January 2022 Newsletter

by | Dec 28, 2021 | AVC Newsletter

Working Together: Academy 2.0 Recap

Are Our Rights Secure?

Book Review: Who Decides? States as Laboratories of Constitutional Experimentation

Article V Convention Legislative Progress Report

Working Together: Academy 2.0 Recap

Legislators and Article V supporters from across the country gathered in San Diego and virtually to participate in Academy of States 2.0 on December 1. The event was sponsored by the Association of Mature American Citizens, the American Legislative Exchange Council, American Promise, the Bill of Financial Responsibilities Project, Path to Reform, the Reagan Project, the Reason Foundation, State Legislators Article V Caucus, US Term Limits, Vote “Americans’ Prosperity First” Amendment, and Wolf-PAC.
A video was prepared for the introduction to Academy 2.0, which can be viewed by clicking HERE.

Moderated by Utah State Representative Ken Ivory, the morning opened with a video montage of past Presidents from both parties commenting on chronic problems facing the United States intercut with examples of how Article V can be leveraged by the states to help address them.

The group also heard remarks from national figures from across the political spectrum including Congressmen Jamie Raskin (D-MD) and John Katko (R-NY), Retired Admiral and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Bill Owens (read his RealClear Politics article HERE), Harvard University Professor of Law Lawrence Lessig, and former US Comptroller General David Walker (read his op-ed HERE).

Most of the major Article V advocacy groups were on-hand to brief legislators on their respective initiatives, including various fiscal control proposals, congressional term limits, and campaign finance reform. Participants had the opportunity to ask questions and participate in a straw poll to express their level of support for each proposal. The conference wrapped up as legislators were invited to join the Phoenix Correspondence Commission by Executive Director Bruce Lee. The PCC was formed in 2017 at the Balanced Budget Amendment Planning Convention in Phoenix in order to facilitate communication surrounding Article V among states and between the states and Congress.

The most notable aspect of this Academy was the emphasis on the necessity for cooperation among Article V advocates. Professor Lessig was blunt: any Article V advocacy organization that is partisan in its orientation will eventually die because even if it manages to get a convention, it won’t be able to secure the support of the 3/4 of the states necessary to ratify any amendments that may come out of it. If we can’t “get real” about that, we might as well close up shop and go home.

In anticipation of the passage of the 34th and final application necessary for an Article V Convention to propose a balanced budget amendment, the State Legislators Article V Caucus and Path to Reform are making plans for Academy 3.0. The event will focus on equipping state legislators to draft delegate selection and oversight legislation, choose delegates and alternates, draft instructions for their delegates, and create a plan to support their delegation at the convention. The Academy is expected to take place in Denver in August 2022.

Are Our Rights Secure? by Vickie Deppe

Americans across the political spectrum are concerned that our rights will be “on the chopping block” at an Article V Convention, especially those fought for by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his counterparts. These concerns are entirely understandable: the Jim Crow era is still within our living memory, and this recent history has left many with the impression that when it comes to civil rights, the federal government has played the hero opposite the villainous states. Indeed, the term “states’ rights” is anathema to many. The quick-and-easy response to this concern is the high bar of ratification: 3/4 of the states (currently 38) must ratify any amendment proposed by the convention. But a more thorough analysis of our history reveals that state governments played a positive role in propelling our nation forward.

For example, even as eight states moved to outlaw slavery, Congress passed the first Fugitive Slave Law. Multiple states passed Sanctuary State and Personal Liberty laws protecting enslaved persons who had escaped to their jurisdiction. The Supreme Court vacated them. Black members of Louisiana’s congressional delegation were turned away by Congress. States began passing desegregation and human rights laws decades before Brown v. Board.

History demonstrates that neither the federal government nor the states have a consistent record as champions of justice in the United States. State and federal courts, legislatures, and executive branch leaders, as well as both the convention and Congressional execution of Article V, have all played a role in what can best be described as a vacillating ambivalence surrounding civil rights in America.

It is not federal supremacy, but rather the separation of powers and the ability of the states and the federal government to check and challenge one another that has led us to the place at which we find ourselves today. In the Hofstra Labor & Employment Law Journal, Steven Andrew Smith & Adam Hansen point out that state civil rights laws are, in many states, superior to federal statutes; they describe the states as the rightful “primary protector of individual rights,” and argue for a greater role for the state supreme courts in the federal appeals process. Click here for a civil rights timeline of positive and negative state and federal policies.

America still grapples with important civil rights issues. It is crucial that we recognize that federal policy, however well-intended, has in some cases exacerbated rather than solved these problems. History demonstrates that we need not fear states’ rights: through the constitutional principle of federalism, the states are empowered to take the initiative, as well as check the federal government when Washington cannot muster the political will to walk back its own errors.

Book Review: Who Decides? States as Laboratories of Constitutional Experimentation

Jeffrey S. Sutton is the Chief Judge of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and former Solicitor General for the State of Ohio. His experiences at both the state and federal levels crystallized his view that the states’ role as “laboratories of democracy” should be reinvigorated, relieving the Supreme Court of the burden of making winner-take-all, one-size-fits-all decisions. The review may be accessed HERE.

Article V Convention Legislative Progress Report

Many thanks to our friend David Guldenschuh for tracking Article V applications nationwide. Click here for a high resolution copy.