April 2017 Newsletter

by | Apr 7, 2017 | AVC Newsletter

This month…

  • Arizona Calls Formal Planning Convention of States
  • CoSP Campaign Gains Two States for Current Total of 10
  • BBA Drive Loses 1 & Gains 1 – Still at 29 States
  • Wisconsin Seeks to be 30th BBA Application
  • National Debt Described as ‘a Huge Threat to Millennials’
  • Term Limits Proposal is Moving Along in Several States
  • Compact for America Proposal Approved in 5th State
  • Single Subject Amendment Effort Sees Some Action
  • Proposal to Use Article V to Address Social Issues Fails

Those Anti-Article V Misinformation Campaigns –

  • Hard-Hitting Article Chides Opponents of Article V
  • Related – Andy Schlafly Called Out for Misinformation
  • ‘Runaway Convention’ Notion Is a Modern Contrivance

Article V Research Resources –

  • Five New Article V-Related Research Papers Available

Arizona Calls Formal Planning Convention of States –
Thursday March 30 the Arizona legislature formally called for a convention of states to plan for an Article V convention to propose a balanced budget amendment to the US Constitution.  The convention will be held in Phoenix, convening on Tuesday, September 12, 2017.

Formal invitations to the event will be issued to all state legislatures by the Arizona Senate President and Speaker of the House in the next few weeks.  This is the first formal national convention of the sovereign states to be held since the Washington Peace Conference was held in 1861 as state leaders sought to head off the civil war.

Some months ago leaders of the Tennessee legislature had announced their intent to host a similar convention.  Conflicts with a group of what were described as misinformed activists prevented the Tennessee legislature from timely formalizing their proposed event.

The Arizona convention has been called under HCR2022, an Arizona bill that both formalized the call and set the specifications for selecting and instructing a delegation to a future Article V convention.

The call for the September event describes it as “a planning convention of the states, consisting of commissioners chosen and authorized in the manner that each respective state legislature determines or, if no manner is determined by a state legislature, selected jointly by the majority leadership of each legislative chamber of that state.”

The purpose will be to “plan for, and recommend rules for and procedures to, the prospective convention for proposing a balanced budget amendment to the United Stated Constitution”, and “Recommending to Congress the criteria for determining the initial date and location of a convention for proposing a balanced budget amendment.” 

HCR2022 can be read in full HERE.

CoSP Campaign Gains Two States for Current Total of 10 –
The Convention of States Project (CoSP) proposal was approved in the Arizona House on February 9 by a vote of 31 to 27.  Then on February 22 the bill was defeated in the Senate by a vote of 13 to 17.  However, the Senate voted to reconsider the bill, and on March 13 the measure was approved by a vote of 16 to 14… making Arizona the 9th state to adopt the CoSP multi-subject application for an Article V convention.

Then North Dakota became the 10th state to support the CoSP proposal.  The North Dakota House approved HCR3006 on February 17 by a vote of 69 to 18.  Finally on March 24th the Senate approved the resolution (vote unknown).

The CoSP campaign has been busy in many states during current legislative sessions. For instance: Iowa (SJR8 was filed on March 2, and is currently in the Senate State Government Committee); Missouri (SCR4 and related bill HCR5 are working their way through various committees); Ohio (SJR1 has been referred to the Government Oversight and Reform Committee) while companion bill HJR2 is pending before the House Federalism and Interstate Relations Committee); and in West Virginia (HCR70 is pending in the House Judiciary Committee).  The CoSP bill has not yet been introduced, but a rally in support of the measure was scheduled to be held in front of the Colorado state capitol building on March 30.

BBA Drive Loses 1 & Gains 1 – Still at 29 States –
On March 15th the New Mexico legislature used HJR10 to rescind all prior Article Vapplications including one from 1976 that applied for a BBA-focused Article V convention.  Common Cause immediately took credit for organizing the New Mexico drive to kill theArticle V applications.

In a fund-raising e-mail a few days later Robert Reich, primary leader of Common Cause, crowed “We have a plan to stop them.  Common Cause is fighting state-by-state to block and rescind calls for an Article V Convention.  Please support our work with a donation today.”

On Monday March 27, the Arizona legislature responded by formally adopting their BBA-focused Article V application.  Their HCR2013 had 34 co-sponsors, led by State Rep. Kelly Townsend.  On February 9 the bill was approved in the Arizona House by a vote of 33 to 25.  For a variety of reasons the bill was held back in the Senate, but was finally adopted on March 27 by a vote of 17 to 12.

That development caused Reich to write, “Arizona just became the 29th state to join the call — we must escalate our state-by-state organizing to stop this right-wing attack on our Constitution. Please donate today.”  Sadly, far right organizations like Eagle Forum and the John
Birch Society are contributing their efforts to help Common Cause in its disruptive efforts.

