July 2020 Newsletter

This Month…

  • Amendment Expert Warns: Applications are Still Missing
  • Anti-Convention of States Legislator Loses in Primary
  • Term Limits Campaign: Many Pledges, Minimal Progress
  • Citizen’s Group is Producing a New BBA-focused Newsletter
  • Coronavirus Leaves Governmental Budgets Devastated
  • Four Recommended, Related Reads

Amendment Expert Warns: Applications are Missing –
Gregory Watson, an acknowledged expert on bringing about constitutional amendments, points out that as of June “several Article V Convention resolutions still have not reached the all-important United States Senate and, in the specific case of Nebraska’s 2010 resolution … that particular resolution has not been received by either of the two chambers of Congress.”

In writing to the Article V Caucus, Watson notes the following status of Article V applications adopted in the last ten years by state legislatures:

1 – Nebraska’s 2010 Resolution 538 (a BBA-focused application) by former State Senator Pete Pirsch has not been received by either of the two Houses of Congress.

2 – Utah’s 2015 HJR.7 (a BBA-focused application) by former Utah State Representative Kraig Powell, while received by the US House of Representatives on July 15, 2015, has not been acknowledged as having been received by the US Senate.

3 – New Jersey’s 2015 SCR 132 (a Wolf-PAC application focused on election finance reform) by still-serving State Senator Linda Greenstein, has not been acknowledged as having been received by the US Senate.  The US House has twice acknowledged receiving copies of the resolution..

4 – Louisiana’s 2016 SCR 52 (a Convention of States Project application) by former Louisiana State Senator Dan Claitor, while received by the US House three years belatedly (and in triplicate no less), has not been acknowledged as having been received by the US Senate.

5 – Wyoming’s 2017 HJR 2 (a BBA-focused application) by still-serving Wyoming State Representative Tyler Lindholm was received by the US House on April 3, but there is still no Congressional Record evidence that it has been received by the US Senate.

6 – Utah’s 2019 SJR 9 (a Convention of States Project application) by still-serving Utah State Senator Evan J. Vickers, while received by the US House of Representatives on July 23, 2019, has not been acknowledged as having been received by the US Senate.

A Note to Legislators in the Above States:
After a legislature goes to all the work of adopting an Article V application seeking a convention of states, its staff MUST take the correct steps in communicating that action to Congress.  The Congressional Record is the place to find acknowledgement that such communication (to both Houses of Congress) has taken place.  Such formal acknowledgement is lacking in each of the above cases.

The Article V Caucus has a quick and easy tutorial on The Proper Way to Transmit State-Approved Article V Applications to Congress, HERE.

Anti-Convention of States Legislator Loses in Primary –
The South Carolina legislature tends to be solidly under Republican control.  So much so that incumbents often have no Democrat opponent, and seldom have a primary opponent.  That all changed in mid-June for Representative Kit Spires who has been an SC legislator since 2007.

According to a June 15 story on the FITSNews blog “thirty-four of the [House] chamber’s eighty GOP members (or 42.5 percent of the caucus) ran unopposed in both the primary and general elections this year.”

Spires apparently thought his seat was safe even though he had a primary opponent.  Members of the state’s Convention of States Project (CoSP) recognized that Spires was in trouble.

The FITSNews piece says “one of the individuals who approached Spires in the waning days of the race was Chris Neely, who works for Convention of States South Carolina. This is one of the groups pushing lawmakers to approve a resolution calling for an Article V Convention for the purpose of amending the US Constitution.”  No doubt the CoSP folks were hoping to win Spires’ support for their proposal.

Reportedly, “Spires rebuked Neely … and as a result an army of grassroots activists that would have otherwise [been] enlisted to assist his candidacy stayed on the sidelines.”

The story goes on to describe CoSP as “that group [that] brings a ton of people with them,” and noted “several primary races in which the group’s activists were reportedly ‘unleashed’ on behalf of victorious candidates.”

Spires, a longtime personal friend of powerful SC Speaker of the House Jay Lucas, lost the primary to newcomer Ryan McCabe (55.79% to 44.21%).  No Democrat has registered to oppose McCabe in the general election.  Read the FITSNews story HERE.

