|Former US Comptroller General Says Now is Time to Act – |
The January edition of The Washington Times carried an opinion piece written by David Walker, a former US Comptroller General, headlined Putting America’s finances in order.Walker starts by reflecting on the last 20 years and says, “Total debt subject to the debt ceiling limit is about $22 trillion today and growing versus $5.7 trillion at the end of fiscal 2000 and declining. Trillion-dollar annual deficits are projected to return in fiscal 2020.”
He says, “It is now clear that neither major political party is fiscally responsible,” and goes on to say “Shockingly, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects the federal government will spend more on interest than national defense within five years and total interest costs will reach almost $1 trillion within 10 years. And what do we get for interest? Nothing.”
Walker concludes by saying “It has become clear that most federal elected officials cannot be relied upon to voluntarily put our finances in order. Therefore, the time has come to enact a fiscal responsibility constitutional amendment that will force our federal elected officials to make tough choices regarding mandatory spending, tax preferences and other key structural challenges sooner rather than later.” Read this piece HERE.
Editors Call Nation’s Fiscal Wellbeing ‘Precarious’ –
In early January the editorial board of Deseret News (Salt Lake City, Utah) published its opinion that “The country’s precarious financial perch is indeed what experts from the private sector to the military call America’s greatest national security threat.”
Among other observations the editorial said “The country paid $371 billion in interest during fiscal year 2018, roughly equivalent to the entire Medicaid budget. That was a 20 percent increase from the previous year, and that was with interest rates at near-historic lows. Any uptick in rates, even a moderate increase toward historic averages, could balloon yearly interest payments to almost $1 trillion. That’s equivalent to taking all dollars designated for defense and Medicare and throwing them to the nation’s creditors without making a dent in principle. No tax hike or spending cut could reconcile that difference.” Read their full opinion HERE.
Developments Toward Government Fiscal Restraint –
Congressionally-introduced BBA proposals are already back for the 116th Congress. Mississippi US Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith has introduced SJ Res 3. Alabama Congressman Bradley Byrne has introduced HJ Res 6, and Ohio Congressman Steve Chabot has introduced HJ Res 22. In Congress, these proposed BBA constitutional amendments are always dead-on-arrival, never even seeing committee hearings.
Meanwhile, on January 14, new Illinois Governor J. B. Pritzker pledged to pass a balanced budget “and take on the state’s ‘challenging’ financial problems with ‘hard choices’” according to Reuters. The report noted that the state’s “precarious financial situation … includes a huge unfunded pension liability and billions of dollars in unpaid bills. As a result, Illinois’ credit ratings were downgraded to a notch or two above the junk level.” Instead of detailing how he would balance the state’s budget, Pritzker used the occasion to announce several proposed new spending measures. Read the Reuters piece HERE.
The January 7 edition of the Wall Street Journal carried a thought-provoking piece entitled Lying Prices Keep America Hooked on Spending. The writers focus on the thought that “When politicians hide the cost of government, ‘free college’ and ‘Medicare for all’ sound like bargains”.
They say, “Recent history demonstrates that the price of each new government program rarely tells the whole story. In the past decade taxpayers were charged $27.2 trillion for federal services that cost $35.6 trillion, adding more than $9 trillion to the national debt. Our tax bills told us that Uncle Sam’s good works were about 26% cheaper than their real cost.” Read the article HERE.
On January 8 The Hill carried an opinion piece by Georgetown Law Professor David A. Super. His opinion, entitled The progressive case for pay-as-you-go budget rules claims that “Pay-go requires that any legislation reducing revenues or liberalizing programs that do not depend on annual appropriations must pay for itself with corresponding increases in revenues or tightening of direct spending programs.”
Super describes so-called “pay-go” as having “a constructive role in fiscal management.” He says, “Deficits are not the economic cyanide that some claim, but neither are our resources unlimited. Pay-go is far superior to other budget control devices.”
Not a supporter of constitutionally-mandated federal fiscal restraints, Super says, “A balanced budget amendment would permanently lock in austerian (sic) economics….” Read his wisdom HERE.
Stivers Rule Retained by Dem-Controlled US House –
Bill Walker of FOAVC.org reports that US House Democrats, whose majority now controls that House for the 116th Congress, has extended the so-called Stivers Rule within the House Rules. In 2015 Ohio Republican Congressman Steve Stivers introduced a rule change (House Rule Section 3c) which created a collection system for Article V convention applications on which Congress could base a convention call.
The Stivers Rule was the first time in US history that Congress created any process for counting state applications. Before implementation, the official count of state applications by Congress stood at zero. Since the rule was instigated, the committee has gathered 140 applications containing at least one set of applications representing applications by two thirds of the several state legislatures. The Article V Applications list, maintained by the Office of the Clerk of the US House, can be accessed HERE.
