History Was Made in Phoenix This Month
On September 12, official delegations from 19 states as well as observers from several additional states assembled in Phoenix for the first convention of states since 1861. At 19, the percentage representation from the states was similar to that of the Annapolis Convention in 1786 which called for the assembly that ultimately drafted the U.S. Constitution the following year. The purpose of the convention was to plan the rules and procedures for a convention for proposing amendments pursuant to Article V to consider a balanced budget amendment (BBA) to the U.S. Constitution. By all accounts, it proceeded in a sober and orderly fashion.
Twenty-seven of the 34 states required to apply to Congress to call a convention of states to consider a federal BBA have submitted applications to Congress and if the resulting amendments convention proposes a BBA, 38 states would need to ratify it before it would become a constitutional amendment. Leaders in the BBA movement do not have confidence in the federal government to do the hard political work to tackle America’s national debt which topped $20 trillion during the planning convention in Phoenix, and their concerns are warranted. Congressional dysfunction has reached a point where even routine legislative work is derailed by partisan and internecine bickering, so assuming that Congress would have the political courage and will to address the national debt would take a degree of optimism unwarranted by the facts.
ALEC has been a leader in the Article V space for many years and has published a handbook that serves as a guide to state lawmakers who view Article V as a tool for the states to propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution as the constitutional Framers intended. Not surprisingly, state legislators who are members of ALEC were prominent at the planning convention, and here are some of their observations.
Arizona Representative Kelly Townsend who served as the Planning Convention Chair said that one of the best aspects of the planning convention was that more Americans “moved out of the camp of fear and into the camp of possibility” on the topic of an amendments convention.
Former Oklahoma state representative Gary Banz and former member of the ALEC Board of Directors chaired the Rules Committee at the Planning Convention. He remarked that deliberations in this committee were “intense, open, transparent and comprehensive with a common focus on developing a consensus that we could embrace.”
Chair of the Federalism Subcommittee at ALEC and Utah state lawmaker Rep. Ken Ivory observed, “We have a system in disrepair that operates to produce trillion-dollar deficits, to produce mountains of regulations and federal criminalization, and until we restore that balance and that division in power, we’re going to continue to see results that a system in disrepair produces.”
Senator Jim Stalzer of South Dakota’s 11th District noted that “the cooperation at the BBA Planning Convention was amazing. Every time there were conflicting amendments, the States involved got together and came back with a solution better than either original idea. Of course there were some spirited debates, but the Convention stayed true to its charter and the final product was supported by everyone. It was truly an honor to participate with so many patriots from around the nation.”
According to Arizona Delegate and State Representative Bob Thorpe, Chairman of the Federalism committee, “the BBA Planning Convention was an historic, meaningful, successful event. It has been 156-years since a state has called a Federal convention, the last being the Peace Convention held in Washington D.C. in 1861. It was such an honor and privilege to gather at the Phoenix State Capitol with delegates from across the nation. On day one, we selected leadership, broke-up into committees and sub-committees and got to work. By Friday, we had successfully addressed the difficult issues facing future conventions, including rules, planning, integrity and limiting outside influences. We also committed ourselves to continue to meet and to educate and encourage the seven additional states needed to join our ranks, in order to convene a convention for proposing an amendment for a balanced budget requirement on the Federal government.”
Convention Chair Representative Kelly Townsend was, “so proud of the work accomplished … by delegates of the planning convention.” She continued, “We’ve still got a lot of work to do to make a balanced budget amendment a reality, but the momentum for a constitutional convention is clearly building. It was an honor to take part in such an historic event.”