August 2016 Newsletter

  • ASL Issues Proposed Rules for a Convention of States
  • Party Platforms Call for Constitutional Amendments
  • High and Growing US Debt Levels Confirmed by CBO
  • Article V Progress Highlighted in New Report
  • There Are BBAs… and There Are BBAs
  • SC State Rep. Organizes Event Highlighting Constitution Day
  • WolfPAC Gets an Ally in Effort to Amend the Constitution
  • Simulated Article V Convention Set for September 22-23
  • America’s Official Motto Now 60 Years Old


ASL Issues Proposed Rules for a Future Convention of States –
As reported in this newsletter last month, on June 17th the Assembly of State Legislatures (ASL) concluded its three years of work on suggested rules for an Article V convention.  The 19-page document embodying their work was released in early July.

ASL’s suggested rules are broken down into 9 Articles and 96 provisions (rules).  The adopting resolution, signed by participating lawmakers in support of the rules package, has yet to be posted on the group’s web site.  Reportedly adopted as the final work of the group, some observers believe more “fixes” will be considered for inclusion.

From the beginning of ASL’s efforts the group’s leaders have attempted to be bi-partisan.  Unfortunately their work contains numerous partisan elements that do not comport with earlier American conventions of colonies and states.

One of the potential problems with the ASL rules package is its proposed procedures for credentialing and selecting permanent presiding officers… both of which are likely to take place before any rules are formally adopted.  Provision 6.4.2 and 6.6 are identical, no doubt an editing error.  Another ASL provision that some Article V activists do not like is provision 4.4 that requires an approving vote by 36 states before the convention can propose an amendment, potentially allowing 15 states to hold the convention “hostage” over the wishes of a majority of participating states.

On July 21 the Heartland Institute hosted a conference call wherein representatives of most of the active Article V groups reviewed and commented on the ASL document.  Consensus was that the June 17 version of ASL’s proposed rules is much better than the one considered last November.

This is at least the third set of suggested rules that have been drafted to assist delegates (commissioners) to a future Article V convention.  As one observer commented, “Now it is a question of which rules package will get the most traction.”

Before an Article V convention takes place each supporting state will want to enact one or more resolutions or statutes to deal with (1) how delegates to such a convention are chosen, (2) what convention rules provisions that state considers essential before they will participate, and (3) other instructions delegates must follow (along with provisions for delegate recall and possible penalties for failure to follow the instructions).

Download the ASL proposed rules HERE.  Earlier the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) produced a short set of proposals that its members believe must be incorporated into rules for an Article V convention.  See the ALEC proposal HERE.

Rob Natelson of the Independence Institute, in cooperation with the Convention of States Project (CoS) has also produced a set of proposed rules for an Article V convention.  See that document HERE.

Party Platforms Call for Constitutional Amendments –
The just concluded Republican National Convention adopted a 66-page platform as one of its items of business.  It calls for 5 Constitutional amendments.  Not to be outdone, the Democratic National Convention adopted a 51 page platform that calls for 3 Constitutional amendments.

The DNC platform calls for amending the Constitution to (1) overturn the Supreme Court’s ‘Citizens United’ decision, (2) enact a form of an Equal Rights Amendment, and (3) enact a Voter’s Bill of Rights.

Five different topics are mentioned in the GOP document as being worthy of Constitutional amendments, including term limits and a BBA.  But nowhere in either of the extensive documents was the power of the second option (state-led method) in Article V mentioned as a way to actually see such amendments happen.

The transfer of public lands to the jurisdiction of individual states is not an issue for which its leaders have contemplated the use of Article V, but it is clearly a states-rights federalism issue.  That issue did get solid support in the GOP platform.  The issue is repeatedly referenced on pages 18 through 21.

The platform says, “Congress shall immediately pass universal legislation providing for a timely and orderly mechanism requiring the federal government to convey certain federally controlled federal lands to states.”

Leaders of the Convention of States Project (CoS) worked hard to get the GOP platform to endorse their Article V effort… without success.  In an article entitled “Convention of States Movement Gathers Steam, Despite RNC Setback”, the July 19 Weekly Standard lamented the GOP snub, but concluded that the rejection may be good since “Making an application for a special convention is a matter entirely for the states to decide.

Over the years the Republican Party has called for at least 15 different Constitutional amendments in its platforms.  None suggested the use if Article V.  Only one of those calls resulted in an actual amendment.  The 1864 Republican convention in Baltimore adopted a campaign platform plank calling for an amendment that would ban slavery.  That amendment was formally proposed the next year, and ratified the same year.

High and Growing US Debt Levels Confirmed by CBO –
A report on July 12 by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), an annual snapshot of long-term federal spending, said the US debt is projected to reach 122% of GDP by 2040.

The following day the Wall Street Journal said, “Tuesday’s report shows the federal debt, which has doubled since 2008 to about 75% of gross domestic product, will rise to 122% in 2040, up from 107% last year, eclipsing the historical peak set after World War II.  The projections assume interest rates will remain low.”

If rates do not remain at today’s historic lows, US debt levels will rise much faster.  According to the CBO report the federal government spent a net of $224 billion on debt interest during 2015’s low interest period.

The CBO report “projects a $534 billion deficit in fiscal year 2016, about $100 billion more than in 2015. If current laws generally remained unchanged, the deficit would increase from 2.9 percent to 4.9 percent of GDP over the next decade.”