An uninvolved observer noted, “It is ironic that the President of Common Cause is objecting, given the Common Cause motto of, ‘Holding power accountable’.”

The BBA Task Force is also continuing its campaign in Kentucky, Minnesota, Montana, South Carolina, Washington and plans to return to Idaho in the next session.  For more information on the BBA campaign, click HERE.

Wisconsin Seeks to be 30th BBA Application –  
According to a report by Wisconsin, Wisconsin State Sen. Chris Kapenga, has introduced SJR18, a resolution calling for his state to join an Article V convention to draft and propose a balanced budget amendment to the US Constitution.  Kapenga has also introduced a related Delegate Act, placing certain restrictions on Wisconsin’s Delegates at the anticipated convention.

Kapanga has been a national leader in the Article V movement.  He said, “We’re excited about it.  We’ve got a good list of cosponsors, so it looks pretty good for this resolution to go through,” His resolution, with 52 sponsors, is currently in the Senate Financial Services, Constitution and Federalism Committee.

Kapenga, quoted on Wisconsin Radio Network, noted that the national debt is approaching $20 trillion, and that he believes there’s a pressing need to require that Congress pass a balanced budget. He was quoted as saying, “When…successful civilizations have failed, every single time the national debt, or the debt of the country, has always been a factor in their fall.

When he introduced his bill Kapenga said, “We’re not saying that everything else is a bad idea, but I have to deal with the political realities.  This is what people can rally around and I can get the votes on.”

“Now there are other things, like reducing federal powers in other areas.  I fully agree with that and I think most people do,” he said.  “But because we haven’t done this in the history of our nation before, people are a little more comfortable saying let’s go through a single subject first to make sure we understand how it works and get some comfort around it.”

National Debt Described as ‘a Huge Threat to Millennials’
Recently the Washington Examiner carried an article by Patrick Lee Onwuka entitled“Total federal debt set to pass $20 trillion, a huge threat to millennials”.

The author says to put $20 trillion in perspective, “that’s larger than the entire economies of China, Japan, and Germany combined.”

He points out that Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid collectively consume 71% of the entire federal budget, “with interest on our debt now costing an estimated $223 billion per year. These programs largely account for the near-quadrupling of our national debt over the last two decades.”

His answer?  “Elected leaders in Washington can help to reverse these trends and make the tough choices to control spending and pay down the national debt, or they can continue leaving future generations with crippling debt that is not of their own making.”

In the immediate days ahead Americans will be watching national elected leaders grapple with budget issues.  Will they do as he suggests?  Not likely to happen… until a Constitutional provision mandates a balanced budget.  Read Mr. Onwuka’s full articleHERE.

Term Limits Proposal is Moving Along in Several States –
Two powerful Tennessee political activists, Chris Devaney and Bob Davis have registered in Tennessee as lobbyists for US Term Limits, which advocates for term limits at all levels of government.  Former Tennessee State Rep. Steve Buttry is also representing the group.

Their work is directed toward winning legislative approval of Tennessee bill SJR92, a resolution calling for an Article V convention to propose Congressional term limits.  SJR92 is currently in the Tennessee Senate Judiciary Committee.

In Georgia the US Term Limits bill, SR195, was approved in the Senate 31 to 19 on March 9.  It was pending in the House Rules Committee when the Georgia session ended March 30.  A similar bill, HB827, was introduced in the Hawaii Senate in January.  It still remains in that’s state’s Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee.  Reportedly Hawaii has never adopted an Article V application on any subject.

The US Term Limits proposal is still under consideration in Arizona (HCR2023 – with 9 sponsors, passed through the House), Illinois (SJR1, is in the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments), Mississippi (SCR551 is a multi-subject request for a convention), Missouri (HCR10), South Carolina (SCR545) and Texas (numerous related bills).

Compact for America Proposal Approved in 5th State –
In Arizona HB2226, the bill to advance the Compact for America (CfA) proposal was passed out of Senate Appropriations Committee on March 7 by a vote of 6 to 4.  Then on March 14 it passed out of both the Senate majority and minority caucuses with “Do Pass” recommendations.

The CfA bill was approved by the full Senate on March 27 by a vote of 17 to 12.  It had earlier passed a House floor vote by 33 to 25.  Then on March 30 Governor Ducey signed the bill, making Arizona the 5th state to join the CfA compact.

Also known as the Compact for a Balanced Budget, the CfA proposal is currently under consideration in Texas as SB959 where it is pending in the Senate State Affairs Committee.  The CfA effort seeks to use Article V for a pre-written proposed balanced budget amendment using a compact of states to accomplish its mission.  This approach requires 38 states to join the compact.  The group is also currently working in Missouri (SB13) and Oklahoma (HB1434).

