April 2019 Newsletter
- Much Talk but No Action on $22 Trillion Debt
- Illinois Dems Propose a BBA for Their State Constitution
- Dozens of Article V-related Bills Wend through States
- The ERA – It’s Not an Article V Issue, But It Is Related
- National Popular Vote Not Likely to Use Article V
- Federalism Explained through The Parable of the Bicycle
- Actions of Pro-Convention Groups Mystify FoAVC Leader
Much Talk but No Action on $22 Trillion Debt –
In early March Utah Congressman Ben McAdams testified before the House Budget Committee, warning that interest on America’s $22 trillion debt has become the fastest growing part of the federal budget, saying both parties must work to lower deficits.
McAdams, a member of the House Blue Dog Coalition, said “Congress has a bipartisan problem when it comes to running up deficits and debt. It is past time to put our fiscal house in order and commit to making tough choices to reverse this ocean of red ink.” He told the committee that every man, woman, and child in America owes $67,000 as a share of the national debt.
McAdams has sponsored a “No Budget, No Pay” bill that says if Congress fails to do its job passing a budget and funding the government by October 1st, members won’t get paid.
Like so many other members of Congress, McAdams says he also plans to introduce a balanced budget amendment “to put structure in place to enforce fiscal discipline”.
As they have done a number of times, US Senators Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Mike Lee of Utah have introduced a proposed constitutional amendment that would require the federal government to operate under a balanced budget (SJR5).
Meanwhile Congressional Republicans introduced a resolution (HJR149 which has 37 sponsors) declaring the nation’s debt is a security threat. “We introduced this resolution because the United States is racing towards a fiscal cliff,” said Arizona Congressman Andy Biggs. He is the same Andy Biggs who for years (as President of the Arizona Senate) aggressively blocked use of Article V to address the problem.
Will Congress actually take steps to rein-in spending and reduce the national debt? Don’t count on it. Without use of Article V by state legislatures, it will never happen.
Illinois Dems Propose a BBA for Their State Constitution –
According to a report by the Illinois Policy Institute “Five Democratic members of the Illinois House of Representatives have sponsored a proposed constitutional amendment that would give the state a truly balanced budget.”
Illinois HJR Constitutional Amendment 27 now has 15 bipartisan sponsors and is pending in the House Rules Committee. Among other things, the proposal provides that “expenditures for any fiscal year shall not exceed the State’s revenues and reserves, including proceeds of any debt obligation, for that year… and that no debt obligation, except as shall be repaid within the fiscal year of issuance, shall be authorized for the current operation of any State service or program.”
Illinois has severe debt problems, so such an amendment to that state’s constitution would be very wise. Will it happen? Not likely, but stay tuned.
Dozens of Article V-related Bills
Wend Their Way through State Legislatures
Progress on the Congressional Term Limits Effort –
On March 4 the Arizona House approved HCR2022, the congressional term limits Article V resolution. That bill was sponsored by Rep. Kelly Townsend with 26 bipartisan co-sponsors. It passed on a 32 to 26 vote. That resolution, under bill number SCR1014 with 16 sponsors, passed out of a Senate committee on voice vote, and is now under consideration in the State Senate.
Rep. Townsend said “I am extremely proud of my colleagues for helping pass this bipartisan resolution. It is high time that the people and the States take advantage of Article V of the U.S. Constitution and bring our Congress back under control.”
According to the last nationwide poll on term limits conducted by McLaughlin & Associates (in January 2018), term limits enjoys wide bipartisan support. McLaughlin’s analysis states, “Support for term limits is broad and strong across all political, geographic and demographic groups. An overwhelming 82% of voters approve of a constitutional amendment that will place term limits on members of Congress.”
The US Term Limits bill is also currently under consideration in Georgia (SR237 with 6 sponsors). It was approved by the Senate on March 7 by a vote of 31 to 20… the House version (HR53 with 6 bipartisan 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 still pending in the Senate State Government Committee.
