June 2018 Newsletter

by | Jun 4, 2018 | AVC Newsletter

This month…

  • What is Federalism and Why is it Important?
  • Blogger Provides Reminders About ‘Why Article V?’
  • US Term Limits Drive Adds New State
  • Article V Activists Take New Approaches
  • Fear, Distrust Restrain Constitutional Amendments
  • Savannah Editorial:  ‘America Facing Debt Catastrophe’
  • Long-Dead Proposed Constitutional Amendment Pops Up

What is Federalism and Why is it Important? –
America’s form of national government is designed to rely on a distinctive dual-sovereignty model… national sovereignty coupled with state sovereignty.  Sovereignty is defined as “supreme political power”.That balanced sovereignty is known as Federalism.  In America, power is seen as originating in the hands of its citizens… the ultimate sovereigns… then certain powers (portions of their sovereignty) have been delegated to different levels of government.   Sadly, over the years that relationship has gotten out of balance.

On May 15 The Daily Signal published a piece by Fred Lucas which discussed the divisions in American governance, and suggested “a reinvigorated federalism that allows blue states and red states to address issues differently and coexist with minimal interference from the U.S. government” is needed to avoid splitting our country.  That article can be read HERE.

This newsletter exists primarily to foster a re-balancing of Federalism, with an emphasis on using the second provision of the Constitution’s Fifth Article toward that end.

That second option in Article V is one of the check & balance tools the Founding Fathers included in the 1787 Constitution to enable states to protect their interests while granting necessary limited powers to the national government.  Numerous other provisions in the US Constitution also set forth the Founders’ intent to establish a system of government that involves dual-sovereignty… a sovereign federal government that continues to honor the sovereignty of the individual states.

It is important that state legislators and Article V activists become as knowledgeable as possible about the founders’ intent as to the inter-relationships between the national and state governments.  A library of federalism resources affiliated with this newsletter is available HERE.

Blogger Provides Reminders About ‘Why Article V?’ –
Rodney Dodsworth operates something he calls the Article V Blog.  He does not represent himself as an expert or a scholar.  His thoughtful, easy-to-read work constitute his credentials.  Dodsworth has recently produced three posts that are especially worthy of reading by state legislators and Article V activists.

On May 7 he posted “Article V – Saving the Constitution” wherein he documents how the 1787 Constitution may not have been ratified had it not included the dual-approaches included in Article V.  Many American leaders of that era were not totally pleased with the proposed new governing document.  Had they not been convinced that Article V provided a way either Congress or the states could add provisions, leaders in several states were ready to withhold ratification.  Read this blog HERE.

Mr. Dodsworth followed that on May 14 with a blog entitled “Article V Congressional Amendments or a Convention of States?”  He makes it clear why James Madison, “dreaded in the present temper of America” that Anti-Federalists were still working to undermine the new document… chose to (1) draft a set of specific amendments that he thought would satisfy most state concerns, and (2) encouraged the new Congress to propose the amendments themselves (rather than encourage the states to meet under the second provision in Article V).

During the 1787-88 ratification period, the states devised more than 30 desired amendments.  Unlike some modern-day naysayers claim, Madison was not disparaging the convention of states approach to proposing amendments, he just recognized that “the present temper of America” recommended that those initial amendment proposals should come from Congress… if possible (unlike today where it is highly unlikely that meaningful, needed amendments will originate).

Madison quickly drafted 12 possible amendments.  As soon as the new Congress convened, it immediately proposed Madison’s work to the states.  Ten amendments were adopted, becoming known as the Bill of Rights.  More than 200 years later one of the remaining two was belatedly ratified as the 27th Amendment.  Read this blog HERE.

In April Dodsworth produced another very useful blog entitled “My Cheat Sheet to The Federalist Papers”.  His “Cheat Sheet” is actually a book that he recommends, written by Mary E. Webster, The Federalist Papers in Modern Language Indexed for Today’s Political Issues.  Read Dodsworth’s reasons why those who want to understand The Federalist Papers should read Webster’s book… HERE.  To obtain a copy of Ms. Webster’s book, click HERE.

US Term Limits Drive Adds New State –
On May 17 the Missouri legislature finalized its application for a single-subject Article V convention of the states.  Their application calls for a Constitutional amendment that would limit the terms of members of Congress.

Bob Berry, Western Regional Director for US Term Limits said, “Clearly 2018 was a difficult year for Article V groups.  We at US Term Limits were pleased to see victories in Alabama and Missouri.  Additionally, we had sizable vote margins in the Georgia House and the Arizona Senate which would have given us wins in both states, but in each case we were prevented from receiving final votes by Republicans in leadership.”

The Missouri measure, SCR40, was approved in the Senate by a 24 to 6 vote, and in the House by a 109 to 25 vote.  Approval was a clearly bipartisan effort.  See the adopted application HERE.

Article V Activists Take New Approaches –
Opponent-generated fear and misinformation have slowed recent Article V activity across the US.  That has caused some Article V activists to look at related… but different… ways to use the powers of Article V.

One example is David Biddulph.  In 2010 Biddulph joined Bill Fruth to co-found the BBA Task Force.  In the years since, they and their associates have built on 1970-90s efforts to get states to adopt applications for a single-subject BBA-focused Article V convention to propose amendments.  They have been successful in getting 16 new state applications since their founding.  In spite of Common Cause-inspired efforts which motivated four states to rescind their earlier applications, that effort now lists 28 state applications for a BBA-focused Article V convention.

