Federalism

Rob Natelson Treats Texas Radio Listeners to a Lesson on Article V

This week Professor Rob Natelson, a member of the ALEC Board of Scholars and author of the ALEC Article V Handbook discussed the amendments convention process on Houston’s Morning News with Matt Patrick – AM 740 KTRH News Radio. Patrick was so intrigued by Natelson’s comments that he spontaneously invited him to continue the conversation on his afternoon news program at KPRC Radio AM 950. Listen to the morning segment and minutes 9:00-18:40 of the afternoon segment – Natelson does an excellent job of describing some of the leading Article V efforts and dispelling many of the myths surrounding the process!

Texas’ sudden interest in Article V was likely precipitated by Governor Abbott’s Texas Plan to restore rule of law in the United States and return the U.S. Constitution to its intended place in our governmental system by proposing nine amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Abbott unveiled his plan earlier this year during a keynote address at the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Annual Policy Orientation. The governor attributes much of Washington, D.C.’s dysfunction to the federal government’s refusal to honor the U.S. Constitution. While Natelson pointed out that governors do not control the Article V process, he credited Abbott and other governors like Ohio’s John Kasich for exercising political leadership on the issue.

Professor Natelson explained that Article V is the “principle way that the Founders thought that the people could rein in an out of control federal government” and listed three areas particularly well-suited to reform with a convention for proposing amendments.

  • Bringing fiscal restraint to the federal government by proposing a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution or some of the more far reaching efforts such as those supported by Convention of States;
  • Proposing a constitutional amendment to place term limits on federal lawmakers and Supreme Court justices;
  • Using Article V to overrule Supreme Court decisions that lack a constitutional basis.

Natelson reminds us that throughout our history the amendments process has been used many times to restrict the federal government. The enactment of term limits on the president is just such an example, and Rob Natelson underscores that a convention to propose amendments called by state legislatures is no different than one convened by Congress. Applications for an amendments convention must be submitted by two-thirds of the states (34) and any proposed amendments resulting from the convention must reach the three-quarter (38) state ratification threshold of any other proposed amendment before being adopted. Professor Natelson traces much of the fear and misunderstanding surrounding the process today to a disinformation campaign conducted during the 1960s and 1970s to discredit the process.

In response to how the average citizen can become involved, Natelson referenced three organizations that are, not surprisingly, members of ALEC and/or for which ALEC has supporting model policy – Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force, Convention of States and U.S. Term Limits. ALEC has long championed Article V as a powerful tool to rein in federal government overreach and has provided a forum where Article V efforts can flourish. Natelson is amazed by how quickly Article V initiatives have proliferated over the past seven years observing that a convention to propose amendments is “becoming a real possibility.” ALEC commends Rob for his vision and leadership on this issue.


In Depth: Federalism

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