- Constitutional amendments drafted by legislators from 49 states during the three-day Convention of States (COS) Simulated Article V Convention — including ones to balance the budget, impose term limits in Congress and limit the Supreme Court to nine justices — reflect conservative priorities for government reform.
- “I look at constitutional amendments as a capstone,” COS President Mark Meckler told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “Constitutional amendments don’t change what Americans believe. They don’t fundamentally change our society. They put a capstone on something we all already believe.”
- Nineteen states have already passed the model resolution backing a convention to propose amendments, with a total of 34 needed to hold a real convention.
New constitutional amendments drafted and debated by state legislators from across the country at a simulated Article V convention in Williamsburg, Virginia, last week provide a window into conservative priorities for government reform.
Proposals that emerged from the three-day Convention of States (COS) Simulated Article V Convention included amendments for balancing the budget, imposing term limits on members of Congress and limiting the Supreme Court to nine justices — ideas intended to shift power away from Washington, D.C., and put it back in the hands of the states. The convention demonstrated what it might look like for state legislators to use the authority granted to them in Article V of the Constitution, which specifies Congress “shall call a convention for proposing amendments” at the application of two-thirds of the states.
While the amendments passed Friday carry no legal weight or real authority, they do reflect real priorities.
“[Legislators] collectively came together to really try to find solutions to the problems that they know exist,” COS Regional Director David Schneider told the Daily Caller News Foundation, adding that they were able to “rise above” party lines to “provide solutions that they felt that the American public would adopt and embrace.”
Three committees broke off on Thursday to develop the proposals, which legislators deliberated and voted on with everyone assembled Friday. Republican Montana state Sen. Tom McGillvray told the DCNF that the proposed amendments are “absolutely necessary” to “return power to the states and get control of the fiscal malfeasance in Washington.”
Due to the time constraints that come with a simulated convention, debates over the finer details, which could have dragged on for hours, were often cut short. At a real convention, McGillvray said legislators would have more time to “wordsmith” amendments and to solicit insight from constitutional scholars, attorneys, economists and others. “We’re just looking at process here,” he said.
“It was an opportunity to hear the voices that you would not necessarily hear in your own region,” Republican New Mexico state Rep. John Block told the DCNF. “Unlike Congress, this is made up of state legislators who are working hard in their own respective states for the goals of their states.”
Other amendments approved by the legislators Friday sought to redefine the commerce clause, allow a majority of state legislatures to abrogate actions of Congress, the President and administrative agencies and prevent the federal government from controlling state land and mineral rights.
An amendment restoring the Commerce Clause to its original meaning is one COS President Mark Meckler told the DCNF he would most like to see adopted.
“[In 1787], ‘regulate interstate commerce’ meant to smooth out the shipment of goods across state lines,” he said. “Today, the Supreme Court has interpreted commerce to be everything, pretty much, and so that gives a broad power to the federal government to regulate anything and everything.”
“If you look in the Constitution and you’re trying to find the authority for the Department of Education, Department of Energy, the EPA, the Department of Agriculture, the kind of alphabet soup of agencies — none of them are in there,” Meckler told the DCNF. “What the courts have done is say, ‘Oh, well, that’s the Commerce Clause.’”
“The only things that can be ratified are very central to what Americans already believe,” he said. “And this is intentional in the process.”
“I look at constitutional amendments as a capstone,” he continued. “Constitutional amendments don’t change what Americans believe. They don’t fundamentally change our society. They put a capstone on something we all already believe.”
To reach the goal of holding a real convention, advocates need to convince a total of 34 state legislatures to actually pass resolutions to do so.
“I think this only legitimizes the process of utilizing Article V and having a Convention of States,” Block told the DCNF. “It’s no longer a concept. Now you can see a tangible result of what can happen with this.”
Nineteen states have already passed the model Convention of States resolution calling for a convention to propose amendments that “impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and limit the terms of office for its officials and for members of Congress.”
Wisconsin is one of those states. Since he began advocating for Article V in his state over six years ago, Republican Wisconsin state Sen. Dan Knodl’s approach has been to remind skeptical legislators of their responsibility under the U.S. Constitution.
“You took an oath now to uphold the Constitution,” Knodl tells fellow legislators. “So this is part of the Constitution that you took an oath [to]. It’s a responsibility that we have to seriously consider.”
“In the end, it pretty much turned on party lines in the houses, which I think other states may be seeing,” he told the DCNF. “But we should be able to accomplish this in Democrat legislatures as well.”
McGillvray told the DCNF he became an advocate for Article V after a constituent brought the issue to his attention.
“I’ve always been concerned about the fiscal issues, but thinking traditionally that we just need to elect the right Republican, or get the right president or get more conservatives involved in Congress — which really, it was like beating your head on the wall because it’s not working,” he said. “The light that went on for me was that Article V is a tool that the framers designed for state legislators to address federal malfeasance, abuse of power, anything that they begin to do that is destructive to the nation.”
“This is really the best opportunity because Congress, by that time I had realized, is not going to fix this,” he said.
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