Need Seen for Congressional Term Limits –
This past month a web site called 71 Republic.com carried a piece entitled Congressional Term Limits Are a Necessity. The article builds on the statement that “With 14% congressional approval ratings but reelection rates often over 90%, it is clear that term limits are essential in America.”
There are dozens of US senators and representatives who have served at least 20 years in Congress, some since the 1970s. The article suggests that “In a democratic republic like the US, the only way for the government to be for the people is for it to be of the people.”
Before applauding the US Term Limits efforts, the writer notes that “An incumbent is far more likely to be elected than a challenger. This prevents new members and ideas from entering the political realm at the federal level. It only serves to disadvantage the country. A fresh group every few years with new takes and policies would be more beneficial;….” Read the story HERE.
A similar story on the web site for WTSP-TV in Tampa, Florida pointed out that “During the 115th Congress, there were at least nine proposals from federal lawmakers to enact congressional term limits. None of them moved any farther than being introduced in either the House or the Senate.” Read that story HERE.
The US Term Limits Campaign Getting Traction –
Philip Blumel, President of US Term Limits (USTL) has announced that US Rep. Francis Rooney and US Senators Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Mike Lee, and David Purdue have introduced the USTL resolution for a constitutional amendment in Congress, and that they are working to add cosponsors and secure a vote.
But as Blumel said, “Let’s be real. The rest of Congress is not going to push for a term limits amendment unless they see the writing on the wall. That’s why we are also working with states to bypass Congress and pass the amendment through a national Term Limits (Article V) convention!”
Newly elected Pennsylvania Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (D) has also introduced three proposed constitutional amendments including Congressional Term Limits, a balanced budget amendment and what he calls a “No Budget, No Pay” Amendment. Read his proposals HERE.
Already during 2019 state legislative sessions, the USTL measure has been introduced in Arizona, Georgia, West Virginia – HJR14 (where they have 11 sponsors), New Hampshire – HCR6, Maryland, Vermont, South Carolina, Kentucky, Colorado, Michigan, Connecticut and Utah.
Nick Tomboulides, Executive Director of USTL says that according to a nationwide poll conducted last month “More than 82% of Americans have rejected the career politician model and want to replace it with citizen leadership. The way to achieve that goal is through a congressional term limits amendment.”
Convention of States Project Reports Growth –
The Convention of States Project (CoSP) reports that it now has supportive petition signers in every single state house district in America. It claims 3.7 million supporters nationwide. The movement has 12 state applications so far.
On January 15 the editor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch (Virginia) published an editorial calling on state legislators to “discipline the federal government”. He endorsed the CoSP approach as a way to do that. Read his editorial HERE.
In Nebraska, State Senator Steve Halloran and 16 co-sponsors have introduced the CoSP resolution (LR7) in the new legislative session, where the measure fell short last year. Sen. Tom Brewer has also announced his support for the bill.
As of mid-January the CoSP proposal had been filed in Arkansas where SJR3 has 17 sponsors; New Jersey where SCR28 has 7 sponsors and ACR73 has 12 sponsors;
South Carolina where S0112 has 7 sponsors (this application is subject to a lengthy list of reservations, understandings, and declarations); Virginia where HJR685 has 5 sponsors (again, this application is subject to a lengthy list of reservations, understandings, and declarations); and Wyoming where SJ0004 has 11 sponsors.
The Oklahoma legislature is considering HJR1004, a dual Article V application (BBA and CoSP), A few years ago the Oklahoma legislature already approved a similar dual application, so it is unclear why this proposal is on the table.
Other Recent Article V-related Developments
Virginia Joins Other States in Effort to Revive the ERA –
Last month this newsletter reported that the Missouri state legislature was considering ratification of the 1970s era proposed Equal Rights Amendment as a result of encouragement by a local group known as ERA38. They believe that if their state legislature ratifies the proposal it would be the 38th to do so, thereby finally ratifying to constitutional amendment, even though two deadlines for ratification (1972 and 1977) have long since passed and four or five states have since rescinded their ratification.
Now the Virginia legislature has decided to join the ERA ratification effort. Their Senate bill (SJR284) to ratify has 23 sponsors. A companion House bill (HJR579) has 13 sponsors.
The Virginia Senate has already approved bills to ratify the ERA five times since 2011, most recently in 2016. Since 2011, the full House has never voted on the ERA. .
Virginia proponents for adding the ERA to the Constitution are not worried about the long-passed ratification deadline. “Laws can be changed as easily as legislators change their mind,” says Virginia Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy. “The difference is there’s [now] a huge push and a concerted effort by advocates across the country to help make sure that the message is being heard and understood.”
