July 2015 Newsletter

  • A Summary of Recent Article V Legislative Activity
  • Three Announcements about Constitution Amendment Proposals              … By Congress
  • ‘Federal Assembly’ to be Held This Month in San Diego
  • Activist Proposes Another ‘Assembly’
  • Chris Kapenga Headed for Wisconsin Senate
  • Impasse Almost Thwarted Drafting of US Constitution


An Interim Recap of 2015 Article V Legislative Activity –
By Georgia Attorney David Guldenschuh
The Article V movement had an encouraging run through the various state legislatures in the first half of 2015 with the possibility of a success or two left to come in the latter half of the year.

At least one Article V resolution was introduced into 47 of the 50 states during 2015 legislative sessions.  One inactive state, Georgia, passed three Article V resolutions in 2014; thus, it had nothing left to address this year.  A second state, Colorado, considered but elected to postpone action on two Article V resolutions during 2014.

The third state, Wisconsin, passed a BBA resolution in its House in 2014 and it is likely to have at least one resolution introduced before the end of the year.  Thus, all 50 states have engaged in Article V activity over the last two years.

Six different states passed 7 Article V resolutions or bills in 2015.  The Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force (BBA) proposal led the way, being adopted in North Dakota, South Dakota and Utah.  The Compact for America (CfA) bill was approved in North Dakota and Mississippi.  The Convention of States Project (CoS) resolution passed in Alabama, and the Wolf Pac-Free and Fair Elections (WP-FFE) resolution was adopted in New Jersey.

Each of the above Article V advocacy groups had successes in getting their resolutions passed in at least one chamber of a legislature with the opportunity to hopefully finish passage in 2016 in those states where legislation carries over.

The BBA, which needs only 7 more states to meet the 34-state constitutional threshold for calling a convention, passed in the West Virginia Senate and in the Oklahoma and Wyoming Houses, although only the first two will carryover to 2016.  The CoS bill passed and will carryover in the Iowa House and likely in the New Mexico House, and in the Oklahoma and Tennessee Senates.  CoS passed in one chamber in 7 other states, but it will have to restart its efforts in those states in 2016.

The CfA proposal passed in one chamber in 5 states, but none carry over to 2016.  WP-FFA passed different versions of its resolution in both the Maryland House and Senate, but because they could not iron out the differences before the legislative session concluded, they will have to start over in 2016.  WP-FFA also passed and will carry over in the Hawaii House and the Delaware Senate.  Thus, 8 resolutions remain pending at the end of 2015, having passed one chamber and just requiring passage in the other chamber to become final.

In the final analysis, it was a productive year in terms of introducing Article V resolutions, but significant challenges remain as evidenced by the overall success or “passage rate” of resolutions.  CoS led the way introducing its resolution in 36 total states, but its overall passage rate of 3% (one state) suggests that the hurdles contemplated at the announcement of the project in 2014 are proving to be much higher than originally anticipated.

The same holds true for both the CfA and WP-FFE efforts.  The latter was introduced in 26 states and passed in but one for a 4% passage rate.  CfA was much more targeted in its efforts passing in two of 13 states for a 15% passage rate.

Again, BBA led the way in overall success.  Having its resolution already adopted in 24 states at the start of the year, the BBA Task Force had far fewer jurisdictions to choose from with the available states being the more difficult ones in which to obtain passage.  For example, passage in Arizona is virtually impossible as long as anti-Article V Senate Majority Leader Andy Biggs remains in authority.   Nonetheless, out of 13 targeted states (including Arizona), BBA passed in 3 for a respectable 23% passage rate.

Here are some of the nuggets to be gleaned from the 2015 Article V convention performance in the state legislatures.  First, the average window from introduction to passage of an Article V resolution in a state is 3 to 4 years, after which success is unlikely, absent a change in the makeup of a particular state legislature.

Second, the single-subject popular amendment strategy adopted by the BBA Task Force is finding more acceptance and smoother sailing than the other more complicated proposals.  This is likely the effect of the fear-mongering created by such groups as Eagle Forum and the John Birch Society regarding the runaway convention scenario.

The 70-80% popular polling support for a balanced budget amendment makes it easier for a concerned legislator to support that simple proposal than the multi-subject strategy of CoS or the more complicated CfA multi-front legislative compact approach.  Finally, while the different advocacy groups have somewhat supported each other in states where multiple resolutions have been introduced, their overall failure to work together is causing confusion among legislators and hurting the efforts’ overall success rate.

It is my belief that the Article V movement would be well served if a group of state leaders such as the State Legislators’ Article V Caucus offered guidance to the different advocacy groups on how they might better present their resolutions in 2016… and in particular in those states where multiple resolutions are to be introduced, how the groups might better work together to be successful.

NOTE:  Please check out Mr. Guldenschuh’s frequently updated Article V Convention Legislative Progress Reports HERE.

Enzi Effort Not New, Not an A5 Convention Proposal –
During the first week of July major newspapers from Denver to Seattle reported that U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, (Wyo.), Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee had introduced a constitutional amendment to redistribute power from the federal government to the states.

The reports said that the proposed constitutional amendment would give states the authority to repeal any federal regulation or law, which would provide states with the ability to act in the best interest of their citizens.

Actually the proposed measure (S.J.Res. 34) was introduced by Enzi, John Cornyn (Texas) and John Barrasso (Wyo.) back in March.  The proposal provides that if 34 states opposed a federal law or regulation, the law would then be considered repealed.

The proposal is a re-do of a proposal introduced in 2011 by U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (Utah), Congressman Rob Bishop (Utah), Enzi and Barrasso… which was again a re-do of an earlier effort.

