|One Man’s Efforts Led to the 27th Amendment –
It’s a story that few know. One person’s grassroots perseverance can… and did… make a difference.
One Constitutional scholar refers to Gregory Watson as “the ‘step-father’ of the 27th Amendment”. In 1982, as a 19-year-old sophomore at University of Texas-Austin, Watson wrote a paper on a proposed Constitutional amendment that James Madison had authored in 1789 along with a package of amendments which became known as the Bill of Rights. The extra amendment, prohibiting a sitting Congress from raising its own wages during its current session, had never been ratified by a sufficient number of states.
Watson’s paper suggested that Madison’s proposal could still be ratified since it was proposed with no time limit for ratification. His professor thought the idea was unreasonable, and gave him a C on the paper. Convinced that Madison’s proposal had merit and could still be ratified, Watson launched his own personal self-financed campaign to get the nearly two dozen additional needed state legislatures to ratify the forgotten proposition.
It took until 1992 when Alabama and New Jersey raced to become the 38th ratifying state. Shortly thereafter the United States Archivist certified the amendment as having been properly ratified under terms of Article V of the Constitution, and published it in the federal register. That’s how the 27th Amendment came into being… mostly through the determined work on one grassroots citizen.
Mr. Watson still lives in Texas and has offered his services to the BBA Task Force to help shepherd the BBA effort to completion. What are needed are a few more state legislators and grassroots citizen activists to demonstrate Watson-like “heroic citizenship.”
Phoenix Correspondence Commission Is Being Organized –
Shortly after the Phoenix BBA Planning Convention concluded, Arizona State Rep. David Stringer wrote a report for PrescottEnews.com. Headlined Witness to History, the Stringer piece said the “Phoenix Convention marks an historic effort by the states to use their powers under Article V of the federal Constitution to stave off the day of reckoning.”
Stringer said, “The power of Washington DC in state/federal relations has become so dominant that it is easy to understand why many people unfamiliar with the Constitution assume the states are political subdivisions of the national government. In fact, it’s the other way around. The federal government was created by the states and they retain sovereignty under our federal system.”
Pointing out how the federal government finances a large percentage of the national government with borrowed money Stringer said, “The persistence of these circumstances has convinced many state legislators, myself included, that our national government is on a collision course with economic reality. Left unchecked, our growing national debt will destroy our economy, impoverish our people and threaten our existence as a sovereign nation.” The Stringer op-ed can be read HERE.
One of the main accomplishments of the Phoenix Convention was creation of what the delegates dubbed the Phoenix Correspondence Commission (PCC). While still being organized, the PCC is to consist of commissioners appointed by state legislatures to (a) create a single point of contact to act as a liaison with Congress, (b) track all applications for a convention for proposing amendments, (c) create a process to suggest a time and place to Congress for a convention for proposing amendments, and (d) to foster communication between the states on all matters relating to an Article V convention of states.
Arizona State Rep. Anthony Kern, Utah State Rep. Ken Ivory, Phoenix Convention Secretary David Guldenschuh and Phoenix Convention President (AZ Rep.) Kelly Townsend are currently working on a proposed organizational statement of purpose and other organizational documents for the new PCC. They hope to contact all the Phoenix Convention commissioners to provide an update and request feedback during November.
The Federal Debt Has Increased for 60 Straight Years –
According to official numbers published by the U.S. Treasury, as of 10-23-2017 total federal US debt stood at $20,435,639,346,821.03. That makes fiscal 2017 the 60th year in a row that the federal government has increased this nation’s debt. (Source HERE.)
On October 4 CNSNews.com Editor-in-Chief Terence P. Jeffrey wrote a piece noting that “The last fiscal year in which the federal debt declined was fiscal 1957.” His article includes a chart which documents the dramatic climb in America’s indebtedness, along with exact year-by-year figures. See Jeffrey’s article HERE.
Meanwhile the Peter G. Peterson Foundation published a chart showing that if something is not done to stop the grown of federal debt, by 2050 the largest category in the federal budget will be interest on the debt. The chart suggests that by 2026 interest expenses will surpass the budgets for Defense, and non-Defense discretionary spending. It projects that federal debt service costs will demand more money than Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid and money for Defense categories by 2050. See their chart HERE.
The lead editorial in the October 11 Wall Street Journal recounted similar information, noting that during fiscal years 2016-17 the budget deficit grew by 3.5% of the national economy, during which time federal revenues grew by a mere 1%. They suggest “deficits will explode without faster growth”. Sadly, the editorial made no comment about the simultaneous need for restraint in federal spending.
A recent article in The Hill (covering the Phoenix BBA Planning Convention) underscored this reality. Under the heading If Washington fails to fix America’s debt crisis, states will take action, the writers reported, “By the end of 2016, [federal] debt stood at nearly 106 percent of GDP, a level rivaled only by the years 1945 to 1947.” That article also said, “If Washington doesn’t come up with real solutions to our federal debt, expect state-based efforts like those being discussed in Arizona to continue to gain traction.” Read The Hill article HERE.