CfA supporter and Heritage Foundation Research Fellow Baker Spring has written a piece that was published March 15 in Economics entitled “Pathway to a Balanced Budget Begins with a Fixed Debt Limit that Provides Flexibility”.  He points out that the debt ceiling of the 2015 Bipartisan Budget Act (Public Law 114-74) expired during March, and that the federal government is currently using “extraordinary measures” to avoid defaulting on federal debt.

Spring believes Congress should raise the debt limit to $23 trillion for a period of time, “as a stepping stone to putting a powerful, yet plausible, balanced federal budget in place when coupled with the ratification of the state-of-the-art balanced budget constitutional amendment now proposed by the Compact for a Balanced Budget.”  Spring’s piece can be read HERE.

Single Subject Amendment Effort Sees Some Action –
W. S. “Spider” Webb, founder of the Single Subject Amendment (SSA) Article V effort reports that his proposal has been receiving some consideration during the 2017 state legislative season.

In Wyoming HJR3, had 7 sponsors and made its way through the House on a 33 to 24 vote.  It even received a 3 to 2 “Do Pass” recommendation from the Senate Revenue Committee.  Unfortunately the Wyoming Senate did not get to the bill before the Wyoming Legislature adjourned sine die.

The SSA bill seeks an Article V convention “for the sole purpose of proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States to provide that Congress shall pass no bill, and no bill shall become law, which embraces more than one subject, which shall be clearly expressed in the bill’s title.”  If adopted, the amendment would prohibit “riders,” “earmarks,” and “pork barrel spending” that is not related to the subject of the bill.

In Alabama Senator Greg Albritton has introduced the SSA bill as SJR57.  The bill has been referred to the Senate committee on Rules.  For more information on the Single Subject Amendment, click HERE.

Proposal to Use Article V to Address Social Issues Fails – 
February 28th the Arkansas Senate approved SJR7 by a vote of 18 to 9 (applying for anArticle V convention to define “marriage” as a union of one man and one woman) and SJR9 by a vote of 19 to 9 (applying for an Article V convention to outlaw abortion).

The proposed resolutions died in the Arkansas House on March 14 by votes of 29 to 41 and 29 to 38.  SJR7 had 21 sponsors, and SJR9 had 16.

Those Anti-Article V Misinformation Campaigns:

Hard-Hitting Article Chides Opponents of Article V recently carried an article entitled “Why Are Conservatives in Bed with Lefties?” by Convention of States Project (CoSP) Attorney Rita Dunaway.

The article underscores the fact that an assortment of George Soros-funded leftist groups are actively in opposition to an Article V convention (including Common Cause, People for the American Way, Democracy 21 and the Brennan Center).  Yet members of the Eagle Forum and the John Birch Society, well-known, right-wing Article V opponents, are working side-by-side with them in peddling misinformation about Article V.

Ms. Dunaway says, “It should be alarming and painful to all constitutionalists to see any conservative organization share talking points with Chief Justice Burger (who presided over the infamous Roe v. Wade decision) and George Soros’ progressive organizations in order to denigrate a pedigreed Constitutional process commended to us by the Founding Fathers to protect the states from an abusive federal government.”

This combine of far right-far left groups has been particularly aggressive during this legislative year.  Their misinformation campaigns have caused state legislators in several states to withhold support for Article V proposals… and in some states to rescind existingArticle V applications.  Read Ms. Dunaway’s entire article HERE.

Related – Andy Schlafly Called Out for Misinformation –
A related piece written March 14 by Jen Kuznicki (on a personal blog) entitled, “Shame! Andy Schlafly purposely misquotes Scalia to mislead Eagle Forum” also underscores current misinformation efforts to stir fear about Article V.

She quotes Mr. Schafly as saying, “Justice Antonin Scalia called it a ‘horrible idea’ during the year before his untimely death. ‘This is not a good century to write a constitution,’ Scalia warned in 2015, after spending 30 years defending our original Constitution on the U.S. Supreme Court.”

As Ms. Kuznicki reports, “Justice Antonin Scalia did NOT call an Article V convention of states a ‘horrible idea.’  He called a constitutional convention a ‘horrible idea,’ and Andy Schlafly knows it….”  Read Ms. Kuznicki’s remarks HERE.

The Scalia quote in question was actually from a 2014 Marvin Kalb TV interview (The Kalb Report) at about 1 hour and 6 minutes into the interview.  (Watch it HERE.)  Scalia expressed opposition to a “Constitutional convention”, a convention for writing or rewriting the constitution.  That is not what an Article V convention is about.  That entire Article of the Constitution is limited to setting forth ways to “propose amendments”.  Scalia’s follow-up remarks actually were in support of “targeted amendments… adopted (or proposed) by the states”.  That is what the second option in Article V provides for.

