March 2016 Newsletter

by | Mar 3, 2016 | AVC Newsletter

  • ALEC Nudges Congress to Get on Board with BBA
  • Convention of States Project Adds Tennessee
  • US Term Limits Effort Approved by Florida’s Legislature
  • The BBATF Proposal is Inching Forward
  • Article V Progress Reports Are Updated Twice Monthly
  • CBO Report Warns of Growing Federal Deficit
  • Admiral Speaks on Security Reasons Why a BBA is Needed
  • Congressmen to Presidential Hopefuls:     Focus on the National Debt
  • Presidential Candidates Pledge Support for Article V Efforts
  • Montana Congressman Calls for Federal BBA
  • New Hampshire Considers Adoption of a State BBA
  • Heritage Foundation Releases Article V ‘Memorandum’

ALEC Nudges Congress to Get on Board with BBA –
On January 16 the Board of Directors of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) adopted a resolution wherein the state legislators’ organization stressed the need for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.  Read it HERE.

Then during February ALEC leaders wrote to U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, expressing their firm support for an Article V convention for proposing amendments as a way to promote federal fiscal restraint.  The letter stresses support for all three current BBA-related Article V movements.

Rep. Goodlatte is Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and has been generally supportive of amending the U.S. Constitution to include a balanced budget provision.  A similar letter was sent to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Read the ALEC letter HERE.

Convention of States Project Adds Tennessee –
During February the Tennessee House voted 59 to 31 to adopt the Convention of States Project (CoS) application for an Article V convention.  The effort was led by TN State Rep. Sheila Butt.  She had 58 co-sponsors.  A year ago the Tennessee Senate approved the same measure (SJR67) on a 23 to 5 vote.

This adds Tennessee to the four other states (Alabama, Alaska, Florida and Georgia) that have adopted the multi-subject CoS Article V application for a convention.  CoS reports that its proposal has also been introduced in 33 other state legislatures this year.

Full reports on the Tennessee legislative decision can be found HERE and HERE.

Other recent Convention of States Project developments:
The CoS resolution has been approved in the Indiana Senate.  SJR14, sponsored by Sen. Travis Holdman, passed 34 to 16.  It now goes to the Indiana House.  Reportedly, the CoS resolution has also recently been approved in one state chamber in:  Arizona (House), New Mexico (House), South Dakota (House), Virginia (House), and West Virginia (Senate).

Incidentally, U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican bumped into a reporter while lobbying the Missouri legislature on behalf of the CoS proposal.  Colburn is reported to have said, “And so with $143 trillion in unfunded liabilities, $19 trillion in debt, fiscally that’s what’s happened to every other Republic that died over fiscal issues, and that’s where we find ourselves.  So if we want to fix that, Washington certainly isn’t going to fix it.  So it’s time for Missouri to fix it.”

Sen. Jason Holsman, a Democrat from Kansas City jumped into the conversation. He said, “Most people on the political spectrum agree that we have a problem.”  He added, “We believe that Article V was designed in the Constitution to address that problem. It was a little bit of a time capsule that was left for us by our founding fathers – ‘break glass in case of emergency’. I think that when we look at these serious issues that D.C. is incapable of fixing, we’ve come to the point where we’re looking at breaking that glass.”

Florida Adopts US Term Limits Article V Application –
During February Florida became the first state to adopt the US Term Limits (USTL) application for a convention of states.  Led by State Sen. Aaron Bean, and Rep. Larry Metz, Senate Measure 630 passed by voice vote. The House passed its version (House Memorial 417) at the end of last month.

Meanwhile in South Carolina the measure is being considered as H-4739, sponsored by Rep. Eric Bedingfield, and Senate resolution S-1046, sponsored by Sen. Larry Grooms.  U.S. Term Limits President Philip Blumel reports that, “There are now 11 states hot on Florida’s heels, and the progress here has laid the groundwork for their success.”

Read about the Florida action in the Sunshine State NewsHERE.