Maryland – SJR3 with 2 sponsors was introduced on March 4. It has been referred to the Senate Rules Committee. Companion bill HJR1 with 19 sponsors is pending in the House Rules and Executive Nominations Committee.
South Carolina – HJR3125 has 29 sponsors, and related bill HJR3166 has 13 sponsors. Both bills are pending in the House Judiciary Committee.
West Virginia –HCR61 with 3 sponsors was approved by the House on March 8 by a vote of 55 to 42, and has been sent on to the Senate. Related bill HJR14 with 11 sponsors has been pending in the House Judiciary Committee since January 17. The House of Delegates in this state is also considering HJR3, a bill to amend the WV constitution to impose term limits on state legislators.
US Term Limits reports that 13 of the state applications adopted in support of the Convention of States Project efforts include term limits in the subjects to be addressed, and thus count toward their objectives.
Wolf-PAC Campaign Very Active, But Without Results –
The Article V campaign headed by Wolf-PAC typically refers to its Article V applications as pursuing free and fair elections. They have been active in several states, but have not yet seen meaningful traction during this year’s legislative sessions.
Iowa – SJR6 is an Article V application “to restore balance and integrity to our elections”. It was originally in a subcommittee of the Senate State Government Committee, but on March 25 it was reassigned to a new subcommittee.
Missouri – During March SCR8 was reported out of the Senate Rules, Joint Rules, Resolutions & Ethics Committee.
Nebraska – LR9, an Article V application for “free and fair elections” was heard by the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee during March.
New Mexico – HJR4 had been pending before the House Consumer & Public Affairs Committee since January 15, but died when the legislature adjourned during March.
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 has been pending before the Senate Judiciary Committee since January 16. A companion bill, A01248, with 31 sponsors has also been pending before the Assembly Election Law Committee since January.
Oregon – HJM4 with 11 sponsors has been sitting in the House Rules Committee since January 14.
South Carolina – S0192 has been sitting in the Senate Judiciary Committee since January 8.
Texas – HJR121 with 2 sponsors was filed on March 7 and scheduled for an April 1 hearing.
Virginia – HJR668 with 2 sponsors was left in the House Rules Committee when the legislature adjourned.
Washington – SJM8002 with 4 sponsors was passed out of one committee (reportedly with more than 240 people testifying in favor) to the Rules Committee on February 22. On March 15 it was assigned an “X file” status.
Wyoming – SJ0002 with 7 sponsors was postponed indefinitely before the legislature adjourned.
Convention of States Project Picks Up Two More States –
On March 5 with what was described as “a swift vote at a late hour”, the Utah House passed SJR9, the Convention of States Project (CoSP) resolution, with a final vote of 42-32… the second state to do so this legislative session. The Utah Senate had approved the resolution on February 27 on a 16 to 12 vote. That is state number 14 for the three-subject CoSP Article V campaign.
One of the primary sponsors of SJR9, Senator Evan Vickers, was quoted as saying “You listen to both sides and they think the world is going to end if it passes or doesn’t pass,” Vickers said. “I think it’s a tool we need to use to make change in our country.”
Bryan Schott, managing editor at UtahPolicy.com described passage of SJR9 as “the most important piece of legislation passed by the 2019 Legislature.” State Senator Jacob Anderegg said that after voting against previous resolutions calling for a Convention of States, he voted for this year’s resolution because he’s concerned about trends in Washington, DC. “I just feel like if we don’t act now, we may be too late to act in even just a couple years from now. I think we’ve got to do something.”
Tnen March 27 brought another victory for the CoSP effort when the Mississippi legislature adopted a variation of its proposed Article V application. This application specifically instructs Mississippi delegates to an Article V convention to NOT vote in favor of any term limits proposals.
Mississippi’s SCR596 with 22 sponsors was approved in the Senate on March 21 by a 32 to 17 vote. It had earlier been approved in the House, but went back to the House on March 27 for a 69 to 46 confirmation of its approval.
Hawaii – SCR36 with 6 bipartisan sponsors was introduced on March 5 and referred to two committees.
Iowa – SJR15 has been pending before the Senate State Government Committee since February 19.
