MGP Bylaws Proposals
VOTING RUNS Noon June 5 - noon June 25, 2023
The Maryland Green Party has an annual bylaw amendment process that allows any member to propose changes and then allows all members to vote on those changes. The deadline for submitting amendment proposals was May 21, 2023; below are the proposals received, with a summary of each and full-text links. The voting period is noon June 5th through June 25th. The ballot will also include Maryland Green Party officers: 2 co-chairs, a treasurer, a secretary, and our delegates to the national Green Party's National Committee.
1. Add At-Large Delegates to the CC
Article 7, Composition of the Coordinating Council
FULL TEXT: Add At-Large Members to Coordinating Council and Specify Eligibility for Local Delegates
Author: Brian Bittner, Tim Willard and Mary Rooker
Description: This amendment would change the composition of the MGP Coordinating Council to include the party officers, four delegates elected from the membership at-large, and up to one delegate from every local chapter established as a Green central committee with the State Board of Elections. Currently, Baltimore City and Montgomery County are the only established Green central committees. The amendment is written to allow such local chapters to have one extra (at large) delegate to the CC, but it doesn’t require them to.
Statement: This proposal updates the composition of the Coordinating Council to democratize the selection of CC members. Historically all Locals have been granted automatic representation on the CC, with no requirement on the selection process. Some Locals use elections to select their delegates, some use appointments, and others simply send the sole individual involved in organizing the Local. Many talented and enthusiastic organizers may go underutilized because they are not represented by a Local. This proposal replaces the bulk of the members of the CC with delegates elected at-large from the membership of the MGP. These members are more likely to be elected based on their enthusiasm, organizing history, and leadership vision for the CC. In order to prevent undue influence from one or two dominant local chapters, no more than one at-large delegate will be allowed from any county.
To acknowledge the importance of Local representation on the CC, any Local that is recognized as a Central Committee by the State Board of Elections will be allowed a delegate to represent the Local. Currently Montgomery County and Baltimore City are the only recognized Locals with Central Committees, but any Local may establish itself as a Central Committee and be entitled to an additional delegate if it so chooses.
This proposal was discussed at length among co-sponsors from several Locals and represents the consensus vision of multiple Greens with extensive Green organizing experience. The co-sponsors believe this amendment will increase meaningful engagement of CC members with the day-to-day work of party organizing and balances at-large democratic voting with Local representation.
2. Define Membership and Participation Rights
Article 3, Membership
FULL TEXT: Define Membership of the MGP and Establish Participation Rights of Members
Author: Andy Ellis
Description: This bylaw amendment codifies the long standing practice of the MGP to recognize membership based on voter affiliation and makes explicit the participation rights of membership. The participation rights it defines exist in the bylaws or in current policy, but the amendment puts them all in one place for clarity.
Currently the MGP-CC has the ability to determine the criteria for membership in the party. For at least the better part of the last decade, the criteria that has been used has been based on party affiliation. This amendment makes that permanent. It also takes all the rights of members that are identified in the bylaws or party policy and consolidates them into one place. In that sense this amendment makes the current operating practice permanent and changes very little.
This amendment has value beyond that, though. At a time when the Democratic and Republican parties are acting as corporations marketing their brands to their members, voters are increasingly frustrated. These parties are not built on responsiveness to members, are not democratic in their internal decision making, and place almost all the power in the hands of elite party leaders.
The Maryland Green Party has policies that run against this trend and empower each member, but that is not clear to potential members who are looking for something better than the corporate parties. This bylaw makes it very clear how somebody can become a member and then makes very clear what decision-making rights that gives them. This is an important move in line with our commitment to grassroots democracy.
One important note about this amendment. Members of the MGP Bylaws Review and Rules Committee expressed concerns that this would preclude a code of conduct from being implemented. Language was added to make explicit that these membership participation rights do not preclude a code of conduct.
3. Change the MGP Officers
Article 8, Officers
FULL TEXT: Change Number and Description of MGP OfficersAuthor: Mary Rooker, Brian Bittner, Andy Ellis, and Tim Willard
Description: This Bylaw amendment would remove one voting officer: the membership coordinator. It would add two non-voting officers: A Parliamentarian and Forum Moderator. It also specifies the means for electing and appointing officers, modifies the descriptions of some of the duties of the officers, and modifies who is required to be part of certain standing committees.
