February 2017 Newsletter

  • BBA Campaign Moving Toward Adding More States
  • Triple-Subject Article V CoSP Drive Very Active This Year
  • Mike Farris Steps Away from Convention of States Project
  • Current Status of Other Article V Efforts
  • Updated Article V Progress Report Now Available
  • More BBA-Related News
  • Misc. Article V News & Developments
  • Natelson Uncovers 38th Prior Convention of States
  • New Paper Clarifies:  AV Conventions Cannot Run Away

BBA Campaign Moving Toward Adding More States –
The BBA effort moved forward during January when the Wyoming House approved HJ0002, an application for a BBA-focused convention of states.  Under the leadership of Rep. Tyler Lindholm, the bill had 8 House sponsors and has 8 Senate sponsors.  It passed through the House by a vote of 35 to 23 on January 19, and the Senate is expected to approve the resolution in mid-February.

Prior to passage by the Wyoming House there was an attempt to add inappropriate amendments.  Before the vote was taken Professor Rob Natelson quickly wrote and distributed a paper entitled “State Legislators!  Don’t Put Extraneous Matter in Your Article V Application”.  He warned that added wording could render an application incapable of being counted with other state applications.  Ultimately the Wyoming House approved the application without the amendments.  Natelson’s paper can be read HERE.

Rep. Bob Thorpe is sponsoring a similar bill as HCR 2013 in Arizona.  That bill passed out of the House Federalism, Property Rights and Public Policy Committee on January 31 by a vote of 6 to 3.  Then on February 6 the bill was reported out of the House Rules Committee on a unanimous vote.  It now awaits a full House vote before being referred to the Senate.

In Kentucky Rep. William Wells is sponsoring HCR 13, another BBA resolution.  Representatives Peter McCoy and Bill Taylor have sponsored the BBA bill as H3473 in South Carolina.  The BBA measure is also expected to be filed soon by Senator Marv Hagedorn in Idaho, Rep. Jerry Hertaus in Minnesota and Senator Chris Kapenga in Wisconsin (where it has strong support by Governor Walker).

For more information about the BBA Task Force efforts, click HERE.

Triple-Subject Article V CoSP Drive Very Active This Year –
While the Convention of States Project (CoSP) has citizen activists currently working in several states and their proposal has been filed in 21 states so far this year, these are the related legislative activities known for sure:
Arizona:  HCR2010 with 24 House sponsors and 4 Senate sponsors passed out of the House Federalism, Property Rights and Public Policy Committee on 1/31 by a 6 to 3 vote.  It now awaits action on the House floor.  The bill is expected to be adopted by both Arizona chambers.
Arkansas: HJR1001 with 16 House sponsors and 8 Senate sponsors is currently pending in the House State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee, and on the Senate floor.
Nebraska: LR6 Introduced by Senator Laura Ebke, opposed by Nebraska AARP, is currently in Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee.
North Carolina:  S36 with 4 Senate sponsors is in the Senate Committee on Rules, and HJR44 with 9 sponsors has been referred to the House Committee on Judiciary..
South Dakota:  HJR1002 with 14 House sponsors and 10 Senate sponsors passed out of the House State Affairs Committee on a vote of 10 to 3.  It now awaits consideration by the full House.
Texas:  HJR39, introduced in early December 2016 has 41 House co-sponsors and is strongly supported by Governor Abbott.  No progress on the bill has yet been reported.  SJR2 is a companion bill also introduced in early December with 9 co-sponsors.  That bill is pending before the Senate State Affairs committee.
Utah: HJR003 – sponsored by Rep. Merrill Hastings – passed favorably out of committees, then was approved by the House on 2/3/17 by a vote of 45 to 29.  It now awaits consideration in the Utah Senate.
Virginia:  HJR3 is sponsored by 13 Delegates.  During 2016 it passed out of the Rules Committee 9 to 6, and was approved in the House by 52 to 47.  The bill currently resides in the Senate Rules committee.
Washington:  HJM4006 with 16 sponsors is under consideration in the House State Government Committee.
Wyoming:  HJR1 was heard in the House Judiciary Committee where it passed 5-4, but it later failed on the House floor 18 to 42.

Although the CoSP proposal has been approved in 29 individual state legislative chambers over the past few years, only 8 states have totally adopted the proposal, and (contrary to some reports) not all 8 match in content.