Another non-Convention Constitutional Amendment Proposed –
An early July announcement by presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz reports that he too has introduced a proposed constitutional amendment… this time as a reaction to a recent Supreme Court decision… “to preserve the authority of elected state legislatures to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman…”

While both S.J.Res 34 and the Cruz proposal are worthy ideas, neither are expected to bear fruit as Congressional amendment proposals.  Maybe either/both can be the thrust of some future convention of states Article V effort.

CBO Report Motivates Call for BBA… from Congress –
Issued on June 16, the most recent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report begins with the words: “The long-term outlook for the federal budget has worsened dramatically over the past several years, in the wake of the 2007–2009 recession and slow recovery.”

The report goes on to say “federal debt held by the public soared (between 2008 and 2012), nearly doubling during the period.  It is now equivalent to about 74 percent of the economy’s annual output, or gross domestic product (GDP)….” 

See the nonpartisan CBO report HERE.

The CBO report motivated Florida Congressman Vernon Buchanan to pen an opinion piece for FoxNews.com that was published on June 27.  The piece was entitled “America urgently needs a balanced budget.  Here’s how to get there”.

Buchanan offers his opinion that, “The national debt is a ticking time bomb that threatens every American, young and old” … and … “I agree with those who have described the burden we are passing on as ‘generational theft’.

Read Buchanan’s piece HERE.

Sadly, his “how to get there” plan relies on a meaningful Congressionally-initiated balanced budget amendment.  Sounds like the 1980s.  It’s not going to happen!

BBA Task Force to Host a ‘Federal Assembly’ in San Diego –
Thursday evening July 23 and all day Saturday July 25 (during the ALEC convention in San Diego) advocates for a BBA-focused Article V convention will be meeting with top state legislative leaders in what is being billed as a “Federal Assembly”.

Presiding officers in each state’s legislature were sent invitations to the Assembly by Ohio Senate President Keith Faber.  Utah Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, and,
Georgia Senator Bill Cowert (Majority Leader) are two of the other organizers of the event.  U. S. Congressman Bob Goodlatte (House Judiciary Chairman) also plans to speak to Assembly attendees.

While the event is being organized by the BBA Task Force, the sponsoring entity for the Federal Assembly is the National Tax Limitation Foundation (NTLF), a 501c3 founded over 30 years ago by Lew Uhler, a former staffer for President Reagan.

Organizers believe this could prove to be a meeting of substantial significance.  It could be an historic demonstration of the potential contained in Article V.

The purpose of this initial meeting of the Federal Assembly is to discuss adoption of a resolution pledging that at any Article V balanced budget amendment convention a rule shall be adopted calling for one vote per state, and limiting discussions to a single proposed amendment.

A secondary objective of the gatherings will be to identify strategies for obtaining the seven additional states needed to activate a BBA-focused convention of states.

For more information, contact Scott Rogers at ScottRogers@BBA4USA.org.

July 21 through 25 a few thousand state legislators from across the US will meet in San Diego, California for the ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) Annual Meeting.

During the ALEC convention the Convention of States Project (CoS) will also host a session aimed at garnering support from legislators to adopt their Article V resolution during 2016 sessions.

It is expected that leaders of other Article V movements will also be at the San Diego event to promote state adoption of their resolutions.  There will also be special sessions focused on developing a healthier balance of powers between the states and the federal government.

Another A5-Related ‘Assembly’ Proposed –
A July 5 Breitbart News Network opinion piece by prolific conservative writer Michael Patrick Leahy declared “It is time for states to undertake specific steps to re-assert their 10th amendment rights against the usurpations of the federal government.”

Leahy proposes that one state legislature (any one) “pass an act for it to host an ‘Assembly of the States’ whose purpose will be to identify and share best practices for the assertion by the states of their 10th amendment rights among the several states.”

His proposal is not to be confused with the “Assembly of State Legislatures” that has been meeting for two years now with similar purposes, nor the “Federal Assembly” (see above) that will hold its first meeting in San Diego on July 23 and 25 (in conjunction with the ALEC convention).

Leahy suggests that his proposed “Assembly”, which he hopes could happen in May 2016, would “help the states develop a concrete set of action steps that can be undertaken to re-assert their 10th amendment rights and begin to reverse the course of the Big Government juggernaut.”

Michael Patrick Leahy is a self-described “evangelist for constitutional liberty”.  He is credited with organizing the conference call that launched the Tea Party movement on February 20, 2009.  His Breitbart piece can be read HERE.

Kapenga Expected to Join Wisconsin Senate –
In late June, Wisconsin State Rep. Chris Kapenga, one of the prime movers behind the Assembly of State Legislatures, won a special Republican primary for the state Senate seat that has been held by Senator Paul Farrow.  Farrow steps down July 17 for another Wisconsin leadership role.

Kapenga’s victory in the July 21 general election is regarded as all but certain in the widely conservative district.

A Reminder about the History of Constitution Drafting –
Fifty-five delegates attended the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787.  They ranged in age from 26 to 81.

The Constitutional Convention was called in an effort to seek solutions to problems the nation was experiencing under the Articles of Confederation.  The gathering started with optimism, but after five weeks of frequent disagreements, they were almost at a full impasse.

Texas-based WallBuilders, “an organization dedicated to presenting America’s forgotten history and heroes, with an emphasis on the moral, religious, and constitutional foundation on which America was built” has posted a very good account of what happened to break that impasse… leading to the Constitution that America enjoys today.

It all started with a recommendation by Benjamin Franklin.  Read the entire footnoted chronicle of those tension-filled days HERE.

“[T]he present Constitution is the standard to which we are to cling.  Under its banners, bona fide must we combat our political foes — rejecting all changes
but through the channel itself provides for amendments.”
Alexander Hamilton, in a letter to James Bayard, 1802
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