The BBA Task Force Proposal is Inching Forward –
On February 16 the BBA Task Force resolution, calling for a single-subject balanced budget convention of states (HJ90), was approved in the Virginia House by a vote of 55 to 44.  Delegate James LeMunyon was the “chief patron” for the bill, along with seven other Delegates in the House.  The bill now moves to the Virginia Senate where Sen. Emmett Hanger is the “chief patron”.

Under the leadership of Rep. Bob Thorpe, the Arizona House approved the BBA resolution (HCR2014).  It now goes to the Senate where anti-Article V Senate President Andy Biggs is expected to block any vote on the bill during this session.

The Task Force, which now has 27 of the needed 34 BBA-focused state applications, is currently working with legislators in nine states in its quest to get the seven more applications needed to call for a BBA-focused Article V convention.  In addition to Virginia, its current primary focus is on West Virginia and Oklahoma.

Article V Progress Reports Are Updated Twice Monthly –
The concise report card on all Article V activity, prepared by Georgia attorney David Guldenschch, is continually available at  He updates his reports on or about the 1st and 15th of each month during state legislative sessions.

The most recent “Article V Convention Legislative Progress Report” shows that all of the seven currently active Article V movements are moving forward.

CBO Report Warns of Growing U.S. Federal Deficit –
The U.S. Congressional Budget Office recently released a report called “Summary of The Budget and Economic Outlook: 2016 to 2026”.  It starts by saying, “In 2016, the federal budget deficit will increase, in relation to the size of the economy, for the first time since 2009…”

The report goes on to note that “the expected shortfall for 2016 will mark the first time that the deficit has risen in relation to the size of the economy since peaking at 9.8 percent in 2009.”  U.S. federal debt is higher than at any time since World War II, and projected to just keep growing.  Read the CBO report HERE.

In a related development, the Feb. 22 edition of the Wall Street Journal carried a relatively upbeat column by Martin Feldstein, who was chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors under President Ronald Reagan.

After listing positive aspects of America’s current economy, Feldstein says, “The American economy does face long-term problems.  High on my list is the large and growing national debt, rising from less than 40% of GDP before the recession to 75% now and heading to more than 85% in 10 years.  That would require devoting 30% of personal income tax revenue to pay interest on the national debt, with more than half of that going to foreign bondholders”.

Admiral Speaks Out on Security Reasons Why a BBA is Needed –
Admiral Bill Owens (Retired Vice Chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff) has written to West Virginia state legislators in support of WV Resolution HCR-36, calling for a BBA-focused convention of states.

Noting that the interest on the federal national debt could soon reach $1 trillion per year, it will result in “downward pressure on the national security budgets and weakening the dollar’s use as the world’s reserve currency. A ‘strong’ dollar gives us ‘soft power’ to peacefully prevent rogue governments and groups like ISIS from financing terrorism and nuclear weapon development.”

Congressmen to Presidential Hopefuls: Focus on National Debt
Just prior to the South Carolina GOP primary, a group of about 30 U.S. House GOP freshmen, led by Maine Rep. Bruce Poliquin, sent a letter to their party’s White House hopefuls, asking them to refocus the conversation on the national debt and to publicly commit to supporting a balanced budget amendment.

In part, the letter says, “we have concluded the best way to ensure lasting fiscal discipline and economic health of our country is to pass a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution.”

The full story, as reported in the Feb. 17 Roll Call can be read HERE.

Presidential Candidates Pledge Support for Article V Efforts –
During February, Presidential Candidate Ted Cruz formally signed a BBA Task Force-initiated pledge to support the state application and convention process leading to a balanced budget amendment to the U.S, Constitution.  He said, “It is clear to me that only the states can fix this problem.”  See that report HERE.

While not signing formal pledges, remaining Republican Presidential Candidates Gov. John Kasich, Dr. Ben Carson, and Sen. Marco Rubio have also expressed strong support for a state-driven BBA.  Rubio has also endorsed the multi-subject Convention of States (CoS) effort.

Meanwhile Dr. Carson has called for term limits for both members of Congress and for federal judges, including Supreme Court justices.  While not specifically endorsing any particular Article V effort to achieve that end, the U.S. Term Limits movement and the Convention of States Project are currently focused on that topic as a constitutional amendment.