Kentucky – SJR102 with 3 sponsors has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. HJR87 is a companion bill that does not include consideration of congressional term limits. It was referred to a House committee on Feb. 11.
Mississippi – SCR596 with 22 sponsors has been sitting in the Senate Rules Committee since February 18. A similar resolution passed the House 76-42 last year, and it died in the Senate without making it out of committee.
Nebraska – LR7 has been languishing in the Legislature Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee since January 14.
New Jersey – SCR28 was introduced in January 2018 and was carried over. It has 8 sponsors. Companion bill ACR73 has 16 sponsors (3 more than last month). Both bills have been sitting in committees since January 9.
South Carolina – SJR112 has 15 sponsors, four added in the last month. This application is subject to a lengthy list of reservations, understandings, and declarations. Similar bill SCR28 has 3 sponsors. Both have been languishing in the Senate Judiciary Committee since early January.
Virginia – HJR685 was not considered before the legislative session ended..
West Virginia – HCR33 with 15 sponsors was rejected in the House by a vote of 40 to 56.
Wyoming – SJ0004 was defeated by a vote of 10 to 20 in the Senate.
BBA Effort Enters Another Year with Minimal Progress –
With 28 states under its belt the BBA Task Force (BBATF) has not seen progress since 2017. This year their bill has been introduced in these states:
South Carolina – S0125 with 5 sponsors is an application for an Article V convention to propose a balanced budget amendment. H3017 with 11 sponsors (two added in the last month) is the House version of the same bill. It is pending before the House Judiciary Committee. Both bills have been pending before their respective Judiciary Committees since January 8.
Washington State – SJM8004 with 11 sponsors has been pending before the State Government, Tribal Relations & Elections Committee since January 16.
CSNDS, in cooperation with the BBATF, reports that this summer they will launch a 10-state campaign to support their ongoing effort to attain the final 6 states needed to call an Article V convention limited to proposing a balanced budget amendment to the US Constitution.
Walker reportedly said “If the CBO’s projections hold steady, we’ll see trillion-dollar [debt] interest payments in 5 – 10 years which will account for approximately 25% of federal revenue, yet Congress has proved unable to rein in its spending. Where Washington has failed, the states must step in and lead – using their constitutional authority to solve the problem”.
CSNDS leadership includes such luminaries as Governor Mike Huckabee, Admiral Bill Owens, Comptroller General David M. Walker, US Senator Judd Gregg, Governor George Allen, US Senator Norm Coleman and economist Dr. Barry Poulson.
Missouri Calls for AV Convention to Modify Amendment 13 –
Missouri State Rep. Brandon Ellington has introduced HCR19, a bill asking his fellow legislators to apply for an Article V convention of states. His proposal seeks a constitutional amendment removing the “except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted” wording from the Thirteenth Amendment of the US Constitution, “thus completely abolishing the practice of involuntary servitude”.
This is the pertinent part of Amendment 13 as it exists: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
Other Article V-related State Legislative Activity –
Several state legislatures are considering bills that guide them in selecting delegates (or commissioners) to a future Article V convention, and provide instructions to them.
During current state legislative sessions seven states have had bills introduced that would rescind past Article V applications. Most of those bills are already dead. One is still active.
The ERA – It’s Not an Article V Issue, But It Is Related –
Proponents of the Equal Rights Amendment keep pushing for its resurrection. So, state legislators will want to stay abreast of the issues surrounding what was until recently been thought as long-dead.
The National Constitution Center has published a piece entitled Can the Equal Rights Amendment be Revived? Read it HERE.
U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Ben Cardin have introduced Senate Resolution 6, which would reopen consideration of the Equal Rights Amendment. Their resolution would lift the ratification deadline to revive consideration of the ERA by the states. They wrote a joint opinion piece for The Washington Post entitled Its time to finally pass the Equal Rights Amendment… that can be read HERE.
The Independent Women’s Forum published an overview of the status of the ERA movement under the title Is the ERA Dead in the Water? Or Just Gasping for Air? Read their report HERE.