‘Runaway Convention’ Notion Is a Modern Contrivance – 
In the 1950’s and 60’s Progressives actively sought their desired changes through courts when it was not possible through legislatures.  Many believe this was an express tactical choice to seek through judicial activism what was stymied by legislatures.

The Achilles’ heel of this tactic is a constitutional amendment.  As a result, it became important to neuter the Article V Amendment process… particularly to prevent triggering byArticle V convention applications, to protect Progressive successes achieved in the courts.

Research shows that this desire drove the “runaway convention” fiction that popped up in the 1960s.  A Google search of the phrase “runaway convention” shows its appearance in the English lexicon coincides with this.  That misleading phrase (and the fear-mongering it instilled) didn’t exist before this modern usage.

So in the end, generating unwarranted “fear” of the Article V convention process was a ploy introduced by Progressives as a way to prevent states from countering Progressives’ use of judicial activism.  If this is true, it seems to paint Eagle Forum et al., as having fallen for a deception invented by Progressives.

New Article V Research Resources:

Stern Addresses ‘Single Amendment Convention’ Question –
Respected Constitutional expert and attorney Michael Stern has issued a new paper dealing with the question “Can an Article V convention for proposing amendments be limited to considering a single amendment specified by the state legislatures in their applications?”

In the well-documented 2,138-word paper Stern concludes that, “the state legislatures have the power to limit an Article V convention to a single amendment.”  Stern’s new paper can be read HERE.

Natelson Debunks Anti-Article V Rhetoric – 
On March 21 The Hill carried an op-ed piece by Article V expert Rob Natelson entitled“Voters shouldn’t be shy about amending the Constitution to bypass Congress”.

Natelson discusses efforts by opponents of reform and their media disinformation campaign to stop Article V campaigns.  He says, “Opponents’ disinformation campaign is designed to frighten Americans away from using a convention to bypass the Washington power establishment.  In some ways, their campaign resembles efforts to suppress voting among targeted groups.”

He further point out, “The convention of states process is well-honed, safe, and effective.  Americans need to consider carefully whether the Constitution should be amended.  But they should not allow disinformation to influence their choice.”  Read his article HERE.

When 34 States Have Applied – What Legal Issues Then? –
“Justiciability”?  The word sounds like something an attorney would write.  Oh that’s right… an attorney did write this article (a very knowledgeable attorney.)

In the recently released “The Justiciability of Controversies Related to the Article VConvention” Michael Stern delves into the question of whether or not legal issues will be raised when 34 states ultimately adopt resolutions calling for an Article V convention.

Other than the fact that the balance budget effort now has one more state than referenced in Stern’s piece (now a total of 29), the 1,050-word article provides an excellent overview of potential legal issues.  Read his paper HERE.

Democracy Institute Paper Opines that CoSP Will Fail –
The Democracy Institute, affiliated with the Cato Institute, describes itself as “a politically independent public policy research organization”.  During March its Founder/Director Patrick Basham published a paper entitled “Opening Pandora’s Box?  Why the Convention of States Project Will Fail”.

Basham’s 17-page paper seems to support the use of Article V, while noting, “Most fiscal conservatives and libertarians are attracted to the economic and political reforms implied by CoS’s thematic resolution.  However, the proposed amendments’ respective merits should take a back seat to an even more important question: can such a broad application sufficiently constrain the assembled convention delegates and ensure that they will not venture off into other constitutional areas?”

While the paper seems to mirror some of the long-disabused “runaway convention” fears, the author’s concerns are directed toward broad multi-subject applications while saying “A limited convention on a single issue, such as a balanced budget amendment or congressional term limits, is far more likely than a thematic one to be a successful convention.”

Basham concludes by saying, “Only narrowly focused, non-partisan, single amendment convention solutions offer the likelihood of eventual ratification and the promise of positive change.”  Download and read the Basham paper HERE (link is below the first paragraph).

Research Paper Reveals Many Past Conventions of States –
On March 14 Article V expert Rob Natelson released a paper detailing his most recent research on the history of American conventions of states and colonies.

Titled “More 20th Century Conventions of States Discovered—Many More!” the paper summarizes more than 20 inter-colonial conventions, 11 interstate conventions held between 1776 and 1787, 6 during the 19th century, and the Colorado River Compact Commission (CRCC) of 1922.  Most of these were regional meetings, but they also included seven “general” or national conclaves—held in 1754, 1765, 1774, 1780, 1786, 1787, and 1861.

These past conventions provide valuable guidance for a modern-day assembly such as anArticle V convention.  Read Natelson’s newest paper HERE.

A Concluding Thought…

If the content of Article V didn’t scare Madison, Mason, Franklin, Washington, et al, then why should it scare modern day citizens and political leaders?
The Framers DESIGNED it for us to use.