Michael Farris Steps Away from Convention of States Project –
In 2013 Michael Farris and Tea Party veteran Mark Meckler co-founded Citizens for Self-Governance (CfSG) and its companion effort the Convention of States Project (CoSP).  Until recently Farris headed the CoSP effort  and Meckler headed CfSG.

In early January Farris left CoSP when he was appointed CEO of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), described as “an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization” of 3,100 attorneys that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.  Farris, who has been an attorney for 40 years, will continue his position as chairman of the board of the Home School Defense Association (which he founded in 1983), and chancellor emeritus of Patrick Henry College (which he founded in 2000).

Farris reportedly hopes to expand the size and influence of ADF to become larger than that of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).  ADF, sometimes described as “the 800-pound gorilla of the Christian Right”, is based in Arizona and has “service centers” in Washington DC, New York, Georgia and nine foreign countries.

No mention of CoSP was made in the announcements about Farris’ move, but apparently Meckler will now head both CoSP and CfSG.

Current Status of Other Article V Efforts –

  • The Countermand Amendment

Three Senators and three Representatives introduced the Countermand Amendment for consideration in the current legislative session in North Dakota as SCR 4006.  The bill received a “Do Pass” recommendation in a Senate Committee before it was approved by the full Senate on February 3.

For more information on the proposed Countermand Amendment click HERE.

  • The Single Subject Effort is Working Congress & Article V

The Single Subject Amendment (SSA) campaign has gone right to Congress in the hope of getting its proposal enacted.  Congressman Tom Marino has introduced HJR25 in the US House, a proposed Constitutional amendment which would require that no bill introduced in Congress may become law if it pertains to more than one subject… the subject of which must be clearly expressed in the bill’s title.

Although 41 state constitutions have a single subject provision prohibiting unrelated provisions (called riders) in state legislation, the US Constitution has no similar provision that applies to Congress.

Congressman Marino said, “Adoption of this amendment will enable Congress to conduct its business in a more productive, more transparent, and less acrimonious way.”

A single-subject amendment will constitutionally eliminate riders and reduce pork-barrel spending, logrolling and the use of earmarks,” said W. S. “Spider” Webb, Jr., CEO and Founder of the SSA effort.

While Congressman Marino advocates for an SSA in Congress, Webb is simultaneously pursuing an Article V Convention to propose this amendment.  So far only Florida has adopted an application for a Single Subject-focused Article V convention to propose the amendment.

Meanwhile the Wyoming legislature is considering the SSA proposal.  Wyoming HJ R 0003 is the SSA resolution introduced by Rep. Dan Laursen.  It passed the House Judiciary Committee and then was approved by the full House.  It is now in the Wyoming Senate.  In Wyoming BBA and SSA proponents worked together, testifying on behalf of each other’s bills.

For more information on Single Subject Amendment, the group’s mission and how to get involved, click HERE.

  • Wolf-PAC Bill Introduced in Washington State

Washington State Senator Kevin Van De Wege has introduced SJM 8000, a resolution calling for an Article V convention to propose what the resolution calls “a free and fair elections amendment” to the US Constitution.

The Senate’s State Government Committee is considering the measure.  Wolf-PAC, the organization behind the proposal says that the removal of election contribution restrictions following the Citizens United decision of the US Supreme Court “has resulted in the unjust influence of powerful economic forces, which have supplanted the will of the people by undermining our ability to choose political leadership, write our own laws and determine the fate of our state.

Updated Article V Progress Report Now Available –
Georgia attorney David Guldenschuh is once again producing his monthly “Article V Convention Legislative Progress Report”.  Since most legislative chambers have not been in session over the past few months, Guldenschuh’s last report was issued in July 2016.

The single-page report gives an excellent overview of the various Article V campaigns and their progress toward the needed 34 state resolutions.  As of February 1, 2017 Guldenschuh’s report shows the following percent of progress toward completion:
BBA Task Force – 87%, Convention of States Project – 34%, WolfPAC Free & Fair Elections – 19%, Compact for America – 14%, US Term Limits – 5%, Single Subject Amendment – 4%, and Countermand Amendment – 3%.

The full current Progress Report can be seen HERE.

More BBA-Related News –

  • Gingrich’s View of a “Trumpian” Balancing of the Budget

In a recent address to the Heritage Foundation, Newt Gingrich said that Trump can fulfill his promise to balance the federal budget.  He says, “Trumpism balances the (federal) budget largely as a consequence of his policies… If Trump’s policies are implemented, there consequently will be a balanced federal budget.”