National Popular Vote Not Likely to Use Article V –
A big topic these days are the efforts to bring about a national popular vote (NPV) for president, and do away with the electoral college. Colorado is one of the states where the legislature has agreed to the NPV multi-state “compact”
Jon Caldara, president of Colorado’s Independence Institute is supporting a citizen-initiated referendum petition drive to overturn his legislature’s action. He says “If the nation should have the popular vote, then amend the U.S. Constitution. If Congress won’t propose the amendment, the states can propose it via Article V of the Constitution.”
He goes on to say proponents of the so-called “national popular vote” “won’t go that route because they know those pesky fly-over states would never ratify it. So, instead, the states controlled by their progressive urban centers, like Colorado now, can force it with an interstate compact. It’s likely unconstitutional, but you never know until you try.”
Read Caldara’s position HERE.
Federalism Explained through The Parable of the Bicycle –
In a March 5 ALEC publication, Utah State Rep. Ken Ivory reported on an occasion he had to explain the federalism feature of American governance. He was talking with a man who had his mountain bike with him… a man who (like most Americans) had no idea what federalism is.
Ken asked the man how important was it to keep his bike tires at the recommended pressures. When the man acknowledged the critical importance that the two tires have balanced pressure, Ken shared with him how American’s system was designed with two governing spheres – national and state – like the two tires on his bike. The two spheres need to be balanced.
“The ‘tire pressure’ in the national sphere was designed to be ‘limited and few’ and the ‘tire pressure’ for the states was designed to be ‘numerous and indefinite’.” he told the man. “However, today the front tire is so bloated it is about to explode and the back tire is so flat it is about to chew the rubber right off the rim.”
Ken reports that the man stepped back, clapped his hands, and cried out “That’s it! I’ve learned more about our government in the last 3 minutes than I have known all my life! Everyone in the nation needs to know this!” Read Ken’s full report HERE.
Rep. Ivory is the chairman of the ALEC Center to Restore Balance of Government. He recently wrote another piece wherein he asserts “Nearly 80 percent of the American people across the political spectrum are frustrated with the lack of efficiency, effectiveness and accountability in government at the national level.” He says “Americans are looking to their state leaders – they trust their state leaders – to restore the efficiency, effectiveness and accountability of government. This is federalism.” Read this second piece HERE.
Actions of Pro-Convention Groups Mystify FoAVC Leader –
Bill Walker heads a long-established group called Friends of the Article V Convention (FoAVC). He notes that both houses of Congress have determined by official committee counts, sufficient applications have been submitted by the states to cause an Article V convention call.
He says “Members of Congress refuse to answer why no convention has occurred, or otherwise resort to countless excuses not to call one. Despite the fact that without a call by Congress no convention can ever occur, regardless of the number of applications submitted… political action committees continue to seek applications from state legislatures and appear to assume Congress will automatically call a convention if their particular political movement achieves the two-thirds support of the state legislatures. These groups appear therefore to ignore the political reality of the situation: Congress has no intention of obeying the Constitution.”
Walker contends that “Many outside the movement have begun to wonder why, when public record demonstrates conclusively otherwise, these groups ignore the position of Congress regarding a convention call. The position, frequently presented by Congress, is a numeric count of applying states causes a convention call.
“Despite the official position of Congress, the advocacy groups ignore Congress plunging ahead with their agenda of endless gathering of needless applications at the state level.”
Walker quotes a state legislator who he recently heard asking “Why should I support any of these [pro-convention] groups when they all appear to have gone off the rails by ignoring the fact Congress refuses to call a convention based on applications already received? Its one thing to argue about amendment proposals—it is quite another to ignore what is right in front of you. The one is politics, the other is delusional.”
The FoAVC web site and its count of Article V applications can be found HERE.
Who said it?
“The fragmentation of power produced by
the structure of our Government is central to liberty,
and when we destroy it, we place liberty at peril.”
Warning words from a 2012 dissenting opinion from
Supreme Court Justices Kennedy, Scalia, Thomas and Alito