscience. We should remember that the process that determines our decisions and actions is just as important as achieving the outcome we want.
- Respect for Diversity. We believe it is important to value cultural, ethnic, racial, sexual, religious, and spiritual diversity, and to promote the development of respectful relationships across all cultures. We believe that the many diverse elements of society should be reflected in our organizations and decision-making bodies, and we support the leadership of people who have been traditionally closed out of leadership roles. We acknowledge and encourage respect for other life forms than our own and the preservation of biodiversity.
- Personal and Global Responsibility. We encourage individuals to act to improve their personal well-being and, at the same time, to enhance ecological balance and social harmony. We seek to join with people and organizations around the world to foster peace, economic justice, and the health of the planet.
- Future Focus and Sustainability. Our actions and policies should be motivated by long-term goals. We seek to protect valuable natural resources, safely disposing of or "unmaking" all waste we create, while developing a sustainable economics that does not depend on continual expansion for survival. We must counterbalance the drive for short-term profits by assuring that economic development, new technologies, and fiscal policies are responsible to future generations who will inherit the results of our actions. Make the quality of life, rather than open-ended economic growth, the focus of future thinking.
Because the descriptions and definitions of the national Green Party’s Key Values change periodically, Members of the Harris County Green Party should maintain awareness of those changes.
Membership is open to any individual who is in general agreement with the Ten Key Values.
IV. Structure and Meetings
A. General Membership Meetings. All decision-making power rests in the Party Membership, which shall meet at least quarterly in a General Membership Meeting.
B. Consensus and Objections. The Harris County Green Party will strive to achieve consensus on all decisions. Consensus is defined as general agreement in the absence of principled objections by one or more Voting Members. To raise a principled objection, a Voting Member must explain how or why the decision conflicts with one or more of the Ten Key Values. Anyone in attendance may state that a proposal or action violates one of the Ten Key Values, but only a Voting Member is entitled to raise a blocking objection.
C. Consensus Not Reached.
- If consensus is not immediately reached, the Meeting will provide for all views to be fully expressed and explored. If consensus is still not achieved, the member presenting the proposal may ask those in dissent whether they will stand aside and allow the proposal to proceed. The Secretary or designated recorder of minutes shall include the name of the objector and the substance of the objection in the minutes of the Meeting.
- Any participant may offer amendments to the proposal in hopes of overcoming a principled objection. If the member presenting the proposal accepts the amendment as a friendly amendment to the proposal, the amendment becomes part of the proposal. If the member presenting the proposal does not accept the amendment as a friendly amendment, any participant may call for a consensus vote to make the amendment part of the proposal.
- If those in dissent believe that the issue at hand is so fundamental that they are unwilling to stand aside, the issue will be tabled until the next General Membership Meeting. However, if 2/3 of Voting Members present believe an immediate decision is critical, the issue will not be tabled. Instead, a democratic vote will take place at that General Membership Meeting.
- If 2/3 of the Voting Members present do not believe that an immediate decision is critical, at the next General Membership Meeting there will be another discussion of the issue in an attempt to arrive at consensus. The Steering Committee must include the issue on the agenda for the next Meeting.
- If consensus is not achieved at the following Meeting, the group will resort to a democratic, non-secret vote. Only Voting Members in attendance may vote. It will require a vote of 2/3 of those voting to act on any proposal. Abstentions by Voting Members are not counted toward the total of votes.
D. Participation in Meetings. Any Member or other attendee is invited to participate in all discussion, but only those who have attended at least two prior meetings are entitled to vote.
E. General Membership meeting Agenda. A Draft Agenda for the next General Membership Meeting shall be approved by the Steering Committee. After approval of the Draft Agenda, the Facilitator shall make the Draft Agenda available at least one week prior to the General Membership Meeting via the Party listserve. Any change to the Draft Agenda after approval by the Steering Committee must also be made with the approval of the Steering Committee. The Draft Agenda must be approved by the General Membership at the start of the General Membership Meeting.
F. Facilitator and Co-Facilitator.
- Party Meetings must have an appointed Facilitator, whose responsibilities include composing and printing copies of the Meeting’s agenda, directing discussion, and making certain that the Meeting commences and concludes at the appointed time.
- The Facilitator will have served as Co-Facilitator for the previous Meeting. Among the General Membership Meeting’s final items of business is the selection and approval of the next Meeting’s Co-Facilitator.
- The Facilitator must attend the Steering Committee Meeting prior to the General Membership Meeting. If the Facilitator is not a current Member of the Steering Committee, she or he receives full voting membership on the Steering Committee for that meeting. The Co-Facilitator is also strongly encouraged to attend this Steering Committee Meeting.