Gingrich’s hour-long presentation can be viewed and heard HERE.

  • US Debt Keeps Climbing

According to an early January story by CNSNews.com, during calendar year 2016 the American federal debt rose by $1.054 Trillion.  That is an estimated $8,860 in additional debt for every US household.  Read that report HERE.

The total of US debt is expected to surpass $20 Trillion this month.  See the US Debt Clock HERE.

  • Former US Comptroller Stresses Need for Fed Fiscal Restraint

On January 17 the Washington Times carried an op-ed piece by David Walker, US Comptroller General from 1998 to 2008, saying, “It’s time to move beyond annual deficit and aggregate debt level metrics. The federal government’s ultimate fiscal goal should be to reduce and stabilize the ratio of debt to gross domestic product (GDP) at a reasonable and sustainable level (e.g., 60 percent) by a date certain (e.g., 2035).

Read Walker’s full comments HERE.

  • New Booklet Refutes False Claims About a BBA Convention

Georgia Attorney and Heartland Institute Constitutional Policy Advisor David Guldenschuh has released a new booklet for state legislators.  The 26-page publication entitled “Twenty False Claims Regarding a Balanced Budget Amendment Convention” provides documented answers to many of the worn out arguments opponents have used to deride Article V efforts such as the BBA.  A PDF version of the publication is available by clicking HERE.

An updated edition of Debt, Deficits, and the BBA, a publication by economist William Fruth, is also available at the same site.

  • Economist Laments: Congress Will Continue to Increase Debt

Respected economist Dr. Barry Poulson posted a new article at American Thinker on Feb. 2 entitled “Capitulation before the first shots are fired”.  Poulson considers the recent Congressional action in adopting a Continuing Resolution for Fiscal 2017 a poor indicator of Republican resolve toward promises to constrain federal spending, balance the budget, and reduce federal debt.

In the article Poulson suggests that now that Republicans control both Houses of Congress and the Executive branch they could finally break through the budget gridlock.  But, he says, “Republicans seem to have capitulated before the battle has begun.”

Poulson says the Continuing Resolution and Obamacare-replacement plans expressed so far reveal that “Congress has no desire to fundamentally reform health care or other entitlements that would significantly reduce spending or debt linked to these programs”.

Read Dr. Poulson’s article HERE.

  • Indiana Senate Approves Referendum on a State BBA

On January 24, the Indiana Senate voted 43-4 for SJR7, a proposed state constitutional amendment requiring lawmakers spend no more in a two-year budget period than is expected to come in through tax collections.

State officials of both political parties have long followed that practice in accordance with the constitution’s general prohibition on most types of state debt.  The proposed amendment now goes to the Indiana House, which overwhelmingly approved identical language in 2015.

New Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb (who took office when Mike Pence became US Vice President) has also endorsed the BBA proposal.  If the Indiana House again endorses the amendment, Hoosier voters will be asked to ratify or reject it at the 2018 general election.  Read more about it HERE.

Misc. Article V News & Developments –

  • The ‘Stivers’ Rule’ Has Been Readopted

During January the US House of Representatives reinstated the so-called “Stivers’ Rule”.  Originally proposed by Congressman Steve Stivers and adopted in 2015, the rule requires the House Judiciary Committee to gather and publish state applications for an Article V Convention.

Specifically, the rule creates a process for the intake of the petitions (Article V applications) through the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee and gives the Clerk’s Office the responsibility of making the petitions electronically available and organized by state of origin and year of receipt… and possibly by subject.  The new rule is intended to allow Congress, as well as the American people, to better track the progress of specific Article V efforts.

This is the link for finding the applications currently being listed:  (http://clerk.house.gov/legislative/memorials.aspx).  In December of 2015 the site only listed 20 Article V applications.  As of February 1, 2017 the site listed 127 documents, 19 of which purported to rescind prior applications.

Gregory Watson, an activist in Texas who was the key player in getting the 27th Amendment to the Constitution (on congressional pay) ratified in 1992, recently said he was surprised to find four states that have passed convention calls over the last six years, for which Congress has no record.

  • Wisconsin’s Senator Kapenga Plans to Push for More Federalism

According to WisconsinWatchdog.org, long-time Article V advocate Wisconsin Senator Chris Kapenga plans to push for higher levels of federalism.

Kapenga is quoted as saying, “With recent changes at the federal level, we have a unique opportunity to have more authority delegated back to the states, especially regarding the delivery of public benefit programs.”

Senator Kapenga reportedly also plans to lead Wisconsin to become one of the final states needed to activate a BBA-focused Article V convention of states.  “The time for reforming the federal-state relationship is now.  There may never be a better time,” the lawmaker said, “because Congress seems to finally be listening to the states.”

Read the full article HERE.

  • FOAVC Celebrates 10th Anniversary

February marks the 10th anniversary of the Friends of the Article V Convention (FOAVC).  The group was formed by former Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Brennan, Article V activist Bill Walker, and three others in 2007.

FOAVC operates a web site (www.FOAVC.org) that seeks to be a complete repository of all Article V-related state resolutions and significant related news.  Their site is currently undergoing upgrades that they hope to have completed by the end of February.

  • Maryland Considers Rescinding Article V Resolutions

In late January 19 Delegates in the Maryland House filed HJR2, a resolution that seeks to rescind all Article V resolutions earlier adopted by that state.  Two days later 15 Maryland Senators filed SJR2 with similar language.

If the effort is successful one or more current Article V campaigns and the entire Article V movement could be hurt.  Meanwhile, recent voter polls show that 2/3 of Maryland citizens support a Constitutional amendment requiring a federal balanced budget.

Reportedly the Maryland effort is backed by Common Cause and some labor unions.  The resolutions claim to seek withdrawal of applications for a “Constitutional Convention” (equating an Article V convention to the 1787 Constitutional Convention) and are premised on the erroneous fear that an Article V convention will run away.

The proposed resolutions inaccurately suggest that even the 1787 convention ran away from its authorized task.  Research by such recognized Constitutional scholars as Rob Natelson and Mike Stern (see below) have demonstrated the fallacy of these arguments.

  • Earliest Effort to Use Article V

David Azerrad (of the Heritage Foundation) recently posted an interesting historical piece on TheFederalist.com web site.  He notes that shortly after the 1789 American Constitution was adopted, states were already clamoring for amendments.

He says, “When the first Congress convened in New York in 1789, it had to address the numerous proposals to overhaul the Constitution. Virginia and New York, two of the most important states in the union, had already sent applications calling for an Article V convention of the states to consider ‘the defects of this constitution’.

Before an actual Article V convention could be held, Congressman James Madison of Virginia, the man who had played an important role in drafting the Constitution, took up the challenge.  He drafted 17 proposed amendments and presented them to that first Congress.  They, in turn, decided to submit 12 of them to the states as proposed Constitutional amendments (thus short-circuiting the need for an Article V convention).  Ultimately 10 of those proposed amendments were ratified, becoming what became known as The Bill of Rights.

Read Azerrad’s entire article HERE.

For the most part, this newsletter focuses on news about efforts to use the second option in Article V to bring about Constitutional amendments.  The following two stories report on renewed efforts to use the first option in Article V… Congressionally-proposed amendments. 

  • US Senate to Consider Reactivating Equal Rights Amendment Effort

During January US Senator Ben Cardin (Maryland) announced the formal introduction of SJR5, a Congressional resolution intended to revive consideration of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).  That effort was active in the 1970s and 80s and fell three states short of ratification prior to its self-imposed (and once extended) ratification deadline.

Senator Cardin’s ERA resolution is said to have the active support of the ERA Coalition, an umbrella organization comprised of dozens of civil and human rights organizations. Twenty US Senators are listed as co-sponsors on his bill.  Cardin believes Congress can re-activate that proposal by authorizing an extension for the period of time allowed for ratification.

Read the entire story HERE.

  • Congressmen Introduce BBA Resolutions… Again… and Again

Already in the 115th Session of Congress ten resolutions (just during January) have been introduced for variations of a Congressionally-proposed balanced budget Constitutional amendment.  In the Senate SJR3 has been sponsored by Senator Shelby, and HJR7 was sponsored by Senators Mike Lee and Grassley.

In the House, Rep. Goodlatte has sponsored HJR1 and HJR2.  Rep. Byrne introduced Senator Shelby’s SJR3 in the House.  Rep. Kirkpatrick sponsored HJR8, Rep. Bradley sponsored HJR14, Rep. Amash sponsored HJR15, and Rep. Loudermilk sponsored HJR29.  Many of these proposed bills are recycled from previous years… where they went nowhere.  While such proposals reflect good intensions, for decades such Congressional proposals have never been fully adopted.

