By Fred Lucas – Via The Blaze-
State lawmakers from across the country are gathering in Indianapolis this week to plan rules for a potential convention to amend the U.S. Constitution.
Legislatures in 22 states have passed resolutions calling for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, while Vermont became the first to call for an amendment to limit spending and contributions in political campaigns.
No actual amendments will be discussed at the Assembly of State Legislatures meeting Thursday and Friday at the Indiana State House, Wisconsin state Rep. Chris Kapenga said, only setting the rules for how an Article Five convention would be handled. Lawmakers from 30 states are taking part.
“As a body we are not touching amendment subject matter and take no stance,” Kapenga, a Republican, told TheBlaze. “We do not take a stance on amendment issues. This body is about process.”
The group of state lawmakers first met in December.
So far, all 27 amendments to the Constitution were passed by Congress and then ratified by three-fourths of the states, but the Constitution also allows for a convention of states to be convened if two-thirds of the states –34 – call for one. If a convention approves an amendment, three-fourths of the states – 38 – must vote to ratify it.
In deciding on the rules, attendees to the meeting could consider such matters as how many delegates each state would have at a convention, who would appoint them and the process for considering a specific amendment.
The group of state lawmaers has no legal authority, but is putting forth a consensus blueprint for rules of the convention of the states, which would be ultimately decided by the convention or by state legislatures.
Kapenga stressed that in addition from steering clear of endorsing specific amendments, the assembly is also avoiding coordination with any political or partisan groups.
“This is strictly currently elected state legislators,” Kapenga said. “There are no meetings, money or involvement with anyone. It must stay politically pure or it takes a political slant.”
He added that along with political groups, Congress has no discretionary power in the process.
“The only political leaning we have is state vs. federal power,” he continued.
The movement for amending the Constitution through a state-led convention gained momentum after conservative talk radio host Mark Levin’s “The Liberty Amendments” became a best-seller in 2013, though is still considered a long shot.
More liberal wings recently have come to embrace the idea. Last month, the state legislature inVermont passed a resolution calling for a convention to amend the Constitution to overturn the Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court and allow Congress and state legislatures to put limits on contributions to political campaigns.
In March, Indiana House Speaker Brian Bossma told TheBlaze he supported an amendment only for a balanced budget amendment.
“The Constitution was an extremely well-thought out document. It gives the states – which created the federal government – the ability to reign in the federal government whenever it gets out of control,” Bossma said. “The biggest concerns many have about the conventions from people of all sides is this would be used to rewrite the Constitution. This would be for a balanced budget amendment only.”
Washington, DC – U.S. Rep Todd Rokita today issued the following statement in support of Indiana State Senate Majority Leader David Long, and other members of the Mount Vernon Assembly, in pursuing a state-led constitutional convention as specified in Article V of the U.S. Constitution.
“Presently, a constitutional convention of the states is one of the best remedies that can restore the vision our founders had for our great Republic. Change that great must come from the people demanding it, and a constitutional convention is a giant step in that regard. I thank Senator Long, and all others, for their efforts in leading this mission,” said Rokita.
The Mount Vernon Assembly will be meeting this week, on June 12 and 13, in Indianapolis. For more information on the Mount Vernon assembly, please visit their website here.
By Paige Clark Via TheStatehouseFile.com,
INDIANAPOLIS – More than 100 state legislators will meet this week at the Indiana Statehouse to discuss the procedures and rules for a possible convention to amend the U.S. Constitution.
Indiana Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, spearheaded the event – called the Mount Vernon Assembly – saying he is concerned about “massive deficits that are threatening you, my kids and grandkids.”
“No generation has dumped this kind of debt on the next generation and it is really becoming unsustainable,” he said.
But Long said discussion about any specific constitutional amendment is “premature.” No amendments will be proposed this weekend. Instead, the meeting will focus on the procedures needed to hold an amendment convention in the future.
However, Indiana University law professor David Orentlicher – a former Indiana lawmaker – said he thinks an eventual constitutional convention is unlikely.
“I think the problem they’re facing is partisan divisions on the issues. The more (legislators) spell out partisan issues, the more they’re going to create divisions,” Orentlicher said. “I think this is a several year process, but I think it’s important to have a national debate.”
Thirty-three states will be represented on Thursday and Friday and each state is allowed three delegates – one appointed by the majority leaders of each state’s House, one by the leader of each state’s Senate, and one by the minority party.
Rep. Ben Smaltz R-Auburn; Sen. Jim Arnold, D-Michigan City; and Long will be representing the Hoosier state.
The event is a preliminary meeting for a possible convention to propose amendments as authorized by Article V of the U.S. Constitution. Long said the assembly is “very important” because the issues will remain in the control of the states and not the federal government and congress.
“We are working very hard to put together a structure and a set of rules,” