March 2019 Newsletter

This Month…

  • Convention of States Project Gets 13th State
  • New Federal Budget Calculator Offered by America Off Balance
  • Writer Says Article V is Only Way to Save Federal Government
  • Address Constitutional Changes with ‘Citizens’ Convention’?
  • Federalism in the News
  • Updated Article V Campaign Info Now Available
  • Guldenschuh Issues First A5 Progress Report for 2019
  • Article V Proposed as a Way to Legalize Cannabis
  • Other Reports on Article V State Legislation


Convention of States Project Gets 13th State –

The Convention of States Project (CoSP) received a Valentine’s Day present this year.  On February 14 the Arkansas legislature approved SJR3, the CoSP resolution for an Article V convention to propose constitutional amendments.  The vote was 54 to 38 in the House and 19 to 13 in the Senate.

The Arkansas action makes 13 states that have adopted the CoSP resolution.  Rep. Brandt Smith reportedly said to his fellow legislators “My question to you is, if not now, when?  We can either manage the decline of our nation, or we can step up and try to guide our nation back to some common sense approach to government.”

Rep. Stephen Meeks, who voted yes, said it was a question of faith versus fear, and that legislators should have faith that their fellow Americans would block any unacceptable amendment.

In Indiana the first chapter of Young Americans for Convention of States was recently formed.  CoSP hopes to launch multiple chapters during 2019 among high schools beginning in NW Indiana.

Meanwhile these other states have been considering the CoSP proposal:
Illinois – HJR20 and HJR34 are CoSP bills without term limits.
Iowa – SJR15 is the CoSP bill without the term limits provision.  It is pending before the Senate State Government Committee.  See separate term limits bill below.
Mississippi – SC596 with 20 sponsors is a CoSP bill without the term limits component.  It is pending in the Senate Rules Committee.
Nebraska – LR7 is pending before the Legislature Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee.
New Jersey – SCR28 was introduced in January 2018 and was carried over.  It has 7 sponsors and ACR73 has 13 sponsors.  Both bills are still in committee.
South Carolina – SJR112 has 11 sponsors (this application is subject to a lengthy list of reservations, understandings, and declarations) and SCR28 with 3 sponsors.  Both are in committee.
South Dakota – HJR1005 was killed in committee by a 6 to 7 vote.  Rep. Steve Livermont said, “We did what they refer to as a smoke out.  If the sponsor of a bill can get 14 of the representatives on the house floor to stand for him, he can revive a bill that has been killed in committee and bring it directly to the floor for debate.”  That approach did not work.
Utah – SJR9 was voted out of the Senate in late February by a vote of 16 to 12.  It now goes to the House.
Virginia – HJR685 has 8 sponsors and is pending in the House Rules Committee.
West Virginia – HCR33  with 15 sponsors is pending in the House Judiciary Committee
Wyoming – SJ0004 had 11 sponsors.  The bill did not pass.
New Federal Budget Calculator Offered by America Off Balance –
During January Danny Heil, a Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution, launched a new web site and federal budgeting tool that will be of special interest to state legislators.  American citizens who are concerned about America’s fast growing debt will also find it useful.

The site, called America Off Balance, is a very user-friendly blog-like posting subtitled “One Nation Under Debt”.  The site and its calculator were built by Heil in cooperation with John F. Cogan and John Raisian, both Senior Fellows at the Hoover Institution.  It is based on the premise that “America is facing a debt crisis”.  The easy-to-use step-through site makes clear the extent of America’s debt problem… and then gives the reader an opportunity to explore possible “fixes”.

During the site’s first month some 1,000 people experimented with The Budget Calculator, building their own proposed federal budgets in an attempt to avoid debt levels that exceed 100% of the nation’s GDP.  The Hoover team also plans to post at least weekly updates and supporting materials on its related Budget Matters site.

Heil says he hopes the new web site and calculator will be the start of a new conversation about America’s debt.  “People have been taking about this for a long time.  We talk about the problem, but we never get to what the solutions might be.  Rather than suggesting a specific solution, we let the user pick between a wide array of options.  We think that users will conclude that we have to reform entitlement programs.  The calculator allows users to think about ‘trade-offs’ related to various approaches.”

Heil points out that federal government debt really is going to impact state government budgets.  “The magnitude of state and local grants that the federal government is currently passing out… that is where the federal government may look to save money… whether it is Medicaid grants or highway grants, etc.  There is a whole host of places where state and local governments should be really concerned about the federal government living beyond its means.”

Don’t be put off by the slide within the America Off Balance internal video that shows the 2018 national debt at $15 trillion.  Most folks know the national debt is now about $22 trillion.  As Heil explains, that $15 trillion (out of CBO reports) does not include money borrowed from such governmental funds as the Social Security Trust Fund.  Even that lower 2018 number is projected by the CBO to grow to $99 trillion by 2048.

Some have suggested that legislator organizations like ALEC, NCSL and CSDG should consider hosting workshops during their conventions that promote use of the new Budget Calculator.  Heil says that he and his team will be making regular updates to the calculator, so they welcome feedback from users.  Email such suggestions to AmericaOffBalance@stanford.edu . .
Writer Says Article V is Only Way to Save Federal Government –
Writing recently in the Dereret News (Utah), Merrill Nelson wrote under the headline   States must take action to save federal government.  He recounted the oft-expressed concern that “Our federal government is broken,” and opined that simply repeating that concern is pointless.

Nelson quoted Alexander Hamilton as saying in Federalist 28   “The legislatures … can discover the danger [of federal government excesses and/or dysfunction] at a distance; and possessing all the organs of civil power … they can at once adopt a regular plan of opposition. … They can readily communicate with each other in the different States, and unite their common forces for the protection of their common liberty.”  He points out that James Madison agreed that the ultimate power to control excesses or dysfunction of the federal government rests with the states.

The Founders, notes Mr. Nelson “provided a remedy in Article V of the Constitution for the states to call a convention to “communicate with each other” and propose possible amendments to check federal power, correct federal dysfunction, and restore proper powers to the states.”

He points out “The states created the federal government, with clearly defined powers and functions.  Our compound republic has worked relatively well, with fits and starts, for over 230 years, but the federal government is now in dire need of repair and retrenchment.  It is time for the states to come together to fulfill their constitutional function and duty to restore and steady the federal ship of state.  The action plan is clear:… The time to act is now”. Read the Deseret piece HERE.
Address Constitutional Changes with a ‘Citizens’ Convention’? – 
A piece on February 10 in The Hill reports that “Over the last few decades, pressure to amend the Constitution has come mostly from the right, but the left now seems as active.  In the 115th Congress (2017-2018), there were 148 bills or resolutions proposing constitutional amendments.”

The writer, Joseph Cassidy of the Wilson Center, does not support using the provisions of Article V.  Rather, he calls for “a citizen-organized constitutional convention”.  Although he acknowledges such a convention could not produce a document with legal status, he believes “it could responsibly establish the parameters of debate.”

Cassidy says his proposed “citizens’ convention should be representative of America’s diverse talent, including politically and regionally, since its ultimate goal will be to propel amendments through the formal ratification process.”

The writer believes such a ‘citizens’ convention’ could “persuade Americans of the need for more extensive structural reform than will result from the slow accretion of case law and changes in legislation, policies and norms”, would “facilitate negotiations among reformers and build a broad mandate for nonpartisan amendments”, and would “compel politicians to take positions.”  Read Cassidy’s proposal HERE.
Federalism in the News –
An article in West Hawaii Today by Mike Kerr argues that the recent federal government partial shutdown “shows us clearly that it’s past time for state legislators and governors to reclaim federal power back to their states and return control over many activities that have been stolen by Washington.  Not everything has to be federalized.”  Read his views HERE.

The doctrine of state sovereignty is the basis for an abortion-related bill currently under consideration in Idaho.  State Reps. John Green and Heather Scott have introduced a bill that would end the exemption for abortion from Idaho murder laws. The authors say the exemption is inconsistent with the state constitution’s protection of life.  Read the story HERE.

“More federalism would be good; more federalism with smaller states would be even better” says James W. Lucas in a piece entitled Splitting Up Big States: The Conservative Case, published in the National Review.  He says “’Fixing’ the Senate is a bad reason to split up states.  But there’s a good one too: It could promote federalism and conservative governance.”  Read his views HERE.

Updated Article V Campaign Info Now Available –
The State Legislators’ Article V Caucus web site includes a “Resources” section that includes a wide array of information about federalism and the fifth Article of the US Constitution (listings of relevant web sites, links to relevant scholarly papers, articles and books, research works on the history of Article V, in-depth works on specific Article V issues, and background on debunking various myths about Article V.

The site has just completed updating information on all the current Article V campaigns.  It includes current leadership information, contact information, organizational objectives and links to key position papers and model resolutions.

All of these free Caucus “Resources” can be accessed HERE.

Guldenschuh Issues First A5 Progress Report for 2019 –
On February 17 Georgia attorney David Guldenschuh issued his first Article V Convention Legislative Progress Report for 2019.  He reports that “So far this year, approximately 75 pieces of Article V legislation have been dropped in 27 states.  That’s less than years past, but to be expected as the low hanging fruit gets picked and the process gets more targeted and difficult.  I predict that we’ll top 100 items and two-thirds of the states before this legislative year is finished.”

He notes that while most Article V campaigns are currently focused on specific states, “US Term Limits and Wolf PAC /Free & Fair Elections have cast a broad net in multiple states.”  See his one-page summary report HERE.

Article V Proposed as a Way to Legalize Cannabis –
During February former US Senator Mike Gavel (Alaska) wrote an article entitled How to Legalize Cannabis Throughout US.  It was published by Consortium News.

Gavel has been on the board of Cannabis Sativa, Inc. for five years, including four years as CEO.  He also presently serves as CEO of THC Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

He points to the federal government’s prohibitions of alcohol and of cannabis as having both been “abject failures, severely damaging American society.”  The prohibition of alcohol in America lasted 13 years, while the prohibition of cannabis has extended a little more than six decades.

Gavel believes the process that ended alcohol prohibition is the template for the way the prohibition of cannabis, with a constitutional amendment.  He says “Since 33 states have legalized some form of cannabis and additional states are looking at legalization, it is highly likely that five more states would join an effort to remove cannabis from Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act of 1970.”

Gavel says “A national campaign initiated by the political leadership of California and the cannabis industry would already be securing agreements of three-fourths (38 states) to ratify the resolution.  A simultaneous effort could approach the same 33 states (two-thirds) to approve the resolution.  … I am convinced that the ratification of an Amendment can be secured within a year.”  Read the full story HERE.

 

  • Other Reports on Article V State Legislation & Developments

The Act 2 Reforms Campaign: 
Frank and Carol Keeney, co-founders of Act 2 Reforms have announced that former Iowa State Senator Neal Schuerer has been engaged as their Executive Director… to encourage other like-minded reformers to join together and work to establish a nationwide network of state legislative visionaries… to organize a constitutionally-authorized Article V convention of states.

The Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force Campaign:
Maine – HP264 is filed with no sponsors listed.
South Carolina – SCS125 with 5 sponsors is an application for an Article V convention that proposes a balanced budget amendment.  The bill is pending before the Senate Judiciary Committee.  SCH3017 with 9 sponsors is the House version of the same bill.  It is pending before the House Judiciary Committee.
Washington State – SJM8004 with 11 sponsors is pending before the State Government, Tribal Relations & Elections Committee.

Recent Articles Related to balancing governmental budgets
In mid-February the Illinois Policy Institute issued a report that for the fifth straight year the population of Illinois declined.  It has declined by more than 157,000 residents since 2014.  The report says high taxes, driven by spending that consistently exceeds revenues, is the reason.  Read the report HERE.

The State Journal-Register of Springfield, Illinois followed up with an editorial challenging JB Pritzker, the state’s new governor, to produce a “no gimmicks” balanced budget for the state.  Read the editorial HERE.

The Deseret News reports that Utah’s US Senators Mike Lee and Chuck Grassley have reintroduced a balanced budget amendment bill in Congress.  Read the report HERE.

The Compact for America Campaign:
The Compact for America Educational Foundation arm of CfA has created the Debt Default Clock Review Committee and introduced its Debt Default Clock (see it HERE).  The Committee and its Clock seek to project how close the US is to “a catastrophic federal default”.

Single Subject Amendment Campaign:
Mississippi – SC590 is pending in the Senate Rules Committee.

The US Term Limits Campaign:
Arizona – SCR1014 with 16 sponsors is being considered in the Senate… and HCR2022 with 27 sponsors passed out of a House committee with a 7 to 0 “do pass” recommendation.
Georgia – HR53 with 6 sponsors is pending in the House Rules Committee.
Iowa – SJR11 passed out of a subcommittee on February 12 with a recommendation for passage.  It is now pending in the Senate State Government Committee.
West Virginia – HCR61 with 2 sponsors and HJR14 with 11 sponsors are both pending in the House Judiciary Committee.

Recent Articles on Term Limits
The National Review congratulated US Senator Ted Cruz (Texas), US Rep. Francis Rooney (Florida) for introducing a proposed constitutional amendment dealing with congressional term limits.  US Senator Thom Tillis and Rep. George Holding (both of North Carolina) have introduced a similar bill, as has US Senator Rand Paul.

As writer Doug Bandow said, “The measure deserves to pass, but it won’t.”  Bandow suggests instead, “states could take up the battle again by challenging a misguided 1995 Supreme Court decision that protected legislators from accountability to their voters.”

Bandow reviews the old arguments, and suggests that changes on the Supreme Court could get a different ruling this time, but he ultimately comes back to suggesting use of Article V.  Read his piece HERE.

The Daily Caller carried a piece by constitutional scholar Rob Natelson that also covered the Cruz-Rooney bill.  He reaches the same conclusion: “the chance that Congress will send this measure to the states for ratification hovers somewhere around absolute zero.” 

Natelson points out certain drafting errors in the Cruz-Rooney bill, and confirms Bandow’s conclusion that an Article V convention is the only way it will ever get done.  Read his piece HERE.

The Wolf-PAC Campaign:
Florida – HM883 has been introduced.  No movement has been shown.
Georgia – HR181 has 6 sponsors.
Iowa – SJR6 an Article V application “to restore balance and integrity to our elections” is pending in the Senate State Government Committee.
Maine – SJR105 is filed but has no sponsors listed.
Nebraska – LR9, an Article V application for “free and fair elections” is pending before the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee.
New Mexico – HJR4 is pending before the House Consumer & Public Affairs Committee.
New York – S01763 with 4 sponsors is an Article V application “to address concerns raised by the decision of the United States Supreme Court in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission”.  It is pending before the Senate Judiciary Committee.  A companion bill, A01248, with 31 sponsors is pending before the Assembly Election Law Committee.
Oregon – HJM4 with 11 sponsors is pending before the House Rules Committee.
Virginia – HJR668 with 2 sponsors is pending before the House Rules Committee.
Washington – SJM8002 with 4 sponsors is pending before the Senate Committee on State Government, Tribal Relations & Elections Subcommittee.  The House version of this bill, HJM4004 with 16 sponsors, had a Public hearing on February 15 in the House Committee on State Government & Tribal Relations.  It continues to be pending in that committee.
Wyoming – SJ0002 with 7 sponsors has been postponed indefinitely.

Bills Related to the Appointment of Article V Convention Delegates:
Missouri – SCR15 and HCR44 seek to create procedures for the appointment of commissioners to a convention called under Article V of the US Constitution.
Nebraska – LB451 is a proposed Faithful Delegate to Federal Article V Convention Act
New Hampshire – HB519 is a bill relative to selection of delegates to an Article V convention.
Virginia – SJR31 is a bill with 3 sponsors that deals with selection of commissioners to an Article V convention.

Efforts to Rescind Article V Applications:
The abundantly-funded Common Cause… with fellow-travelers Eagle Forum and John Birch Society… have managed to get a few under-informed state legislators to sponsor their “rescind” bills this year.

Using misinformation, guile and fear, these anti-Article V folks have once again been working to discourage state legislatures from using the important powers granted to them within Article V of the US Constitution.  So far this year their efforts have been fruitless.

This last month the leader of a large Article V campaign was approached by a state senator who was sponsoring a “rescind” bill, offering her support for his resolution if he would support her “clean the slate” measure to eliminate the BBA-focused application that is on the books in that state.  His response was “a polite version of ‘pound sand’   Never gonna happen.”  Her bill died.

As Article V activist David Guldenschuh says, “Everyone needs to build a strong flank to resist the opposition.”

Did you know –

  • That states met in conventions ten times between the Declaration of Independence and the Constitutional Convention?  Meeting places included Annapolis (MD), Philadelphia, York Town (PA), Providence (RI), Hartford (CT), New Haven (CT), Boston (MA), and Springfield (MA).
  • That they convened again in Washington, D.C. in 1861 to propose a constitutional amendment to stave off the Civil War?
  • That Article V application campaigns by the state legislatures pushed Congress into proposing both the 17th Amendment (direct election of Senators) and the 22nd Amendment (presidential term limits)?   
By Rob Natelson
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