Another The Hill article states, “The deficit is at $20 trillion. The debt-to-gross domestic product ratio is over 100 percent, a point where economies begin to fail.” Read it HERE.
US House Clerk’s Article V Listings Still Incomplete –
In January 2015, under the leadership of US Rep. Steve Stivers, the US House adopted an Article V-related House Rule. The Rule, renewed in 2017, created a system for the U.S. House of Representatives to track, document and count the number of incoming Article V convention petitions from state legislatures.
As of October 21, 2017 the House Clerk’s web site included 159 listings going back to 1960. Only 20 of the applications submitted by state legislatures since 2000 are included on the site. That includes 14 of the Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA) applications, but does not include Arizona. Only 7 of the 12 Convention of States Project (CoSP) applications submitted during that time are shown.
To track the applications listed by the US Clerk’s office, click HERE.
ALEC ‘States & Nation Policy Summit’ Set for Dec. 6-8 –
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) will host its 2017 ‘States & Nation Policy Summit” in Nashville, TN this year. There will again be an emphasis on the need for an Article V convention of states.
One of the speakers will be former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli who will talk about how states can address the growing national debt through the use of Article V. Cuccinelli made a similar… rousing… presentation at the September convention of states in Phoenix. Other speakers will include Larry Ludlow, Steven Moore, Steve Forbes and Art Laffer.
Andrew Rodney of Debate 28, LLC is in the process of producing an 86-minute documentary on how Americans are being harmed by the nation’s heavy federal governmental indebtedness. Footage for that documentary, tentatively titled “Balance of Power”, was shot at the Phoenix BBA Planning Convention. Mr. Rodney will be showing a brief “teaser” segment of the yet-to-be-finished documentary at the December ALEC convention. He expects the finished product will be shown sometime next year on PBS television, and possibly other outlets.
For more info about the ALEC Nashville event, click HERE.
A few weeks ago Karla Jones, Director of the ALEC Task Force on Federalism and International Relations, gave a presentation about Article V to the Tennessee Senate Judiciary Committee.
Her entire presentation, entitled, “Creating Rules of Procedure to Govern a Convention for Proposing Amendments Pursuant to Article V of the U.S. Constitution” can be read HERE.
CoSP Reports it Now Has 3 Million Supporters –
The Convention of States Project (CoSP) has reported that it now has three million grassroots supporters nationwide. That count is based on the number of activists and pledge signers that the organization has racked up in its 4-year-old existence.
“The time is now for bold action and rock-solid leadership, something missing from Congress, but found in millions of citizens rising up to restore their power by using the Constitutional solution found in Article V,” said Mark Meckler, co-founder of the Convention of States Project.
Meanwhile Townhall.com and ConservativeReview.com reported that CoSP received what both sites headlined as “Another Big Endorsement”, Conservative pundit Ben Shapiro. Commenting on Shapiro’s support, Meckler said, “I think he’s one of the smartest guys commenting on politics today … I think he has a really unique voice because he’s so much younger than most commentators. He really speaks to Millennials.”
Shapiro is reported to have said, “I absolutely support the Convention of States Project, designed for fulfilling the Constitutional methodologies for protecting our rights. Article V exists so that the people have the final say, not the federal government.”
Read the Townhall piece HERE, and the ConservativeReview article HERE.
In recent weeks the CoSP effort has seen some progress. In Michigan the House Committee on Government Operations passed the CoSP resolution (HJR V) and referred the measure for second reading in the House. In Nebraska, State Sen. Steve Hallor spoke at a town hall meeting in support of the CoSP resolution which he introduced (LR6) earlier this year… in an attempt to round up the 2 or 3 remaining votes needed in the upcoming session.
In mid-October, Catholic Online published a piece about Texas voting to adopt the CoSP resolution. The author describes Article V as “a safety feature, a check on the potential excesses of Congress contrary to the will of the citizens of this country.” Read the entire article HERE.
A Winning Strategy for State Legislative Candidates –
Recently a former state legislator and Article V activist suggested a winning strategy for claiming or re-claiming a seat in any state legislature. If the candidate is willing to stand behind his/her words, when asked, “Why are you running for the state legislature?”… offer the following reply:
“The greatest threat to our liberty, and our country, is the Congress of the United States. Year after year, under Republicans or Democrats, it spends a trillion dollars it doesn’t have. If it isn’t forced to mend its ways we’ll be bankrupt. Under the Constitution, there is only one control on Congress, and that is the state legislatures. Under Article V, if they act together, state legislatures can force it to balance the budget. So that’s why I’m running for the state legislature. I want the states to intervene, as they have the right to do, and get the federal government under control. If you want something done about Congress, vote for me.”
Okay, that may not be a winning strategy in every state. But candidates in every state should be cognizant of voter wishes in their district. Repeated polling has shown that in most states 70-80% of voters have openly expressed support for a BBA, and most of them understand that such a Constitutional amend will never come from Congress.
Don’t miss out on a winning strategy in your state.
Will New York State Hold a Constitutional Convention? –
This month New York voters will decide if they want to hold a constitution amending convention… a convention to consider amending their own state constitution. The NY constitution, adopted in 1846, mandates that voters be asked this question: “Shall there be a convention to revise the constitution and amend the same?” Fourteen state constitutions have similar provisions, effective in different years.
The question is on this year’s ballot is known as “Proposal 1”. It is the 13th time it has been asked. In all those years NY voters have said “Yes” to that question only 4 times, and only once said “Yes” to proposed amendments that came out of the resulting conventions.
Interestingly, the League of Women Voters (which opposes an Article V convention) is among the groups supporting a “Yes” vote on the NY question. If approved, the NY convention would open the entire state constitution to potential amendment proposals… unlike an Article V convention which would be restricted to the subject(s) for which it was called.
On October 7 voters in the state of Louisiana approved three amendments to their state constitution. Over the years that state has reportedly adopted 186 amendments to its constitution. According to the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana (PAR), a nonpartisan think tank based in Baton Rouge, 92 of those amendments have dealt with the state budget, taxes and other financial issues.
Rob Natelson Releases New Article V-related Policy Brief –
Acknowledged Article V expert and Constitutional scholar Rob Natelson has just released a new Policy Brief entitled: “Why the Constitution’s ‘Convention for Proposing Amendments’ Is a Convention of the States”. Heartland Institute, where he serves as senior fellow in constitutional jurisprudence, published Natelson’s latest work.
The 28-page Brief is broken into 6 parts ranging from review of a related Supreme Court decision, to a detailed history of interstate conventions, to details on amendment ratification… and includes 10 pages of documentation/references. It is a publication every state legislator should read.
Natelson’s excellent Brief concludes, “A convention for proposing amendments is a convention of the states. That conclusion is supported by history previous to the Constitution’s ratification, by numerous explicit and implicit statements from the Ratification Era, and by the constitutional design.” Read it HERE.
New Book: Fiscal Rules to Limit Federal Deficit Spending –
Economists John D. Merrifield (University of Texas at San Antonio) and Barry W. Poulson (professor emeritus of economics at the University of Colorado) have just released their new book ‘Restoring America’s Fiscal Constitution’. The book offers “clear, timely, and on point well-chosen fiscal rules that constrain and impose discipline on democratic government budget policies…” according to Marvin Phaup of George Washington University.
Another reviewer, Randall G. Holcombe of Florida State University, says, “Merrifield and Poulson clearly show the fiscal challenges that lie ahead for the United States government, and drawing from experience—both good and bad— from Switzerland and other European countries, suggest a set of fiscal rules to limit deficit spending. Their ideas are both sensible and politically palatable. They provide a superb blueprint for fiscal reform.”
The writers themselves (in an Investor’s Business Daily commentary) say their book shows “how fiscal rules could be designed to balance the [federal] budget and reduce debt to tolerable levels over a two-decade period.” Read that piece HERE.
Although the book focuses mostly on economic issues relating to the suggested new fiscal rules, the final two chapters ‘A Roadmap to Restore America’s Fiscal Constitution’, and ‘Reopening the Constitutional Road to a Balanced Budget Amendment’ will be of special interest to advocates of an Article V BBA.
Published by Lexington Books, the new book can be purchased HERE.
Congressional Term Limits are On Their Minds –
“Today’s [US] Senate is populated with careerists: professional politicians. Such politicians can be more attuned to the interests of their donors than to those of their constituents,” says Jon N. Hall in his “Repairing the U.S. Senate” article published during October by American Thinker.
Hall says, “If we’re ever to get term limits for Congress, the Constitution must be amended. Because the swampy careerists in Congress are never going to initiate such an amendment themselves, we’ll probably need to have an Article V constitutional convention.” Both the Convention of States Project and U.S. Term Limits are working on such a proposal.
Michael Betrus is a high school senior who runs HighwireDaily.com, his own news website and has been published by the Washington Examiner as well. Betrus recently wrote an opinion piece entitled “Why Term Limits Are Needed to Make America Great Again”. He opines “The longer representatives and senators spend in Washington, the more out of touch they become with the rest of America.”
Read Hall’s piece HERE… and the Betrus piece HERE.
Act 2 Refined… Another Proposal for Using Article V –
Colorado resident Frank W. Keeney has spent the last several years observing the shortcomings of America’s federal government, and brainstorming ways to fix the federal government. A few years ago he announced “Act 2 Blueprint” as his solution.
Keeney has refined his proposals into five suggested Constitutional amendments “to Rejuvenate America”. His proposals have more of a procedural focus, in contrast to the policy focus of other Article V efforts. He believes the timing is now right to launch a program to promote the Act 2 reform proposals, but being an older gentleman, he is looking to hire an Executive Director to move things forward.
The Act 2 Blueprint proposals are succinctly set forth in a Keeney-produced booklet which can be obtained by writing to him at Act2reform@gmail.com. Anyone interested in leading a new Article V movement based on the Act 2 Blueprint is also welcome to contact him at 303-932-9339.
Who Said It?
Talking to state legislators about the BBA-focused Article V effort
at the kick-off dinner for the Phoenix BBA Planning Convention,
he admonished them:
“Lead, follow, or get out of the way!”
Ken Cuccinelli, former Virginia Attorney General