January 2020 Newsletter
- Special Note to State Legislators: Resources Available
- New Film: Ways to Fix America’s Broken Government
- Congress Adopted a Federal Budget – Oops, Wrong
- Other News Related to Governmental Fiscal Irresponsibility
- Five Constitutional Amendment Efforts to Watch in 2020
- Multiple Efforts Underway to Control Campaign Financing
- Tucker Carlson Takes on Large Conservative Groups
- Historian Tara Ross: Electoral College ‘Critically Important’
State legislators deal with a wide variety of subjects about which they need to become quickly informed. When it comes to issues surrounding Article V of the US Constitution (amendments thereto), there is no better source of information than the State Legislators’ Article V Caucus web site (http://articlevcaucus.com). That site has just been thoroughly updated.
The RESOURCES section of that site contains current contact information for all the active movements that seek to amend the US Constitution, extensive scholarly works on the history of Article V including state involvement in amendment efforts, and links to many additional resources.
Also included are useful works on FEDERALISM and such related topics as challenges to the Electoral College, federal-state fiscal issues, state-by-state information on election laws, information about the Ranked Choice Voting movement, and links to other sources of information on the importance of restoring a balance between state and federal governing powers.
Please use this valuable resource. Suggested additions are always welcome.
New Film: Ways to Fix America’s Broken Government –
A new one-hour documentary movie is soon to be released that will be of special interest to Article V Caucus newsletter readers. It is called Unrepresented. The main force behind the documentary is Michigan businessman and Hillsdale College graduate Andrew Rodney.
Rodney also served as a writer and executive producer for a 2010-released documentary called DEFORCE, a chronicle of Detroit’s long struggle with what he refers to as “political oppression”.
The new film was originally intended to focus on the national debt and be a documentary of the September 2017 BBA Planning Convention held in Phoenix. Rodney had a full film crew there. They recorded much of that event, including interviews with many of the participants.
Since that convention Rodney decided that his documentary needed to expand to expose broader shortcomings in American governance. He says, “It’s no secret that special interests bankroll campaigns and relentlessly lobby to rig the system in their favor. Unrepresented pulls back the curtain to investigate the mechanisms that propel Congress’s [sic] corruption cycle – giving political insiders enormous, unchecked power”.
Rodney observes that: “[T]he vast majority of Americans agree on basic reforms to outlaw the wanton political corruption from both parties, but politicians won’t pass them. Unrepresented reveals the opportunities and challenges as committed public servants, non-partisan activists, and everyday Americans build unprecedented movements to fix the broken system before it’s too late”.
The documentary is scheduled to be released in the next few months. This newsletter will publish that information as it becomes available. In the meantime (for a short period) the fine cut version (just short of the final cut) can be seen HERE.
Congress Adopted a Federal Budget – Oops, Wrong –
As per usual, Congress failed to do one of its most basic duties… adopt a budget for operation of the federal government. Instead, in mid-December the two chambers approved “a Spending Bill”. The US continues to stumble forward without a true budget… balanced or otherwise.
The action taken (proudly labeled as “bipartisan”) was an agreement to spend during the 2020 budget year at least $1 trillion dollars more than the nation’s projected 2020 income. Justin Bogie of the Heritage Foundation has written a good analysis of this most recent evidence that Congress is not serious about fiscal responsibility HERE.
“Congress must be held accountable for skirting budget rules and recklessly driving deficits ever higher,” says Bogie. “Current and future generations will pay a high price if lawmakers continue down this path”.
An article in the December 17 Townhall says Texas Congressman Chip Roy reported that his staff only laid eyes on the massive spending bill the day before it was voted on. He was quoted as saying: “Days like today everyone declares bipartisanship. But in this version of bipartisanship it is the bipartisan smell of Christmas jet fumes and everyone’s desire to get home, fueling the worst kind of bipartisanship. The kind that says to heck with it, keep spending money we don’t have and leave it to our kids and grandkids to clean up. No one has read the bill. It’s a massive unreadable 2,313 page bill filled with government expanded goodies and spending and it was dropped on us yesterday afternoon at 4:30 pm”. That report is available HERE.
On December 20 Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee released a newsletter wherein he said about what he calls a “Trojan Horse” bill: “Here’s what you weren’t told: buried in its thousands of pages were a lot of surprises, including amnesty for about 4,000 Liberian illegal aliens, visas for 4,000 Afghan officials, paid family leave for government employees, and something called the ‘Fair Chance Act’ that bars the government from asking job applicants if they have a criminal record (aren’t there enough criminals working in our government already?)”. Read his comments HERE.
Other News Related to Governmental Fiscal Irresponsibility –
US Senator James Lankford (OK) periodically produces a list of what he calls “Federal Fumbles”, a collection of specific examples of questionable federal expenditures. His most recent version is HERE.
Lankford’s web site says: “To address America’s outrageous $23 trillion federal debt, we need a growing economy and responsible spending reductions in the federal budget”.