Term Limits Campaign Sees Many Pledges, Minimal Progress –
With the impacts of the coronavirus, most state legislatures have not given much consideration to Article V resolutions this year.  In spite of that, the US Term Limits (USTL) campaign believed they had a good shot at picking up Louisiana this past month.

On May 18 the Louisiana House had approved the USTL measure (HCR28) by a vote of 73 to 14.  Then on May 31 the Senate defeated the proposal by a vote of 16 to 18.  It was up for reconsideration on June 23 when Senator Barrow Peacock, a previous supporter of Article V bills, rose to oppose HCR28.  He claimed to have “become educated” about Article V conventions and offered totally inaccurate and misleading information to his colleagues.

Peacock said “Congress can make themselves delegates… they would set the rules, they would set the delegates” for a convention of states.  He claimed that by a ¾ vote of delegates at a convention of states its proposed amendments could be ratified.  He also read the oft repeated misrepresentation of Justice Antonin Scalia’s views about Article V (see Scalia’s actual views, in his own words, on page 14 HERE, page 2 HERE), and HERE at pages 6, 12-13, 18-23, and especially pages 36-37).  Watch Peacock’s remarks HERE.  Ultimately no vote was taken on the question of reconsideration.

Stacey Selleck, spokeswoman for USTL reports: “To date, thousands of candidates have signed the term limits pledge and hundreds are still in the running for offices in the upcoming primaries and in the November general.  73 current Congress members have signed the pledge to support 12-year term limits in the US Senate and 6-year term limits in the US House.  More than 400 state legislators have signed the pledge to support an Article V convention.”

Just as it had at the start of 2020, USTL has 3 active state applications and they believe the Convention of States Project applications of 12 other states can be aggregated with those three for a total of 15 applications for an Article V convention focused on congressional term limits.

Meanwhile in Michigan, on June 25 the Senate Government Operations Committee voted 3 to 2 in favor of SJRL (the Convention of States Project bill which includes the term limits provision).  The resolution now moves on to the full Senate where it will need 29 favorable votes to pass.

Citizen’s Group is Producing a New BBA-focused Newsletter –
The Let Us Vote for a Balanced Budget Amendment (LUV) citizen’s campaign has begun publishing a new bi-weekly newsletter with the mission of “providing updates on America’s fiscal outlook under current law, opportunities to restore balanced budgets and information on how citizens can get involved.”

Each edition of the new emailed publication highlights where America stands relative to its national debt, and efforts that could bring about national fiscal responsibility.  The new publication is produced by LUV Executive Director Mae James.  Click HERE to subscribe to the LUV newsletter.

Coronavirus Leaves Governmental Budgets Devastated – 
By Stu MacPhail, Editor
COVID-19 and efforts to fight it, have caused large governmental spending increases and major drops in government revenue.  Leaders of local, state and the federal governments are now scrambling to find some semblance of balance between income and outgo.  Families are fighting the same issues.

On May 22, The Telegraph (a southern Illinois newspaper) carried a story entitled All the loopholes states have to ‘balance’ their budgets.  It detailed several of the ways politicians are likely to address pandemic-related shortfalls.  Any serious interest in balancing governmental budgets seems to be slipping away.

One quote in that article, has Yilin Hou, a professor at Syracuse University, saying “state governments must operate to provide the services demanded by citizens [emphasis added], however harsh the [state’s budget-balancing] rules are.”  What?  Governmental leaders are to believe their highest priority is to honor the loud ‘Gimme, gimme, gimme’ shrieks of those demanding ever-increasing governmental services… regardless of the consequences?  Read the story HERE.

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Meanwhile, under the heading Debt Battle Awaits Post-Virus World, a writer in the June 14 edition of the Wall Street Journal suggests that “financial repression” may be the tool of choice to address the current fiscal disparity.  Writer Paul Hannon says, “In the US and elsewhere, government debt is set to soar this year, reflecting lower tax revenue and the cost of financial aid to businesses and households during lockdowns. The International Monetary Fund forecasts that US government debt will reach 131% of annual economic output this year, up from 109% in 2019.”