Reportedly a recently released poll by the Judy Ford Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University found 81 percent of the respondents favor ratification of the ERA. As of early December a citizen campaign collected roughly 5,600 signatures on a petition supporting the amendment. Their goal was to gather 20,000 signatures by mid-January.
Six Virginia legislators are hedging their bet by sponsoring HJR692, a memorial asking Congress to once again propose an ERA, this time with a few modifications.
On January 20 The Atlantic published an overview of the renewed ERA effort. Other than its inaccurate information about the origins of the 1787 Constitution, the article is useful in understand the rationale of modern day ERA advocates. Read it HERE.
Then on January 22 The Hill produced another piece entitled Momentum For Equal Rights Amendment that expanded coverage of the newly revived ERA effort. Read that story HERE.
Wolf-PAC Has Their ‘Fair & Free Elections’ Bill Filed in 5 States –
The Wolf-PAC organization has found sponsors and has filed their “Fair and Free Elections” application in five states so far in the 2019 legislative season.
The states where their Article V application has been introduced include Iowa (SJR6), Nebraska (LR9), New Mexico (HJR4), Oregon where HJM4 has 7 sponsors, Virginia (HJR668), Washington (SJM8002) and Wyoming where SJ0002 had 5 sponsors (that measure reportedly died in committee but HJ0008 (a similar bill) was also introduced in the Wyoming House. .
The New York legislature is considering S01763 and A01248. Both are variations of the Wolf-PAC proposals being considered in other states.
Three More Article V-related Bills Have Been Filed –
The Washington state legislature is considering SJM8004, a proposed BBA-focused Article V application. The bill has 10 sponsors. A House version of the bill (HJM4005) was filed on January 23. Frank Bowen of the BBA Task Force reports “Some of the Washington state legislators are saying ‘We need to step up’.” Frank says “We have a golden opportunity here.”
In Missouri a bill (HCR19) has been introduced calling for an Article V convention “limited to removing ‘except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted’ from the thirteenth amendment of the Constitution of the United States”. The bill is HCR19
In Congress, Texas US Rep Al Green has filed a proposed Constitutional amendment (HJ Res 13) that seeks to “clarify” Presidential pardoning power.
AV Caucus Adds 3 State Leaders to its Steering Committee –
The State Legislators’ Article V Caucus (producers of this newsletter) was formed in 2013. Since then the Caucus has been led by Colorado State Senator Kevin Lundberg and New Mexico State Rep. Yvette Herrell.
This month three additional former and current state legislators have joined the Caucus Steering Committee. They include Arizona State Rep. Kelly Townsend, Utah State Rep. Ken Ivory, and former Iowa State Senator Neal Schuerer.
Townsend is a former member of the US Navy. She has been a member of the Arizona House of Representatives since 2013. She served as Chair of the Arizona House Federalism Committee in 2015-16 and as House Majority Whip in 2018. Her most significant Article V-related role was as President of the historic 2017 Arizona BBA Planning Convention.
Ivory is a lawyer specializing in estate planning and mediation. Since 2011 he has been a member of the Utah House where he has served for many years as Chairman of the Utah House Commission on Federalism. Under the leadership of that Commission, Utah Valley University formed its Federalism Course as a way to educate legislators and attorneys about the American form of federalism (learn more HERE). Ken, widely known as an expert on federalism, has also served as the Federalism Task Force Chair for the American Legislative Exchange Council. In 2016 Ken served as President of the first ever simulated Convention of States in Williamsburg, VA. He was also elected Vice President of the 2017 Arizona BBA Planning Convention.
Schuerer served in the Iowa State Senate from 1997 to 2005. He was also Iowa’s delegate to the 2017 Arizona BBA Planning Convention. Now living in Colorado, Neal currently serves as Executive Director of Campaign Constitution, focusing on encouraging state legislatures to use the powers in Article V.
Article V Does Not Provide a Path to Senate Reapportionment –
There has been a lot of press recently about the need to make the US Senate more democratic… more population-based. Some have suggested that a constitutional amendment could accomplish that.
A January 8 article in The Federalist by Kyle Sammin makes it clear that the Constitution’s amendment provisions (particularly Article V) expressly prevent such a modification to America’s form of government . Sammin challenges an article in The Atlantic that purports to show ways around current Constitutional provisions. He writes an excellent, detailed (10-page) thesis on why the Atlantic article was way off base and why the objectives of Senate reapportionment are undesirable. Those interested in this topic can read his dissertation HERE.
Words to Ponder…
“Posterity! You will never know how much it cost the present generation
to preserve your freedom.
I hope you will make good use of it. If you do not,
I shall repent in heaven that I ever took half the pains to preserve it.”
A concluding thought in a letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams
On April 26, 1777