According to the December 10 edition of Liberty Nation, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden was asked if he still supports a balanced budget amendment (BBA). Biden’s reply: “No, because we’re in a different place now. I hope it’s not true, but we’re likely to inherit a recession, at least a significant economic slowdown. That [a BBA] doesn’t make sense”. See that report HERE.
In contrast to most states which operate with fiscally responsible policies, Illinois is again leading the way in the opposite direction. That state has adopted a record $40 billion state budget and a $45 billion infrastructure improvement plan. As of January 1, 2020 the last 9 of 20 new tax and fee hikes took effect in an effort to pay for that spending.
Illinois Policy, an independent organization generating public policy solutions aimed at promoting personal freedom and prosperity in Illinois, has produced a thorough report on that state’s failure to adopt and implement fiscally responsible policies. Read it HERE.
Five Constitutional Amendment Efforts to Watch in 2020 –
As 2020 state legislative sessions are ready to start, five efforts are underway to bring about amendments to the US Constitution.
- Convention of States Project (CoSP): (14 state resolutions already adopted)
In Pennsylvania House Resolution 206 (the CoSP triple-subject proposal) has 8 sponsors, and was passed out of the House State Government Committee in mid-December. Companion bill SR234 has 7 sponsors in the Senate. The Pennsylvania Capitol-Star had an opinion piece about the effort with these strange observations: “The resolution calls for ‘fiscal restraint,’ and that might mean giving the courts the power to hold down federal spending… and But it could also mean giving them [the Article V convention] the power to balance the federal budget by raising taxes much higher than they are today”. Read their opinion HERE.
The South Carolina legislature is considering the CoSP proposal as H3125, which has 30 sponsors, and S112 with 19 sponsors. Both bills are in the respective chamber’s Judiciary Committees. The effort is supported by three SC congressmen, William Timmons, Jeff Duncan and Ralph Norman. The South Carolina Libertarian Party is also supporting the proposed resolution.
Reportedly Congressman Timmons said, “From rampant federal spending that has created $23 trillion in national debt to career politicians that put their political interests before the people they represent, our government is clearly in crisis… and The convention of states promises to be the solution that the founders envisioned when drafting our constitution in 1787”.
In Wisconsin the CoSP bill (SJR57) has 6 Senate sponsors and 27 House sponsors. The bill, introduced in August, was assigned to a committee where it has yet to be acted on.
The CoSP proposed resolution was introduced in Massachusetts last January with 7 sponsors. It has yet to see any action.
- Federal Fiscal Responsibility/BBA Effort (27 state resolutions adopted)
The single-issue movements aiming for federal fiscal responsibility or balanced budget amendments showed no significant progress during 2019. The BBA Task Force, the Center for State-led National Debt Solutions, and Let Us Vote for a BBA have also not shown themselves to be particularly organized for the new year.
There are two exceptions. In South Carolina S125 (with 8 sponsors) and H3017 (with 14 sponsors) seek a BBA-only resolution. There is an effort to get Mississippi to amend HCR51 which was adopted in 1975. That was a resolution calling for an Article V convention to propose a BBA-like constitutional amendment. Unfortunately, that resolution had so many specifications that Article V scholars do not believe it can be aggregated with the other existing BBA-focused applications. So far 27 states have adopted BBA-focused single-subject convention calls.
- US Term Limits (USTL): (3 single-subject state resolutions adopted)
In addition to the above Article V-related legislative proposals, South Carolina is also considering the stand-alone US Term Limits resolution (S663). The bill has 10 sponsors. Companion bill H3166 has 15 sponsors. No new states adopted the USTL resolution in 2019, but the group has been successful in gaining pledges of legislative support going into the 2020 legislative session.
- Equal Rights Amendment (ERA):
Proponents for the Equal Rights Amendment, led by the ERA Coalition think 2020 will be their year to get the 1972 Congress-proposed ERA formally added to the US Constitution. According to the Los Alamos (NM) Daily Post, that state’s US Senator Tom Udall joined 19 of his Senate colleagues in supporting a bipartisan resolution (HJRes 79) that “would remove a 1982 deadline for ratification of the ERA, thereby paving the way for full and equal protections for women under the Constitution”. The effort is being made in anticipation of Virginia becoming the 38th state to ratify the measure. Read the story HERE.
Meanwhile constitutional amendment ratification expert Gregory Watson wrote a commentary published on December 9 by the Texas Scorecard that gives a good historical overview of the ERA movement, and offers warnings to state legislators about several implications of the belated effort to ratify the ERA.
Watson points out that unlike the original ERA drafted in 1923 by suffragists Alice Paul and Crystal Eastman, the wording of the 1972 proposal does not refer to equal rights for “men and women”, but rather that: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex”. (NOTE: on Nov. 13, 2019 House Judiciary Chairman Nadler announced: “And make no mistake, the ERA’s prohibition of the denial or abridgment of ‘equality of rights under the law … on account of sex’ includes discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”)
The entire Watson piece is worthy of a full and thoughtful read by both legislators and the general public. Read it HERE.
