A group of state lawmakers from at least 15 states has an idea for fundamental reform of the federal government using a specific provision of the Constitution never before invoked. Chris Queen at PJ Media wrote this week about how some Americans have recently studied Article V.
Article V deals with the methods permitted for amendments to the Constitution. The first process sets out how amendments are proposed by a two-thirds majority of both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Once presented, an amendment must be ratified by three-fourths of the states through their legislatures. Every amendment to the Constitution adopted so far in American history has been proposed in this manner.
The second way for proposing amendments is through a convention called by two-thirds of the states through their legislatures. No such conference has been called since the Constitution was ratified in 1788. That may change if a group of motivated states can get the needed 34 states to make up two-thirds calling for a convention.
Last week, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) held a policy conference. A possible conference of the states was discussed to propose amendments on various subjects, including term limits for members of Congress and a balanced federal budget.
Iowa state Rep. John Wills (R) was one of the conference members who supported a convention of the states for proposing amendments. He said that the idea is “the last line of defense we have” to deal with a federal government that has “run away.” He added that Congress is not going to limit itself by pointing out that the country’s current situation is why the Constitution includes the possibility of a convention of the states.
ALEC has proposed a formal call for a convention, and so far, 15 states have joined in. Because there is no precedent for such a convention, it is uncertain how the convention would be organized, or the ratification process would go forward if any amendments were formally proposed.
If next year’s elections lead to a red wave of Republican wins in Washington and state legislatures around the country, the threshold for a convention may become realistic. A convention of the states would not be limited to a set group of amendments, and once a convention got underway, anything could be on the table.