Statement: This proposal updates the composition of officers on the Maryland Green Party Coordinating Council. It eliminates one voting officer position (Membership Coordinator) and adds two non-voting officers (Parliamentarian and Forum Manager).
The membership coordinator position has not been well defined in recent years and has had a set of responsibilities that is too large for one person to do. This has left many people in the position frustrated and has made the work difficult to get done. This proposal shifts that work to a membership committee convened by one of the co-chairs and eliminates the voting officer position.
The two non-voting officer positions (Parliamentarian and Forum Manager) are tasked with doing important work that has not been done in a formal way in the past. Without a parliamentarian, disagreements about rules and process often go on for a long time and sometimes never get resolved. Without a forum manager, discussions in party meetings or listservs can devolve into bickering, fighting, or other destructive shenanigans. These two positions help to do the important work of ensuring the rules and process are followed and facilitating productive conversation.
In addition to these functions, these two officers would be part of the standing Bylaws Review and Rules Committee; this function lightens the load on the co-chairs and ensures that this important committee has dedicated people working on it.
This proposal was discussed at length among co-sponsors from several Locals and represents the consensus vision of multiple Greens with extensive Green organizing experience. The co-sponsors believe this amendment will help ensure orderly process for the MGP-CC and balance important work of the party.
4. Set Requirements for MGP-CC Meetings
Articles 7.7 and 7.8, Coordinating Council Meetings
FULL TEXT: Ensure the Accessibility and Transparency of MGP-CC Meetings
Author: Andy Ellis
Description: Establishes that all meetings should be open to all members to observe, be live streamed and recorded. Recordings and minutes should be available to all members, and published in an easily accessible part of the website. Members shall be notified of all meetings one week in advance. Meeting notifications shall be published on a publicly accessible page on the website, including an agenda, the full text of any proposals up for consideration, and a link to observe in the meeting online. Executive session requirements detailed. It also updates the open meetings policy to conform with GPUS standards.
Statement: The rules governing meetings of the MGP-CC were written at a time before online meetings were the norm. This amendment updates the rules to account for that technology and the organizational changes that come with it.
The commitment to transparency this amendment continues allows every member of the Maryland Green Party to know when meetings are, what is on the agenda, and how to observe. It also allows members to see minutes, know the decisions, and understand the actions the party is taking.
This amendment also uses Green Party of the US conditions for executive session instead of using the phrase “in situations similar to those in which an ‘executive session’ would be proper.”
This amendment is a modernization of our current process, but if it passes, our party will continue to have bylaws that express a strong commitment to transparency and accessibility.
5. Replace the Code of Conduct - 2 Proposals
Article 5.3, Rules of Order and Process
5-A. FULL TEXT: Create a new code of conduct, a conflict resolution group and an online forum moderation policy
Author: Dana Polson
Description: This bylaw amendment highlights the right to dissent that is in the bylaws by putting it in its own clause. It sets the scope of the code of conduct, identifies prohibited behaviors, codifies a conflict resolution policy, establishes that the MGP-CC listserv should be used for party business, and that there should be a forum moderator responsible for the moderation policies of that listserv. Finally, it adds a clause about rules of order for meetings/events.
Statement: This bylaw amendment is intended to provide the following:
- A code of conduct with an agreed-upon conflict resolution mechanism to CC members, officers, committee members, delegates, and listserv users;
- A narrow focus on prohibited actions that is specific and actionable, and avoids dispute about tone or intention;
- Flexibility for content moderators to provide effective moderation broadly and quickly in order to allow the CC to ensure the reasonable operation of the organization; and
- A baseline means to foster ethical and honest communication, dialogue, and deliberation.
What this document does NOT do either because it can't or shouldn't:
- Attempt to solve culture, ideological, or political issues within the party that need to be resolved in practice (for example through CC elections),
- Impose any dogma of good or bad political argument or dissent,
- Mandate "civility" in place of an organizational process for and habit of disagreement, debate, and conflict resolution, and
- Resolve past disputes.
