December 2019 Newsletter

This Month…

  • Forbes Writer: Restore Power to the States… NOW
  • Left-Leaning Daily KOS Says It’s ‘time to bypass Congress’
  • Fear of a COS is Misplaced, Says Article V Activist
  • Concerns Continue about the Growing National Debt
  • Do We Need a Constitutional “Do Your Job” Amendment?
  • Compromise or Conflict?  Maybe Both
  • Several Article V Convention Resolutions Still Not Received
  • End-of-the-Year Status of Various Article V Efforts
  • Will the ERA Become the 28th Amendment?

Forbes Writer: Restore Power to the States… NOW –
On Nov. 7 Forbes carried an excellent article by Tom Lindsay entitled “Resistance On The Right: Will Conservatives Ever Come Together On An Article V Convention Of The States?”.  Lindsay is the director of the Center for Higher Education at the Texas Public Policy Foundation in Austin, Texas.

Lindsay offers a brief overview of the Article V process (while debunking arguments of AV opponents), and emphasizes why the powers within Article V need to be used now.

He says, “It seems clear that the federal government is unable or unwilling to extricate our country from the abyss into which its power grabs have thrust us.  What is left under the Constitution is the states’ power to employ Article V to call a convention to propose amendments to reverse our decline through reducing the size and reach of the federal government and restoring the powers granted to the people in their states by the Constitution.”

He also underscores the work of Article V expert Rob Natelson who he quotes as having written: “At least 27 state legislatures have valid applications outstanding for a convention to propose a balanced budget amendment (BBA).  At least six states without BBA applications have outstanding applications calling for a plenary convention.  Thus, if aggregation is called for, 33 of the 34 applications needed for Congress to call a convention likely exist.”

Lindsay concludes his Forbes article by expressing his belief that America’s state leaders can and should use their Article V powers with “fidelity” to their citizens to assure that America’s experiment in self-government does not fail.  He says “If we are to prevent the failure of our experiment in self-government, a convention of states appears to be our last, best hope.  But for this to happen, elements on the political Right need to be assured that the benefits of such an undertaking outweigh the risks.”

A week later Forbes carried a follow-up article by Lindsay entitled “‘The Risk is Minimal’: Justice Scalia On The Need For A Convention of States To Restrain Federal Power”.  Read Lindsay’s first article HERE, and the second one HERE.

Left-Leaning Daily KOS Says It’s ‘time to bypass Congress’ –
On Nov. 4 the left-leaning political blog Daily KOS carried a commentary entitled “The do-nothing Congress — how we can make changes”.  Just like the articles above, it advocates for an Article V convention of states.

The article chronicles how politicians (particularly at the federal level) have grown less and less willing to work together through compromise.  It stresses that “news media and pundits create polarization”.  Then it says “There may be an alternative.  Our Founders foresaw a situation where the federal government was no longer fully representing the people.  It has never been fully utilized.  But we have never seen a more polarized time in our recent history“.

It points out: “The Article V concept is not new.  Several of the amendments to the Constitution started out as Article V movements.  But in each case, the US Congress ended up approving and passing [ED- Actually, “proposing”] these amendments.  But if Congress is rendered helpless due to hyper partisanship, it may be the time to bypass Congress”.

Somewhat foreign to many Article V advocates, it says (correctly): “Nothing in Article V limits the number of issues that can be taken up by an Article V convention.  It would also make more sense to address more than one issue if the effort is made to hold the convention.   By far, the most critical factor in this method of oversight of Congress is opening the doors to the convention.  This is where compromise is needed”.

The article concludes by saying: “The Declaration of Independence clearly states that we have an opportunity, and some may say responsibility, to change our government.  With today’s degree of polarization in our government, it may be time for a change”.  Read the article HERE.

Fear of a COS is Misplaced, Says Article V Activist –
“Fear SCOTUS, not an Article V COS” says Rodney Dodsworth in a recent post on his Article V Blog.

Dodsworth says: “It’s easy to amend the Constitution.  It’s been done dozens of times since WWII.  Send the right case with the right litigants at the right time to an adequately Leftist-leaning SCOTUS and voila’, amend the Constitution. Pretty slick, eh? Through their silence, this is the end-run around the Constitution that Article V opponents defend.”

Mr. Dodsworth offers a strong argument that an Article V convention of states [I]sn’t a peril to avoid; it is a blessing to embrace.  It is the proper and peaceful means to curb a SCOTUS that recognizes no limits, not Constitutional limits nor those of God.  Just as a body in motion tends to stay in motion, so too will SCOTUS continue its anti-republican ways until it meets an opposing force, and that force is an Article V COS”.  Read his piece HERE.

