A Democrat Party planning committee took steps yesterday to assure that there will be a minimum of fireworks next week when 2,800 party leaders gather in Memphis for a midterm convention.
Reviewing 150 proposed resolutions on various current issues to be debated and voted upon by the delegates, the committee ruled that only 24 of them, all relatively innocuous, would be included in the meeting's formal agenda.
Delegates will be able to bring other issues to the floor through a petition process, but under convention rules, those resolutions will not come up until the final hours of the convention's final day.
By then, many delegates will presumably be checking out of their hotels and heading for home. The rules state that no resolution can be passed unless a majority of all eligible delegates is present.
As a result, it seems unlikely that the convention will produce any serious floor fights that might provoke friction among the various wings of the party.
The committee's action yesterday fits neatly into the overall design of the party's chairman, John C. White, who is worried that disputes among delegates might turn the convention into a public relations failure.
"Of course we have a broad range of opinions on some issues within our party," White said yesterday. "But if we get foolish, if we go beyond proper political division and look quarrelsome these are things that could hurt the Democratic Party and the Democratic president."
The convention, formally titled "The 1978 National Party Conference," will open next Friday with the premiere showing of the party's $65,000 film about the Carter administration. The conference will include a presidential address, "workshops" in which Cabinet members and congressional leaders will discuss their work, and five hours of floor debate on resolutions stating the party's stance on specific issues.
The committee that met yesterday was charged with preparing the agenda for the floor debates. The unit had received 150 proposals, from individual delegates and from various coalitions, for items to be debated.
In almost every case, the committee approved for the formal agenda the least controversal resolution in a given subject area. It accepted, for example, a vague exhortation calling for "budgetary and regulatory restraint" to fight inflation, but rejected other proposals demanding a balanced federal budget.
The committee agreed to permit floor debate on a resoltuion reaffirming the party's 1976 platform plank on civil rights, on another praising Carter's work for peace in the Middle East, and on another expressing support for family farms.
The committee approved a resolution calling for more women in public office -- but struck language that would have demanded specific percentage gains. It accepted another calling for federal aid to reduce local tax burdens -- but added the qualifying clause, "to the extent revenues permit."
The most serious argument within the planning committee yesterday came when three women fought tenaciously for approval of a resolution supporting civil rights for homosexuals. The committee first approved a mild version of the proposal but then struck it from the list on grounds that the convention would not have time to consider it.
This angered Wallace Albertson, a female committee member from Los Angeles, who argued that the issue is too important to ignore.
"Don't think gay rights is not going to come up," Albertson said. "It's going to come up, political football or not. It's an important human rights issue."
White, the party chairman, was opposed to adding the issue to the agenda. He prevailed on a committee vote of 11 to 9.