From Hannon’s article: “Some people thinking about how to pay down the debt are looking at an approach used after World War II: financial repression, or policies that ensure that interest rates remain low. They include central-bank purchases of government bonds and regulations prodding investors to hold such securities … Such measures would help hold down bond yields, lowering interest costs over time … It is increasingly likely that governments will rely on financial repression to erode their debt-to-income ratios.”

“In the heat of the battle,” says Hannon, “nobody is spending too much time worrying about how those pandemic-related debts will be managed.”  Read his piece HERE.

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Fortunately, there are solutions.  On May 26 the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) hosted a 30-minute podcast entitled What is the Swiss Debt Brake?  The podcast features Dr. Barry Poulson, Emeritus Professor of Economics at the University of Colorado, and ALEC staffers Dan Reynolds, Karla Jones and Lee Schalk.

Listeners to the podcast will get a quick overview of the countercyclical fiscal policies/ rules that the governments of Switzerland and several other European countries have adopted to restrain imbalances between spending and debt (as opposed to annualized balanced budget constraints).  The podcast also touches briefly on the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR) that ALEC endorses, and that Colorado and a few other states have adopted.

State legislators are encouraged to take a few minutes to listen to the informative podcast.  Listen to it HERE.

Recommended, Related Reads –

  • On May 31 American Thinker published Too Small to Fail: Could Greater Public Trust Solve Our Debt Crisis? by economists John Merrifield and Barry Poulson.  The writers point to the fact that some small, more homogeneous countries are able to deal with governmental fiscal issues more easily than can large countries such as the US.

No, they don’t argue that the US should be broken into 50 smaller countries.  Rather, they argue that America could learn from its smaller world neighbors.  One of the biggest difference between large and small nations tends to be the level of citizen trust in governmental institutions and elected/non-elected officials.  Can American leaders restore/build citizen trust in the actions they take?  How political leaders deal with state and national debt and fiscal issues will go a long way toward answering that question.  Read the article HERE.

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  • Article V of the US Constitution provides two ways Americans can address national governance and fiscal issues at a constitutional level.  Many state and national legislators are not really familiar with that short provision in the Constitution.  Worse, some legislators have been persuaded that the convention of states alternative in Article V should never be used.

All legislators have taken an oath to support the US Constitution, and most of those legislators say they believe and trust the Constitution.  Yet several of them have been convinced that “it is too risky” to use the power given to them in the second way to bring about constitutional amendments.

It is for this reason that the State Legislators’ Article V Caucus provides substantial resources on its web site.  Did Supreme Court Justice Anton Scalia really warn against using an Article V convention of states?  No!  Have conventions of states ever been used in the US?  Yes… numerous times.  Are there scholarly materials available as a guide for using Article V?  Yes… lots.  Check out these resources HERE.

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  • Don’t Bail Out the States says two-term former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker in a May 20 New York Times article.  He says, “Instead of propping up failed state bureaucracies, the federal government should support American workers.”

Walker notes that nearly 20% of America’s workforce is out of work, and he quotes a Times report that “more than 40 percent of the nation’s 30 million small businesses could close permanently in the next six months because of the coronavirus pandemic.”

Rather than sending money to states with unsustainable pension systems and state workers that in many cases have been sent home with minimal responsibilities while still being paid, Walker says that “the federal government should focus on helping workers and small businesses — the taxpayers — get back on their feet.”  Read his op-ed HERE.

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  • In About Brett Kavanaugh’s Dissent to Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia Article V bogger Rodney Dodsworth applauds Justice Kavanaugh for his dissent in the recent SCOTUS decision that contorted a redefinition of the word “sex.” Then he says, “I have to wonder if Bostock finally shocked Article V opponents into realizing SCOTUS is just another political institution that serves its own purposes and not those of the people.”

He concludes his blistering review by saying: “This SCOTUS decision is not a victory for the country or for freedom.  If the actual purpose and meaning of the law doesn’t matter, then what does?  When words mean nothing, rights mean nothing.  It’s another tragic defeat for the constitutional separation of powers, self-government, morality, truth, speech rights, and religious liberty.  Conservative Christians, you’ve been warned—again.”  Read his blog HERE.

Words Worth Considering…

“The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government. But the Constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all. The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government.”
President George Washington
During his 1796 Farewell Address
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