May 2022 Newsletter

Academy of States 3.0 Registration Opens Next Month
Former US Comptroller General Addresses the Phoenix Correspondence Commission
Method Matters
Article V News
Who Said It?

Academy of States 3.0 Registration Opens Next Month

State legislators: is your state ready for an Article V Convention? Neal Schuerer, President of Path to Reform and member of the Article V Caucus Steering Committee, predicts that the first-ever Article V Convention in American history will likely occur in the next 24 months.

Please make plans to attend Academy of States 3.0: Tools to Prepare for a Convention to Propose Amendments in Denver on July 31 and August 1, 2022.

This workshop will equip state legislatures with practical skills to effectively prepare for and participate in a convention to propose amendments. Topics include:

  • drafting a delegate selection statute
  • creating delegate instruction, oversight, and enforcement measures
  • how bipartisan cooperation figures in drafting and approving viable amendments

Meals will be provided, along with ample opportunities to network with other legislators and Article V experts.

We plan to have the registration link for you in next month’s newsletter. Don’t miss it!

Please note that this event is exclusively for legislators and legislative staff. It will be recorded and made available for online viewing, but a remote participation component will not be offered. A link to the registration page will be available in the next newsletter.

 

Former US Comptroller General Addresses the Phoenix Correspondence Commission
by Bruce Lee, Executive Director, Phoenix Correspondence Commission

The Phoenix Correspondence Commission (PCC) is pleased to report that a full delegation of state representatives participated in their February 11 meeting. Highlights included the premiere of our new introductory fiscal integrity video; a stirring keynote address by former US Comptroller General David Walker, who described the PCC as “incredibly important…and timely;” and Arizona State Senator and PCC Chair Kelly Townsend on the origins and direction of the PCC.

Townsend explained the Commission’s unusual construct and role. It is not a typical nonprofit organization or a private corporation: it is a legal government entity. In 2017, Arizona invited all 50 states to participate in the first national interstate convention since 1861. After drafting proposed rules for a future Article V Convention, the delegates created the Commission to continue this work by providing the states with a means to communicate with Congress and one another on issues surrounding Article V. This construct provides the Commission with both the standing and credibility necessary to interact with other government entities.

With the pandemic behind us, we look forward to resuming in-person meetings. We would like to secure the participation of delegates from all fifty states within the next four to six months. Our next meeting is in May, and if you are interested in representing your state on the Phoenix Correspondence Commission or are a credentialed delegate and would like details about our upcoming meeting in May, please contact Executive Director Bruce Lee at bruce.lee.pcc@gmail.com.

 

Method Matters
by Vickie Deppe

In the last three days of its regular session, the Illinois General Assembly rammed through a stealth recission of its Article V applications. Notice-of-hearing rules were suspended in both chambers, creating a significant obstacle for constituents to weigh in on or even find out about the measure. Interestingly, the sponsor of SJR 54, Representative Kambium Buckner, is a former aide to United States Senator Dick Durbin, Majority Whip and Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Appointed to fill a vacancy during the prior General Assembly, Buckner was made a member of the powerful House Executive Committee before having served for even a single complete term.

The resolution rescinded all Article V applications passed in Illinois, including the Wolf-PAC application passed in 2014, and two applications for a general convention passed in 1861 and 1903. In a noteworthy twist, every legislator who voted for the Wolf-PAC application in 2014 voted to rescind it, and those who voted against it when it was originally passed voted to preserve it.

This is a good example of why ratification method matters. Whether an amendment is proposed by Congress or the states, it does not become part of our Constitution until it has been ratified by ¾ of the states. Article V stipulates that ratification can occur by votes in the state legislatures or through special ratification conventions. The only ratifications that were accomplished via convention are those of our original Constitution, and the 21st Amendment, which repealed Prohibition.

Ratification by state legislature is exactly what it sounds like: the legislature votes on whether or not to ratify an amendment. In some states, this requires a supermajority. The convention method, on the other hand, provides We the People with the opportunity to weigh in directly and exclusively on a constitutional amendment, either through a referendum or by voting for delegates who pledge—and are legally obligated—to vote on the proposed amendment in a certain way (much like electors in a presidential election).

A chief advantage of the convention method is not just the direct participation of voters: it’s the single-issue nature of the matter at hand. Though in most cases state legislators are also elected by the direct participation of voters, after the election is over, constituent opinion is just one of many factors that drive the votes they cast in the legislature. If they choose to cross party leadership, for example, they may find themselves facing a well-financed primary opponent with influential endorsements, or lose a key committee assignment that hobbles their ability to advocate for their constituents. Local officials, donors, and lobbying entities (in this case, Common Cause) also exert significant influence on legislators. Such dynamics occur in both red and blue states.

Amending our Constitution is a difficult process that can take decades—and rightfully so. We should only make changes to our Constitution when a proposed amendment has sustained, widespread support. This process protects us from temporary passions; but only the convention method of ratification protects us from the hurried, secretive, and questionably-motivated political machinations of the sort we have just witnessed in Illinois.

 

Article V News

Convention of States Project

S 133 passed in the South Carolina Senate and awaits action in the House Judiciary Committee. In Colorado, HJR 22-1021 was introduced by Representative Ron Hanks and was assigned to the State, Civic, Military, and Veterans Affairs Committee. The resolution has 11 additional Republican sponsors.

Term Limits

In Tennessee HJR 8 passed in the House and awaits action by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Delegate Selection and Oversight:

Mississippi’s SC 511 and HC 9 died in committee. In Missouri, SB 1040 and HB 2169 have been placed on the Bills for Perfection Calendar in their respective chambers.  New Hampshire’s HB 1170 was tabled in the House, but has nonetheless been assigned to the Senate Election Law and Municipal Affairs Committee. In Oklahoma, HJR 1056, providing for the selection of delegates to attend both interstate planning and Article V Conventions, received a do-pass vote in the Senate Rules Committee.

 

Who Said It?

“The framers believed in the people. In the amendment-proposing convention of article V, they codified the right of the people to change the government when the government was unable or unwilling to change itself.”

E. Donald Elliott
Duke Law Journal
1985

 

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