The report confirms the strong need for a Constitutional amendment geared to require balanced budgets and federal fiscal constraint.  History demonstrates that Congress will never adopt such constraints or propose a meaningful Constitutional BBA.  It is critical that states use their powers under Article V of the Constitution to hold a convention of states and propose a thoughtful BBA.

The CBO’s 2016 Long-Term Budget Outlook is available for review HERE.

Article V Progress Highlighted in New Report –
Attorney David Guldenschuh has issued his mid-year “2016 Independence Day issue of the Article V Convention Legislative Progress Report”.  The periodic publication succinctly summarizes the current status of all active Article V campaigns.

The current edition reports that in 2016, a total of 9 Article V resolutions were adopted, led by the Convention of States Project (CoS) which saw its proposal adopted in 4 new states, for a total of 8 states now supporting their campaign. He notes that there was one Article V rescission, in Delaware.  In contrast to the 9 states adopting Article V resolutions in 2016, there were 7 resolutions passed during 2015.

Rhode Island passed the Wolf PAC resolution (seeking to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision), becoming the fifth state to adopt the Wolf PAC resolution.

The BBA Task Force now counts 28 states that have adopted their Article V convention-calling resolution (84% of their goal).  To download the one-page report, click HERE.

There Are BBAs… and There Are BBAs –
Dan Corkery of the Champaign, Illinois-based News-Gazette penned a story in its July 17 edition about former US Senator Paul Simon, described by the writer as “a liberal Democrat … (who) was also a champion for a balanced budget amendment to the US Constitution.”  Simon described himself as a “pay-as-you-go Democrat.

Corkery notes that although Illinois has a BBA provision in its current (1970) state constitution, the state began July with nearly $8 billion in unpaid bills.  He says, “A year from now, the deadbeat’s tab could grow to $10 billion, according to the comptroller’s office.”  Senator Simon passed away in 2003.  Were he still alive, he would be embarrassed by his state’s leaders.

The article reports that John Jackson, a visiting professor at the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, Southern Illinois University, has assembled the late senator’s writings into “The Essential Paul Simon: Timeless Lessons for Today’s Politics.”

Corkery’s article can be read HERE.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), all states (except Vermont) have some kind of constitutional provision or statute that requires them to balance their budgets.  The US federal government has no such restraints… which has led to more than $19 trillion in debt for America’s children.

Several Article V efforts are focused on bringing about a federal BBA with fiscal restraints.  Assuming one or more of these efforts results in a convention of states to draft a BBA, convention delegates may want to look at Article 8 of the Illinois Constitution to see how NOT to write a proposed federal BBA.

SC State Rep. Organizes Event to Highlight Constitution Day –
South Carolina State Rep. John Steinberger is organizing a special event on September 10th to celebrate Constitution Day.  The event, to be held at the South Carolina State Museum in Columbia, SC. will feature presentations by local politicians, BBA advocate David Guldenschuh, and Ellen Weaver of the Palmetto Promise Institute.

Rep. Steinberger wants his event to focus on the unique nature of the US Constitution and celebrate the document.  State Rep. Jeff Duncan will emphasize the unmet need for federal fiscal restraint, and Guldenschuh will explain the intent of the state-driven Article V amendment process with a brief history of the BBA application in SC.  Lt. Governor Henry McMaster will close the event by discussing states’ rights and South Carolina’s opportunity to help shape the future.

For more information call Steinberger at 843-709-7819.

WolfPAC Gets an Ally in Effort to Amend the Constitution –
For the past two years a group known as WolfPAC has been conducting a campaign to get states to adopt resolutions calling for an Article V convention to propose a Constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision.

According to the July 20 edition of the Wall Street Journal, on Saturday, July 16 Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton said, “Today I am announcing that in my first 30 days as President I will propose a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and give the American people – all of us – the chance to reclaim our democracy.”

Simulated Article V Convention Set for September 22-23
The Convention of States Project (CoS) will be hosting a simulated Article V convention on September 22-23 in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia.  A modified version of the latest version of the CoS-drafted suggested convention rules will be used for the event.

Reportedly state legislators and other representatives from all 50 states have been invited to participate in the two-day event “to discuss the Constitution’s solutions to our nation’s most pressing problems… to declare the people’s liberty from a tyrannical Washington DC… paving the way for this historical Constitutional process to reform.”

Volunteers affiliated with the group also hosted a similar event in Florida in mid-July.  For more information, click HERE, or call 540-441-7227.

America’s Official Motto Is Now 60 Years Old –
July 30 marked the 60th anniversary of the adoption of “In God We Trust” as the national motto of the United States of America.  In 1956, President Dwight Eisenhower signed a law that officially made “In God We Trust” the motto of the United States, and required it to be printed on all U.S. currency.  These words were first used on money during the Civil War in 1864, so the notion was not a new one.

During the War of 1812, Francis Scott Key penned the poem that has become America’s national anthem.  Its final verse says, “then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, and this be our motto ‘in God is our trust!‘ ”

Who Said It?

“I see… and with the deepest affliction, the rapid strides with which
the federal branch of our government is advancing towards
the usurpation of all the rights reserved to the States,
and the consolidation in itself of all powers, foreign and domestic; and
that, too, by constructions which, if legitimate, leave no limits to their power…
It is but too evident that the three ruling branches of [the Federal government]
are in combination to strip their colleagues, the State authorities,
of the powers reserved by them,
and to exercis
e themselves all functions foreign and domestic.”
– Thomas Jefferson, Letter to William Branch Giles (1825)
sssss