PHOENIX – A groundswell is emerging among the 50 states to exercise their fundamental right to call a national convention that could propose new amendments to the U.S. Constitution and bring the federal government closer to the role intended by the Founders.
At least 26 state legislatures are moving this year to call a convention under Article V of the Constitution. Ideas being debated include amendments requiring a majority of states approve any new federal debt, forcing Congress to balance the federal budget every year, and allowing action by two-thirds of the states to repeal any federal law or rule.
Extensive research from the Goldwater Institute is guiding these efforts. Today, the Goldwater Institute releases its third report in a series that explains the history of Article V, which empowers the states to propose and adopt amendments. The series also dispels myths about a “runaway convention” that have built up in recent years. The new report, “Amending the Constitution by Convention: Practical Guidance for Citizens and Policymakers,” focuses on the appropriate steps for states to take in calling an amendments convention.
“Think of an amendments convention like a modern-day task force,” said Nick Dranias, the Goldwater Institute’s director of constitution studies. “The convention is called by the states to solve a problem identified by the states and filled with representatives appointed by the states. Like a task force, delegates to an amendments convention act on that specific agenda, and then they go home to let the states decide if their proposed amendment should be added to the Constitution.”
The series of reports was written by Robert G. Natelson, a Goldwater Institute senior fellow and retired professor of law at the University of Montana. The National Taxpayers Union praised Mr. Natelson’s research just last week as the watchdog group called on the Indiana General Assembly to approve a resolution for an Article V convention:
“Professor Robert Natelson, for example, has conducted painstaking research to show that the Founders certainly did not construct Article V as an afterthought or an accident. From its conception, the provision was intended to be vigorously applied toward remedies for federal overreach.”
In today’s report, Professor Natelson provides key tips for state legislators as they seek to organize an Article V convention including:
· Subjects of potential amendments should have significant popular support. For example, a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Jan. 12, 2011, showed 71 percent of Americans oppose any increase in the federal debt ceiling, but Congress is widely expected to raise it anyway.
· Resolutions should be simple and straightforward so each state legislature can adopt similar language and there will be no doubt when at least 34 states have called for an amendments convention on the same topic.
· States should not attempt to dictate to convention delegates the exact amendment to vote for. Convention delegations must have the freedom to debate and reach a consensus, or the courts likely will strike down any proposed amendment.
Click here to read “Amending the Constitution by Convention: Practical Guidance for Citizens and Policymakers.” The Goldwater Institute is an independent government watchdog that develops innovative, principled solutions to issues facing the states and whose work is made possible by the generosity of its supporters nationwide.