Read about Dr. Carson’s statements in the February 17 The Blaze HERE.

In a related development, Senator Cruz pledged on February 18 that if he is elected President, he will work to turn over federally-owned land to states.  Large portions of western states are controlled by the federal government, unlike in eastern states.  In the event Congress does not move to relinquish control over the large swaths of land in the west (highly unlikely), some activists have talked about using the powers of Article V to correct this imbalance.

Read about the Cruz federal lands promise in the Dallas Morning News HERE.

Montana Congressman Calls for Federal BBA –
According to the blog for Bozeman, Montana radio station KMMA, Montana’s U.S. Senator Jon Tesler spoke out in support of a balanced budget Constitutional amendment on Feb. 9.

“We can’t keep swiping the credit card of the next generation,” Tester is reported as saying.  “Balancing the federal budget is hard work, but if we want to hand over the world’s number one economy to our kids and grandkids, we have to work together and make tough choices.”

The full story can be read HERE.

New Hampshire Considers Adoption of a State BBA –
During February, NH State Sen. Andy Sanborn introduced a state constitutional amendment that would (like most other states) restrict New Hampshire’s annual budget spending to revenue received.  Sanborn’s bill rests in the Senate Finance Committee where it has been since introduction on Feb. 2.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), all U.S. states except Vermont have some sort of balanced budget requirement, but not all such restrictions are explicitly set forth in state constitutions.  Apparently the NH constitution does not currently contain such fiscal restraints.  NCSL reports that in 37 states their budget must be balanced at the end of a fiscal year or biennium, so that no deficit can be carried forward.

Heritage Foundation Releases Article V ‘Memorandum’ –
On February 19 the Heritage Foundation released a 4,685-word document entitled “Consideration of a Convention to Propose Amendments Under Article V of the U.S. Constitution”, written by John Malcolm.

While the new work includes some 60 references, and provides a relatively comprehensive overview, it sheds very little new light on Article V, nor on the position of Heritage relative to the wisdom of using that important Constitutional provision.  Rather, it poses a series of 11 questions for which the author believes no answers currently exist.

Many of the posed questions have been answered by the work of recent Constitutional scholars, but little of that scholarship has been referenced in the Heritage document.  Other of the posed questions will not / cannot be answered until an actual Article V convention is called.

Sadly, one of the most respected repositories of current Article V scholarship – the Article V Information Center, a service of Denver-based Independence Institute – is not even referenced anywhere in Malcolm’s work.

Back in 1988 Heritage produced a “Backgrounder” (number 637) on Article V that concluded, “The convening of a constitutional convention is, of course, a serious and complex matter.  It must not be taken lightly.  Nevertheless, the convention clause of Article V is an integral and necessary part of the constitutional system of checks and balances.  Americans and their representatives in state legislatures and in Congress should not allow misinformation to divert them from employing this wisely crafted provision.  When Congress fails to propose needed amendments to the Constitution, policy makers should not hesitate to put it to use”.  In recent years Heritage leadership has refrained from encouraging use of the Article V provisions.

Unlike the 1988 Heritage document, the current Heritage paper concludes with the following doctrinaire platitude: “With such a convention or without one, however, it remains vitally important that we continue to maintain an overriding focus on holding Congress and the President and, by extension, federal agencies accountable for the decisions they make today.”

As one Article V activist commented, “My guess is that the tenor of the text was dictated by the Heritage party line.  Heritage has made itself irrelevant on this issue, and most people involved in the process know it”.  The new Heritage document can be read and/or downloaded HERE.

Check out the New Article V Caucus Facebook Site –
The State Legislators’ Article V Caucus, has opened a new Facebook page to further its educational objectives.  Check it out at:

Who said It?

“It is obvious, that no human government can ever be perfect;
and that it is impossible to foresee, or guard against all the exigencies, which may, in different ages, require different adaptations and modifications of powers to suit the various necessities of the people.”
Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story, 1833,
in his Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States,
stressing the importance of having a process to amend the nation’s charter.