Language in Congressionally-proposed BBAs typically say something like: “Total outlays for any fiscal year shall not exceed total receipts for that fiscal year.”  Such bare-bones language could never work, as budgets (and spending authorizations) are always approved long before income for that year is known.

Virtually all Congressionally-proposed BBAs include a provision where Congress can exceed spending limitations in times of war or other national emergencies.  That is reasonable, but typical Congressional BBA proposals have wording that offers big loopholes and seldom specify over-budget payback requirements.  More importantly, such proposals usually lack meaningful disincentives for Congress ignoring requirements of the amendment.

It is for these reasons that an Article V state-led convention to propose amendments is critical for the proposal of a meaningful BBA.  That historical event could happen soon.

In a recent USA Today op-ed piece, former Oklahoma US Congressman Tom Coburn warned conservatives to “not make the mistake of failing to implement the needed constitutional reforms simply because Republicans will be at the helm in Washington for the next few years.  Precious few politicians — Democrats or Republicans — will restrain their own power while they are in office.  And even if the Republicans do choose to exercise self-restraint for a few years, we cannot afford to leave our liberty at the whims of individuals by leaving the constitutional fences that safeguard them in a state of indefinite disrepair.”  Read his full comments HERE.

Natelson Uncovers 38th Prior Convention of States –
Over the last several years Professor Rob Natelson has done extensive research on gatherings of state leaders who sought to solve mutual problems.  One reason for his research has been to demonstrate that Article V opponents are wrong when they claim there is no prescient for knowing how conventions of states operate.

Natelson recently discovered details about a convention held in St. Louis, Missouri in 1889.  The governor of Kansas, at the request of the Kansas legislature, called the convention to consider adopting uniform state legislation to combat anti-competitive practices in the meat packing industry.  The governor invited 11 additional states and three territories (Wyoming, Dakota, and New Mexico) to attend.  Kansas asked that each state send two senators and three from the lower house.

The convention met at the old Southern Hotel in St. Louis on March 12 and 13, 1889.  By all indications, that convention followed all the usual protocols of the three dozen other conventions of states/colonies. Of the 12 states invited, Arkansas and Ohio did not participate. Wisconsin did, but did not have “full representation,” whatever that means.  The nine states fully represented were Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Nebraska, Colorado, Texas, Kansas, Iowa, and Minnesota.

On its second and final day, the convention proposed model legislation and adjourned.  Its proceedings led directly to the adoption of anti-trust legislation by several states and to congressional passage of the Sherman Anti-Trust act the following year.

New Paper Clarifies: AV Conventions Cannot Run Away –
On January 31 Constitutional scholar and attorney Michael L. Stern released a new study entitled “How the Hamilton Electors Show that an Article V Convention Cannot Run Away”.  The scholarly piece discusses Delegate Limitation Acts (DLAs) and details evidence that states have the unquestioned authority to instruct and control their delegates to an Article V convention.

Stern has served as Senior Counsel to the US House of Representatives, as Deputy Staff Director for Investigations for the Senate Committee on Homeland Security, and Special Counsel to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Read Stern’s instructive and persuasive piece can be read HERE.

We Get Letters –
From Ed Sutton (American Constitution Foundation)
Thanks again for this excellent one source update on V activity.

From Dan Randolph (Volunteer – Convention of States Project)
Outstanding job on the Jan 2017 newsletter!  The links to the many articles are immensely helpful to me, and I always find some which I had missed in my own research.  I don’t know how much feedback you get from others, but please know you have one enthusiastic cheerleader in Virginia!

I am involved as a volunteer with the Convention of States project, and have been for about 3 years now.  I’m a retired 70yo Viet Nam vet who feels ‘guilty’ about not paying attention to politics while working and raising a family.  I never missed voting in an election, but also, never really got involved.  I do not want our freedoms to die on my watch, and feel that CoS is probably the best solution, as the problems are far greater than balancing the budget, or term-limits alone.

Most of my work with CoS is focused on the social media front, so I interact with supporters and detractors daily – the resources you provide are sometimes better and certainly more diverse than the CoS website.

So, Thanks!

Who Said It?

“The basis of our political systems is the right of the people
to make and to alter their Constitutions of Government.”

Said by President George Washington
in his Farewell Address of 1796.

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