Maine recently joined 35 other states this year in filing the Convention of States (COS) resolution calling for an Article V convention limited to proposing amendments that impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and limit terms of office for its officials and members of Congress. The Convention of States Project now holds the record for filing the most identical Article V resolutions in a single year –and it demonstrates that state legislators are realizing their power to correct our nation’s most pressing problems through this long-neglected constitutional process.
As Alexander Hamilton said of Article V in Federalist 85:
“Nor however difficult it may be supposed to unite two thirds or three fourths of the State legislatures, in amendments which may affect local interests, can there be any room to apprehend any such difficulty in a union on points which are merely relative to the general liberty or security of the people. We may safely rely on the disposition of the State legislatures to erect barriers against the encroachments of the national authority.”
So far, the state legislatures of Georgia, Alaska, and Florida have answered that call of duty to help erect barriers against the encroaching national authority by completely passing our Article V resolution. And many of the 35 filings this year are still working their way through committees and legislative bodies. Although some are no longer active for this legislative session, COS has seen major progress in its efforts among the states in the two short years since Citizens for Self-Governance started the project. In states where our resolution does not complete the legislative process this year, we will work with our sponsors to re-introduce it at the start of the next legislative session.
As I travel around the state presenting the Convention of States Project to various groups, I find that this movement is renewing the hope of people who have lost faith in their elected leaders. Once they learn the reason the Framers added the convention process in Article V, they realize that there is something they can do to actually make a difference beyond just casting a vote. This truth is motivating people to encourage their state legislators to be the guardians of their liberty and security by asking them to pass our Article V resolution through the Maine Legislature.
The Constitution can only be amended by the states, and throughout our history only 33 amendments have been proposed to the states for ratification. Twenty-seven of those have been ratified and added to the Constitution. But each of these amendments originated in Congress. The convention mode allows amendments to originate with the people as Abraham Lincoln stated in his inaugural address:
“While I make no recommendation of amendments, I fully recognize the rightful authority of the people over the whole subject, to be exercised in either of the modes prescribed in the instrument itself; and I should, under existing circumstances, favor rather than oppose a fair opportunity being afforded the people to act upon it. I will venture to add that to me the convention mode seems preferable, in that it allows amendments to originate with the people themselves, instead of only permitting them to take or reject propositions originated by others, not especially chosen for the purpose, and which might not be precisely such as they would wish to either accept or refuse.” Lincoln’s Inaugural Address
There has never been an amendment proposed by the states–and if we believe that the federal government has grown too big and is too intrusive, then the time for the states to correct this imbalance of power is now.
What Sorts of Amendments Could be Proposed at the Convention of States Project’s Article V Convention?
The following are examples of amendment topics that could be introduced at an Article V convention called pursuant to our application:
- A balanced budget amendment
- Conforming the General Welfare Clause to the Founders’ original intent (that the federal government could not spend money on any topic within the jurisdiction of the states)
- Conforming the Commerce Clause to the Founders’ original intent (that Congress would have a narrow and exclusive power to regulate shipments across state lines–not all the economic activity of the nation)
- A prohibition of using international treaties and law to govern the domestic law of the United States
- A limitation on using Executive Orders and federal regulations to enact laws (since Congress is supposed to be the exclusive agency to enact laws)
- Imposing term limits on Congress and/or the Supreme Court
- Placing an upper limit on federal taxation
- Requiring the sunset of all existing federal taxes and a super-majority vote to replace them with new, fairer taxes
Forcing Congress to call the first-ever Article V convention for proposing amendments will not be an easy task to accomplish, because those in power never want to relinquish their power. However, once a convention is successful in proposing a handful of amendments such as the ones listed above, it will be up to the states to decide whether or not to ratify any of them.
Our future is in our own hands. We can either continue to watch our country go down an unsustainable path, or we can stand up and change the course we are on. The Framers expected this day would come, and now it has arrived. Will we rise to the occasion and use the option they gave us in the Constitution for this very hour, or will we allow fear to paralyze us from doing what needs to be done? Please join us at the www.conventionofstates.com to learn more and get involved.