AUGUSTA — Two years ago, members of the tea party took the GOP convention by surprise, forcing passage of a conservative party platform calling for, among other things, congressional term limits, eliminating the Department of Education, investigating “collusion between government and industry in the global warming myth,” and adopting controversial economic policies.

Democrats made fun of it, and critics said it reflected the beliefs of only a small segment of the party; but it also signaled that the tea party had gained strength among Maine Republicans.

This time around, after months of meetings, the chairman of the GOP platform committee hopes there will be no surprises, and that the platform will be adopted without controversy at the convention in Augusta this weekend.

The 2012 proposal emphasizes the importance of local control over schools and other areas, welfare reform, parental responsibility and fiscal responsibility, such as controlling spending and reducing state debt.

It also highlights accomplishments by Gov. Paul LePage and the Republican-majority Legislature in areas such as tax cuts, welfare reform and the reduction in the state’s long-term debt in the pension system.

Some controversial elements in the 2010 version have been moderated. “Clarify that healthcare is not a right,” is out. The proposed platform states: “Health Care is a concern to all Maine citizens and should be affordable through free market solutions.”

It also still contains planks that some may see as controversial, such as: “Protect the American legal system from Sharia (Islamic) Law.”

“I’d have to say the (platform) committee represented all colors of Republicans,” said John Frary, committee chairman. “The objective was that no items need to be explained to voters — hence, no Austrian economics.”

For years, passage of the platform at the convention was a routine matter that drew debate about positions on specific issues but had little relevance overall. Two years ago, however, mainline Republicans were caught off-guard by the tea partiers.

The 2010 platform called for rejection of the U.N. Treaty on the Rights of the Child, opposition to efforts to create “one world government,” and following Austrian economics, which advocates for property rights and freedom of trade, and against taxes and regulations that proponents see as stymieing free enterprise.

Kathleen Caso, a tea party member from Washington County, said she thought the 2010 platform was a good guiding document.

“I thought it was excellent,” she said. “It said a lot of what people were feeling.”

Caso, a member of the current platform committee, said the proposed 2012 platform is more Maine-specific, a compromise document that she finds acceptable.

“I think Republicans need to be confident in what they stand for and who they are, and not have ideas pressed upon them by outside forces,” she said.

Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, a moderate Republican, said he hopes the new platform clearly expresses ideas such as personal responsibility, limited government and policies that encourage private investment and job creation, and that it better represents the entire party.

“It was my hope the platform would reflect core Republican principles,” he said, “what is it that makes us Republicans and not necessarily reflect the views of any particular wing within the party.”

Other planks of the proposed 2012 platform include:

* A call to protect the American legal system from Sharia, or Islamic, law;

* A directive to “affirm English as the official language of the state of Maine”;

* Opposition to “all attempts” to establish a new national park in the northern Maine woods;

* The definition of marriage as “the union of one man and one woman”;

* A call to discontinue state funding of Family Planning of Maine and Planned Parenthood of Northern New England;

* Support for a law that would require photo identification to vote in Maine.

Katz said although he still disagrees with certain planks in the platform — the Sharia law reference, for example — he said the document is meant to bring together elements important to all sectors of the party. Also, the platform is rarely mentioned by candidates or voters after the convention is over, he said.

Frary said it’s important to note that while the platform gives guidance to candidates, it does not force them to change their positions.

“There is a tendency to hope a platform is a way of programming candidates,” he said. “A platform represents the views of the most active Republicans, whether they are more moderate or on the conservative side.”

Susan Cover — 620-7015

[email protected]

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