Concerns Continue about the Growing National Debt –
On Nov. 13 the Greensburg (Indiana) Daily News carried a piece by Dr. Harold W. Pease, a syndicated columnist, entitled “The truth about ending enslaving debt”.

Pease points out: “Both major political parties had the power to control or end enslaving national debt the last 50 years.  Both failed.  Neither even try anymore.  Neither party had the guts to say no to gifting and now offer only more debt on our defenseless children and grandchildren.  The hard truth is, there will be no Social Security for the children of today.  The present path offers only loss of liberty and bankruptcy”.

Dr. Pease refers to most of the federal welfare-justified programs as “gifting”.  He argues that such programs are not constitutionally defensible, and could ultimately bring about the downfall of the American republic..  He says [T]he expensive programs will go, at least on the federal level, regardless, but we can yet save the Constitution and liberty, if we have the will”.  Read his thoughts HERE.

Meanwhile The Hill reported on the Senate’s rejection of Senator Rand Paul’s effort to cut federal spending.  Read the details HERE.  And, former Alaska state Senator Fritz Pettyjohn wrote on his Reagan Project blog that the average American worker is currently liable for $3,000 just for the current year interest on the national debt… not including the principle.  Read his ”What the boomers leave to their grandchildren” HERE.

Do We Need a Constitutional “Do Your Job” Amendment? –
By Oct. 1 of each year Congress has the duty to adopt a federal budget for the coming fiscal year.  Every year since 1998, Congress has blown past that deadline, with no penalty for missing that deadline.  Just like the past 20 years, Congress is once again operating the federal government on what it calls Continuing Resolutions (CR).

The web site 538 has a chart showing the past 20 years of congressional budgetary procrastination.  Since 1977 Congress has passed an average of 4.6 such CR’s every fiscal year.  Everybody is sick of Congress.  Gallup says they’re at 20% approval.  They haven’t been over 30% for 10 years.  Find the 538 chart HERE.

On Nov. 1 the Daily Signal (Heritage Foundation) carried a commentary by Charles Lee Barron, a former Idaho state legislator, entitled “Let’s Not Pay Congress If It Can’t Pass a Budget on Time”.

Even before the second CR this year, Mr. Barron said: “Congress has failed to do its job again, and we don’t have a budget for the new fiscal year.  That used to be a source of shame for Congress, but it has happened so often now that when Oct. 1 rolls around each year, no one feels all that badly anymore about their failure”.

He notes that “The consequences of that delay are much worse for all of us than we might realize.  Thousands of future contracts that are funded in next year’s budget, but not in this year’s budget, have to wait in a state of limbo.  The companies that already have won those contracts—usually through a competitive and time-sensitive selection process—have to hold their teams together, usually at their own expense, if they want to execute the federal contracts”.

Barron asks rhetorically: “Why does Congress fail to do its budgeting job every year?  It’s partly because there’s almost no consequence to lawmakers if they don’t.  Most of us don’t have jobs like that.  If we fail to do our jobs, we get fired—but not Congress.  Failing to pass the budget carries with it almost no consequences”.

He suggests: “Perhaps it’s time for that to change.  Perhaps it’s time for Congress to do its job or face unpleasant consequences. And perhaps we can structure that in such a way that it would attract the type of competent, dedicated people we’d like to make up our Congress, and drum out the types who can’t work together and get things done”.

He proposes a constitutional “Do Your Job” amendment, saying “Everyone in the country—right or left, conservative or liberal, rich or poor—would be in favor of that”.  His proposal is that Congress be required to pass a budget and get it signed by the president before Oct. 1 of each year, or else congressional pay and benefits would get moved to the bottom of the list of federal spending priorities.

His proposed constitutional amendment would mean that if the budget is deemed to be in deficit, then members of Congress don’t get paid the next year.  “Not just no salary, either.  They would get no funds for offices, no money for staff, no pension, no health care.  Not even those nice parking spaces around the Capitol”.  Read this thoughtful proposal HERE.

Compromise or Conflict?  Maybe Both –
This newsletter has sought to encourage legislators (particularly national legislators) to find a way to compromise on important national issues while addressing needed fiscal restraint.  A Nov. 20 article in Law & Liberty by James Wallner argues for “the necessity of conflict”.

Wallner, a Senior Fellow at the R Street Institute, says: “While partisans of all stripes have helped to usher in this new age [of growing national debt] by avoiding hard decisions about the budget, they regularly denounce the status quo and promise to change it.

“In Congress, lawmakers routinely introduce proposals that they claim will reverse the nation’s debt trajectory. Whatever their specific focus, however, the projects resemble the John Galt Plan [in Ann Rand’s Atlas Shrugged] in that they are too good to be true. They emphasize budget process reforms instead of direct policy changes that will have an immediate impact on debt levels. Lawmakers take this approach to solving the problem because they believe that delaying hard decisions about fiscal policy until the future is easier than making them in the present”.

He says: “When it is actually followed, the budget process produces compromise by forcing lawmakers to resolve the conflict between groups and individuals who want different things from their government. The outcome of the process determines who gets what. In doing so, it strengthens the accountability link between voters and their elected officials. It helps citizens track how Congress spends their money and, by extension, gives them a way to evaluate the extent to which policy outcomes align with their preferences”.

Wallner asserts: “Lawmakers’ growing aversion to budgetary conflict has reduced their willingness to deliberate on fiscal policy. The result is that lawmakers no longer force one another to prioritize when they make decisions about spending levels and tax policy. The only apparent concern is whether the underlying legislation can pass, and not how the government might pay for the new policies. In most circumstances, this produces policy outcomes where they spend more, tax less, and borrow to make up the difference”.   Read Wallner’s thoughts HERE.

Several Article V Convention Resolutions Still Not Received –
As reported in this newsletter a couple times, adopted state resolutions calling for an Article V convention of states have not always been properly and fully transmitted to Congress.

Constitutional amendment expert Gregory Watson reports that as of Nov. 17 there is still no evidence that the following BBA-focused Article V applications have been fully and properly filed with Congress: Nebraska’s 2010 Legislative Resolution No. 538 has not been formally received by either the US House or Senate.  Both Utah’s 2015 HJR No. 7 and Wyoming’s 2017 House Enrolled JR No. 2, while filed with the US House have yet to be formally received by the US Senate.  This is particularly sad since efforts appear to be underway to obtain the 34th application that could lead to a BBA-focused Article V convention.

Records (or lack thereof) continue to show the following two Article V applications related to the Convention of States Project effort do not appear to be fully/properly filed with Congress:  Louisiana’s 2016 SCResolution No. 52, and Utah’s 2019 SJR No. 9 have been filed with the US House, but still appear to not have been formally received by the US Senate.

The Wolf-PAC (anti-Citizens United) Article V 2015 New Jersey resolution (No. 132) still can’t be found on the US Senate’s portion of the Congressional Record.  The US House records show receipt of two copies of that resolution during 2017.

In an effort to assist state legislatures and state officials who are tasked with notifying Congress of a jointly-approved Article V application, the State Legislators’ Article V Caucus has prepared a five-page guide entitled “The Proper Way to Transmit State-Approved Article V Applications to Congress”.  It can be found HERE.

End-of-the-Year Status of Various Article V Efforts –
The Convention of States Project (CoSP), with 14 states having adopted its resolution (last one in March 2019), has seen its proposal adopted by one chamber in 7 other states.  The group also currently has aggressive efforts underway in 14 states, especially in Massachusetts, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Wisconsin, leading up to 2020 state legislative sessions.

In early November the South Carolina Libertarian Party adopted a resolution supporting the CoSP proposal, in hopes of persuading the GOP-controlled SC General Assembly to adopt the already-filed CoSP Article V application.

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The two groups working toward a single-issue Balanced Budget Amendment… BBA Task Force (BBATF), and Let Us Vote for a BBA (LUV)… have not registered any notable progress in nearly two years.  While 27 states have adopted BBA-specific Article V applications, some experts believe that 6 more existing non-subject-specific Article V applications could be aggregated with the 27… toward the 34-state threshold for calling an Article V convention.

While BBATF reports that it is raising money to enable a 2020 drive, no specific new legislative efforts are evident.  The LUV group just appointed Nebraska resident Mae James as its Executive Director, and reports it is working to get Mississippi to re-work its old BBA-like application into one which could enable the effort to reach the 34-state requirement for calling a convention of states.

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The US Term Limits (USTL) campaign has generated a lot of press during 2019 with announcements of pledges signed by state legislators and legislative candidates, but while a half dozen states entertained its proposal, and in Georgia it was approved by the Senate, recently no new states have fully approved its proposal.

Three states have adopted subject-specific USTL applications, and they believe the CoSP applications of 12 other states can be aggregated with those 3 for a total of 15.  In addition to Georgia, USTL currently has aggressive efforts underway in Iowa, New Hampshire, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

The group releases a new educational podcast every Monday, hosted by President Philip Blumel and Executive Director Nicolas Tomboulides at termlimits.com/podcast.  For instance their Nov. 25 podcast (transcript HERE) reported election victories for term limit pledge-signers.  In Louisiana 144 candidates signed pledges, committing to support the term limits bill, and 34 of them won their elections.  Reportedly one quarter of the entire Louisiana legislature has signed the pledge.  In Mississippi 20 pledge-signers were elected.