There are three primary differences between this Code and the 5-B Code proposal. Two of them are theoretical and ethical questions and one of them is functional.
First, this 5-A proposal code foregrounds the need to protect political speech and dissent as integral to the health and growth of the party. While proposal 5-B uses identical language for some of her code, Section 5.6 lays out ways in which dissent is prohibited. The deck is stacked here with the use of words like “condemn” and “disparage;” the problem is that there is no clear line possible between “criticize” or “express dissent” and these words. We need to affirm the right to dissent included in both bylaws and celebrate political speech and debate as essential to building a strong and healthy party.
Second, proposal 5-A focuses on prohibiting serious misconduct and providing a range of options, with an emphasis on restorative practices, for dealing with misconduct should it occur; proposal 5-B adds pages of prescriptive recommendations for how people must behave in MGP spaces. The 5-A proposed code assumes that aspirational, values-based group norms should be created by or explicitly affirmed by the people who will be using them, rather than being created and enforced via bylaw.
Finally, proposal 5-B bylaw is not viable given its own significant internal contradictions related to its scope, the right to dissent, and whether it’s retroactive. If passed, it leaves the CC in the position of having to decide between competing clauses of the same bylaw in order to apply the bylaw. No new bylaw should force the CC into such choices; the point of bylaws is to provide clear guidance. The forced choice for the CC in each case is along a pre-existing ideological split in the MGP, which increases the likelihood of making MGP culture worse, not better.
This proposal represents the collective work of Dana Polson, many Baltimore Greens, and long-time Maryland and Montgomery County Green organizer Mary Rooker. Mary and Dana worked to reconcile competing proposals into this unified proposal.
5-B. FULL TEXT: Create a new code of conduct, a conflict resolution group, and public/social media guidelines
Author: Nancy Wallace
Description: This bylaw amendment offers a stated vision for group dynamics, defining aspirational interpersonal behavior that clarifies consensus discourse. It sets the scope of the code of conduct, identifies positive as well as prohibited behaviors, including public and social media guidance, codifies a conflict resolution policy, and sets procedures for handling violations and repair.
Statement: This Code of Conduct is the only one of the two proposed codes that applies equally to all people participating in Maryland Green Party activities, communications, and events. It is also the only one that proposes a positive vision and simple, clear standards for our behavior: respect, inclusion, diversity, and tolerance are necessary for successful group functioning. These values also flow naturally from certain US Green Party values, such as nonviolence, decentralization, feminism, respect for diversity, and personal responsibility. This Code incorporates those values into clear expectations and provides enforceable rules in case of difficulties.
It is much better for our group dynamic and the health of the party, as well as individuals, to avoid conflict in the first place that goes beyond the bounds of respect and tolerance. So this 5-B code presents major guidance and sources to help people implement that approach to build a supportive environment for our participants.
First, the code re-states the vision for values-based behavior. Second, this 5-B Code also presents and reminds us of the Green Party formal commitment to consensus decision-making, including key points such as:
- Try to reach a shared understanding rather than ‘win the argument’.
- Clarify with others to make sure I genuinely understand their perspective.
- Attempt to account for my own biases and be intellectually humble.
- Aim to be reasonable, rational, and create coherent arguments.
- Refrain from personal attacks, sarcasm, and mean-spiritedness.
- Use the ‘Principle of Charity’ to see the merits of others’ points of view in the best light.
- Remain genuinely receptive to changing my mind if presented with compelling arguments or evidence.
- Embodying good will towards others.
This code also acknowledges and welcomes dissenting views and clarifies when dissension goes beyond the line of respect without limiting that clarification to certain political topics, which can have different interpretations and thereby invite more argument, not less. It expresses those limits in more objective behavioral terms instead of political terms and would apply to any topic or behavior.
This code also applies to expressions of opinions on official Green Party social media, so our platforms do not become havens for hateful, abusive, threatening language or personal attacks. We need to be an example of the world we want to live in, in our Green Party dealings. It lays out a detailed process for handling complaints and discusses possible examples of repair if harm has occurred.
This proposal represents the collective work of Nancy Wallace and Mary Rooker, long time Maryland and Montgomery County Green organizers.