While still supporting the BBA Task Force effort, Biddulph has stepped away from that group to form a new organization that he calls the “Let Us Vote for a BBA Campaign”.  It is his aim to (1) Get Congress to acknowledge and count the hundreds of Article V applications it has received over the years… and to promptly call an Article V convention; and (2) Get Congress to use their second option for ratifying any resulting proposed amendments… ratifying conventions in each state.  He believes that will effectively be equivalent to a referendum “of the people” on the issue of America’s out-of-control federal debt.

Biddulph launched his effort by conducting a telephone survey of thousands of voters in South Carolina, California, New York, and Wisconsin.

He intends to make discussion of federal fiscal responsibility, and citizen-input on potential solutions, a major issue leading up to the 2018 elections.

One other example is Fritz Pettyjohn.  Fritz believes the founding fathers made a mistake in Article V in their rush to conclude drafting of what has become America’s Constitution.  Mr. Pettyjohn, a former State Senator in Alaska, is promoting what he calls “The Mason Amendment” to correct original Article V drafting errors.  More details next month.

The Act 2 Reforms campaign has been percolating in the background for several years.  The effort to rejuvenate America’s national government was conceived by retired businessman Frank Keeney and his wife Carol.  They have recently hired Jan Cook as Executive Director to kick off a state-by-state effort to use Article V to pursue its multi-subject goals.  The five proposals included in the Act 2 Reforms are designed to cure federal government dysfunction and allow it to function more efficiently.  Learn more about their movement HERE.

Fear, Pervasive Distrust Hold Back Constitutional Amendments – 
Writing for the National Review, Kevin C. Walsh says, “Constitutional originalists should … welcome successful constitutional amendments because they legitimate the formal mode of amendment as the way that constitutional change ought to be accomplished.”

Walsh has some specific changes he would like to see in the US Constitution, but his article makes some excellent general points about amending America’s national charter.  For instance, Walsh says, “When we look beyond our amendment culture to our constitutional culture more generally, we see pervasive distrust and fear.  These attitudes are manifest in the concerns that people of a range of political persuasions have expressed on one occasion or another about what ‘they, the People’ on ‘the other side’ will do if we start tinkering with the Constitution.”

While Walsh promotes what he considers a simple amendment proposal, he stresses that any Article V-achieved amendment will have favorable consequences for America.  He says, “Maybe people will be more willing to trust their fellow citizens as agents in an amendment process if they have some positive experience of having gone through that process once.”

Walsh also muses about desirable changes to the amendment process itself, noting that “The unamended Constitution was not perfect”, and one day even Article V should be amended.  Read Walsh’s thoughtful piece HERE.

Savannah Editorial:  ‘America Facing Debt Catastrophe’ –
A May 14 editorial in the Savannah (GA) Morning News had a headline screaming, “America facing debt catastrophe”.  Writer Ed Conant points out that in the year 2020, national debt is projected to increase by a trillion dollars (in just that one year).

He notes that “The only previous time in our peacetime history that our annual deficit was a trillion dollars was in the aftermath of the Great Recession from 2007 to 2009.  Due to reduced gross domestic product, 10 percent unemployment and collapse of the real estate market, federal revenue was down.  Unemployment insurance and social safety net spending was up, and huge stimulus packages were approved to turn around the collapsing economy.  In times of economic peril these were necessary steps.  Today our economy is humming in the ninth year of economic expansion, and unemployment is below 4 percent.  Why does the country need to borrow a trillion dollars a year?”

His answer is “because we are fiscally irresponsible.”  Why should Americans care? he asks, “Because our unconstrained national debt will inevitably turn into a severe debt crisis.”

“(O)ur country’s economy and standard of living increases when the government borrows to increase spending and reduce taxes” says Conant.  “But unlike we citizens, our federal government ignores its obligation to repay the money.  Our politicians have decided not only to disregard paying down existing federal debt, but to increase new debt to record highs every year.”  Read the entire editorial HERE.

A related NewsDay piece by Dan Janison says, “If there ever was a real ideological battle in America over federal debt and deficits, it is over.”  Read it HERE.

Long-Dead Proposed Constitutional Amendment Pops Up –
Recently the Illinois state legislature ratified an amendment to the US Constitution… about 36 years too late.

The so-called Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was originally introduced to Congress in 1921.  Congress finally formally proposed the Constitutional amendment in 1972, giving the states until March 22, 1979 to ratify the proposal.  By the end of 1977, the amendment had received 35 of the necessary 38 state ratifications… then four states rescinded their ratifications.

In 1978 Congress purported to extend the ratification deadline to June 30, 1982, but no additional states had ratified the amendment by the second deadline.  Now comes Illinois (supported by a similar ERA ratification by Nevada in 2017).

What impact will Illinois’ legislative exercise have?  None!

Closing Thoughts…

Once an Article V convention is held, and one or more Constitutional amendments have been adopted to be proposed for ratification, Congress has two choices.  It MUST either submit the proposal(s) to all state legislatures for ratification, or to ratification conventions in all states.

Ratification of the 21st Amendment is instructive on this:
According to Ethan P. Davis of the Yale Law School, “The ratification of the Twenty-first Amendment might be called one of the most democratic moments in American history.  Over the next eight months (after Congress chose the convention method of ratification) forty-three states held popular elections and thirty-eight assembled conventions.  Almost all voters in America had the unprecedented opportunity to bless or condemn a federal constitutional amendment directly.  Never before had the nation modified the Constitution in (a) process so near to a popular referendum.  Millions of women exercised their newly guaranteed right to vote. The constitutional conventions ratified the choices of the people without fail.”

Davis, Ethan P., “Liquor Laws and Constitutional Conventions:
A Legal History of the Twenty-first Amendment” (2008)
Student Scholarship Papers. Paper 65