Mr. Watson also draws attention to an ERA-related lawsuit brought by Alabama, Louisiana and South Dakota seeking a court order directing the Archivist of the United States to honor the original congressional deadline and the five existing state rescissions as valid and enforceable. A newspaper story about that suit is HERE, and a copy of the actual filing is HERE. On December the office of the National Archives and Records Administration issued a brief news release in response to the suit. See it HERE.
- Campaign Finance Reform (5 similar state resolutions already adopted)
Variations of the WolfPAC-promoted resolution to restrict campaign financing are being considered: In Pennsylvania SR192 with 20 sponsors, introduced in August and HR457 with 32 sponsors, introduced in September. South Carolina SR192, introduced last January. And, Massachusetts H3208 with 82 sponsors, and S2163, with 24 sponsors, was introduced last January.
On December 18 The Fulcrum carried an opinion piece by Mike Monetta, the national director of WolfPAC wherein he described the WolfPAC effort. Read it HERE.
Multiple Efforts Underway to Control Campaign Financing –
Many state legislators will not be familiar with American Promise or Business for American Promise. These two affiliated organizations have as their mission “ending pay-to-play politics, and reducing the influence of unlimited and dark money in politics”. They describe their efforts as “cross-partisan”. They would like to see a new constitutional amendment proposed by EITHER Congress or a convention of states. They appear to be well-funded and have a sizeable staff.
These organizations are loosely associated with the WolfPAC group that seeks (among other things) to overturn the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision.
Tucker Carlson Takes on Large Conservative Groups –
A December 21 article by Thomas Lifson carried by the American Thinker blog was entitled “Tucker Carlson calls out DC establishment conservative nonprofits for selling out and protecting hi-tech bullies that censor conservatives”.
The article highlights a Tucker Carlson segment on Fox News the night before, and provides a link to that 6.5-minute segment. Don’t try to read the attempted transcript of the segment (too many errors). Just watch Carlson speak for himself HERE.
Lifson says Carlson “[P]oints out that Google, Facebook, Twitter, and the others are all enjoying special legal protection that enables them to get away with censoring conservatives, and that the biggest and richest conservative think-tanks support continuing this legal protection, and coincidentally, they receive donations from Google and other tech titans”.
Carlson says, “Google has given money to at least 22 right-leaning conservative non-profits including American Conservative Union, Americans for Prosperity, American Enterprise Institute, Competitive Enterprise Institute, The Heritage Foundation, and the Mercatus Center”.
Tucker particularly singled out The Heritage Foundation, saying the organization “no longer represents the interests of conservatives, at least on the question of [big] tech”, in reference to “the liability exemption that Google enjoys”.
Separately, others have noted that while Heritage stridently proclaims its fidelity to the US Constitution as originally written, these days its leaders are unwilling or unable to support use of the convention of states provision in Article V of the Constitution. That was not always the case.
In 1988 James L. Gattuso, then a Heritage Senior Policy Analyst wrote a Heritage Backgrounder wherein he said: “[T]he 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”. Why has Heritage changed its position? Is it because Heritage leadership fears upsetting its partners in Congress?
The Lifson article includes a response from The Heritage Foundation which characterized Carlson’s claims as “false and misleading” as well as a response from The Competitive Enterprise Institute.
Historian Tara Ross: Electoral College ‘Critically Important’ –
During December The Daily Wire published a two-part interview with lawyer/historian Tara Ross. In this thoughtful interview Ms. Ross responds to opposition questions.
Meanwhile John Hendrickson, policy director for the Tax Education Foundation of Iowa, and Stephen M. King, professor of Political Science at Regent University (Virginia Beach, VA) used the pages of the Quad City Times (Davenport, IA) to express their reasons why the Electoral College must be retained.
They believe “the Electoral College is fundamental to our constitutional system of limited government, federalism, equal representation, checks and balances, and separation of powers”. Read their views HERE.
The Christmas Day edition of The Washington Times carried a piece by Michael Farris (previously of the Convention of States Project and now the President/CEO and general counsel of Alliance Defending Freedom) entitled “Why starting over is the only reasonable way to pass the ERA”.
Farris underscores the five states that have rescinded their earlier ERA ratifications and then asserts that “well more than a dozen states enacted ERA ‘ratifications’ that contain mistakes in the text”. He points out that by Supreme Court action, “the ERA was dead in 1982”.
He says: “If the ERA is a good idea, its supporters have a clear alternative that does not involve rampant abuse of the constitutional process. They can go to Congress and start over. And if two-thirds of Congress and three-fourths of the states agree with them, it will pass. Starting over respects the process, the people and the integrity of the Constitution”. Read the Farris article HERE.
A Thought to Consider…
of America’s Constitution.