Conservatives aiming to create a balanced-budget amendment and term limits for lawmakers plan to launch a new campaign calling for a convention of states.
State legislators seeking to limit an out-of-control federal government met last week at the American Legislative Exchange Council’s policy conference in San Diego. They want to employ Article V of the Constitution, which allows state legislatures to call a convention to propose new amendments.
“It’s really the last line of defense that we have. Right now, the federal government’s run away,” Iowa state Rep. John Wills, R, told The Hill.
“They’re not going to pull their own power back. They’re not going to restrict themselves. And so this Article V convention is really, in my opinion, is the last option that we have.”
A total of 34 or more states must pass a call to force a convention.
Fifteen states — all with Republican-controlled legislatures and Republican governors — have passed the model legislation proposed by the ALEC, and similar bills have passed at least one legislative chamber in another nine states. Legislation has been introduced in 17 other states.
Some states have issued calls for a convention to address limits on Congress’ ability concerning issues such as taxes, gun control, and abortion.
Former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., has been a strung advocate of Convention of States Action, a project of the nonprofit organization Citizens for Self-Governance.
“There are good people in Washington, but they won’t save our nation,” Santorum wrote in a recent The Conservative Digest opinion column.
“Only the people and the states can stop the authoritarian juggernaut, and an Article V Convention of States is our most powerful tool.”
After two-thirds of the states have approved a call to a convention, amendments would need to be ratified by three-quarters of the states to be proposed. The convention does not have the power to amend the Constitution.
“It’s a very high bar, very difficult to do,” Stuart Adams, R, the president of the Utah state Senate and ALEC’s chairman, told The Hill.
Since Article V fails to detail the process by which a convention would be run or the delegates who would meet and vote on potential amendments, Congress could claim it will define the course of action.
“Congress can purport to make whatever rules it wants for the convention,” Georgetown Law constitutional law expert David Super told The Hill. “The convention can then throw them in the trash, which is certainly what the convention in Philadelphia did in 1787.
“There’s no guarantee that they will follow the ratification procedures. The only precedent we do have, they didn’t follow the ratification procedures.”
Article V says that amendments proposed by Congress or a convention become valid only after being ratified by the legislatures of, or conventions in, three-fourths (38 of 50) of the states.