In mid-November USTL Chairman Howard Rich participated in an event sponsored by the National Constitution Center that included Harvard Law School Professor Lawrence Lessig.  During that event Lessig was quoted as saying “We have built a representative democracy that does not represent us.  Congress is the problem. We have a failed branch in our government … So we have to find a way to fix Congress. The only way they have given us is an Article V convention and I think we should try to use it for that purpose”.  A video of that event can be viewed HERE.

Will the ERA Become the 28th Amendment? –
On Nov. 6 The New York Times carried a story headlined “The Equal Rights Amendment May Pass Now.  It’s Only Been 96 Years”.  It claimed: “Virginia, soon to be under Democratic control, will likely be the 38th state to ratify the amendment.  The Supreme Court could decide what happens next”.

The writer says: “The amendment was ratified by only 35 of the necessary 38 states before a 1982 deadline. Nearly four decades later, in 2017, Nevada became the 36th.  In 2018, Illinois was the 37th. Now, Virginia’s incoming Democratic leaders have promised to take it up immediately when the legislature convenes in January — and given that it failed in the Virginia Senate by only one vote when the body was under Republican control, passage is almost assured”.

As the article says, “The big question is whether Congress will void the ratification deadline — or whether it was ever enforceable to begin with”.  Then comes the question of five state ratifications that were subsequently rescinded.  Read the Times piece HERE.

The primary organization heading the renewed drive for ratification of the proposed Equal Rights Amendment is the ERA Coalition, headed by Carol Jenkins and Jessica Neuwirth.  That group claims 94% of Americans support the ERA.

On Nov. 6 the Independent Women’s Forum (IWF) carried a related report.  Their take was a bit different.  Their Policy Analyst is quoted as saying “While proponents characterize the ERA as merely enshrining the basic legal equality of men and women into the highest law of the land, the reality is that the Amendment could have sweeping consequences unintended by voters. Risking those consequences is foolish when legal equality is already guaranteed by the Constitution, and buttressed by federal and state law”.  Read that report HERE.

On Nov. 22 PBS News Hour carried a report headlined “Equal Rights Amendment edges closer to reality”.  It said: “In the shadow of last week’s impeachment hearings, the House Judiciary Committee paved a path for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment in the first full congressional hearing on the measure since 1983”.  The committee voted 21 to 11 in favor of a resolution to eliminate a deadline for the ERA.  Read that report HERE.

The December edition of the National Review will also be carrying a related story headlined “Is the Equal Rights Amendment Back from the Dead?”  Read it HERE.

Upcoming Related Events –
Wednesday, Dec. 4, 4 to 6 PM – 1576 Sherman St., Denver, CO
Event:  Defending Representative Democracy & Free Enterprise – The Critical Role of Colorado Business – sponsored by Business for American Promise, Business for America, and Ranked Choice Voting for Colorado… with US Congressman Ken Buck (CO) and Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold participating.  A follow-up to this event from 7 to 7:30 PM will take place at the Falling Rock Tap House, 1919 Blake St. with American Promise President Jeff Clements talking about the group’s proposed constitutional amendment.

This event is noted because American Promise (aka Business for American Promise) has as its mission: [T]o unite business leaders in non-partisan advocacy for a 28th Amendment to end unlimited political spending, foster honest competition, and reestablish integrity in government”.  The group is loosely affiliated with WolfPAC.  The two groups are pursuing similar goals by different approaches.

December 4 through 6 – Westin Resort, Scottsdale, AZ
Event:  ALEC’s 2019 States & Nation Policy Summit – sponsored by the American Legislative Exchange Council.  Workshops include sessions on federalism, fiscal policy reform, civics education, and other topics of interest to state leaders.  More info HERE.

 

December 10 through 12 – JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort, Phoenix, AZ
Event:  NCSL’s 2019 Capital Forum – hosted by National Conference of State Legislatures.  During their summer meeting in Nashville NCSL created a State Federalism Subcommittee of the Executive Committee.  Leadership by the Wisconsin and Utah delegations brought this issue to the forefront.  Details HERE.

A Thought to Ponder –

Although the sovereignty of the states continues to diminish
under the growing power of the federal government,
the United States, as the name implies,
is in fact a collection of individual states,
each with its own social and geographic interests.
The Electoral College exists to protect those interests.
Gary Abernathy, Columnist for
The Washington Post
October 28, 2018
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