Federalism

Simulated Article V Amendments Convention Provides an Important and Reassuring Window into the Future

Last week in Williamsburg, Virginia the Convention of States project hosted a simulated Article V amendments convention. The agenda was modeled after the application developed by Convention of States and has been adopted by eight of the 34 states needed for Congress to call a real amendments convention. The application was also adopted in 2015 as ALEC model policy which can be accessed here. One hundred thirty-seven delegates representing all 50 states participated in this important, democratic exercise.

Recognizing that there might come a period in the nation’s history when the states would need to exert authority over a dysfunctional Congress, America’s Founding Fathers included a mechanism in Article V of the U.S. Constitution for the states to propose constitutional amendments. Congress’ approval rating, which has hovered at around 11 percent for more than a year is evidence that the United States is experiencing the very conditions that the Constitutional Framers foresaw, and that this is an opportune time for the states to propose amendments to restore the appropriate balance of power between the federal government and the states.

The Article V process is straight-forward. Upon application of two-thirds of the state legislatures (34), Congress would be compelled to call a convention for proposing amendments related to the 34 state applications. Any proposed amendments would still be subject to the three-fourths (38) state threshold for final ratification. The recently updated ALEC Article V Handbook is an excellent resource to learn more about Article V history, process and potential. The Handbook was authored by ALEC Board of Scholars member Professor Rob Natelson who authored an article about the simulated convention that can be found here.

While the Article V process is understood very well from a theoretical perspective, an Article V convention for proposing amendments has never actually taken place. This has led some to speculate that an amendments convention would result in a constitutional free for all that would devastate America’s most important founding document. This is the myth of the “runaway convention.”

The Convention of States simulated convention provided a reassuring window into what might really happen at a convention for proposing amendments. The delegates conformed to application restrictions only considering initiatives that would impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government and fix term limits for members of Congress and for federal officials. As ALEC Board Member and former past chair Texas Representative Phil King observed, “I am absolutely convinced that if the States will call a convention of the states that we can come up with positive amendments that will really help get the country back on track.”

Among the most popular of the amendments considered according to a Convention of States online poll were ones calling for term limits on Members of Congress and for a federal balanced budget. ALEC term limits model policy can be accessed here and balanced budget model policy can be accessed here.

ALEC commends Convention of States for spearheading such an important exercise that will allay many of the concerns that surround the Article V process.

 


In Depth: Federalism

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