- If the Facilitator cannot attend the Steering Committee Meeting, then the Co-Facilitator assumes the role of Facilitator for both that meeting and the General Membership Meeting. The Steering Committee will then designate a Co-Facilitator from among those present.
- The primary duty of the Co-Facilitator in the General Membership Meeting is to maintain the stack or queue of speakers and calling upon the next speaker during the discussion of any item on the agenda.
V. Steering Committee
A. The Steering Committee shall be composed of two co-chairs (gender balance is strongly encouraged), a Treasurer, Secretary, and four at-large members. These positions shall be filled using preference voting. Attempts shall be made to ensure that the Steering Committee reflects the diversity of the population of Harris County. The Steering Committee shall be considered the officers of the Party as that term is defined in the Texas Election Code.
B. The Steering Committee shall be elected at the second General Membership Meeting of the year and shall have responsibility to manage and conduct the day-to-day business and operations of the Party.
C. Voting Procedures. At the second General Membership Meeting of every calendar year, the Party shall elect Members to the Steering Committee to fill vacant positions or positions where a term has expired. This generally includes one of the Co-Chairs, two of the At-Large Members, and either the Secretary or the Treasurer.
D. Members of the Steering Committee shall serve terms of two years, commencing the day after their election. The terms of the co-chairs and at-large members shall be staggered.
E. Participation and Non-Participation.
Steering Committee members agree to remain in communication with other members of the committee and to respond promptly to matters placed before the committee. Steering Committee members will attend all meetings of the Steering Committee when possible and be willing to work to coordinate efforts of workgroups and committees.
Any office holder who is non-participating shall be deemed, at the recommendation of the Steering Committee and with the approval of the Membership a the next General Meeting, to have resigned without prejudice. Absence from more than two (2) consecutive meetings of the Steering Committee or four (4) total Steering Committee and General Membership meetings within the twelve months between Steering Committee elections shall constitute non-participation. The Steering Committee may agree to excuse the absence if an emergency or similar circumstance prevents the Member from attending the Meeting. A Steering Committee Member participating in a Meeting by electronic communication shall be deemed to be in attendance.
F. The Steering Committee is empowered to act on behalf of the organization between General Membership Meetings. This includes the expenditure of funds. However, the Steering Committee is not empowered to place the Harris County Green Party in debt or to act contrary to any express decisions or policies of the General Membership. The Steering Committee shall act only when a majority of Steering Committee members is present.
G. The Steering Committee shall make all decisions according to the procedure for decisions of the General Membership, as described in IV B and IV C, above.
H. The Steering Committee shall meet monthly, and additionally when called by either of the co-chairs, as necessary. The Steering Committee shall set the agenda for each General Membership Meeting. Steering Committee meetings shall be publicized, and every Party member is invited and encouraged to attend as a non-voting participant.
VI. Standing Committees and Working Groups
The work of the Harris County Green Party shall be performed by Working Groups and Committees.
A. Definitions. For the purposes of these bylaws, irrespective of the names they are given:
"Standing Committee" refers to a subset of the Party with a designated purpose that is essential to the operation of a political party.
"Working Group" refers to ad hoc groups with a designated purpose that addresses an immediate concern: e.g., organizing an event, investigating malfeasance by Party Members, or responding to developments that may pose an existential threat.
B. Formation. Committees and Working Groups are created by the General Membership or the Steering Committee to carry out the goals of the Harris County Green Party and must abide by the Harris County Green Party bylaws.
C. Missions and Goals. Committees and Working Groups are encouraged to establish a mission statement and goals, to revise these goals annually, and to send representatives to brief the Steering Committee at their monthly meetings.
D. Participation of Members. Each Member of the Steering Committee is encouraged and expected to participate with at least one Committee or Working Group. The meetings of each group are open to all general Members, who are also encouraged to participate regularly in at least one group. Each group may choose its own Chair, who will then report on the group’s activities at General Membership Meetings. The Chair, in consultation with group members, may set a schedule for meetings and other activities.
E. Ad Hoc Working Groups. To address issues requiring immediate attention, whether internal to the Party or affecting the general public, the Steering Committee may establish committees and workgroups on a temporary basis with set terms and specified purposes. If the issue remains current beyond the end of a group’s term, the Steering Committee may authorize a continuation of the group until a specified date.
F. Reporting to the General Membership. Each Standing Committee and Working Group must report on its activities at General Membership Meetings. In the course of devising the agenda for that Meeting, the Steering Committee and Facilitator shall include a segment for these reports.
G. All members of a committee shall receive the same information regarding the committee at the same time.
These bylaws may be amended by a 3/4 vote of those in attendance at any general membership meeting.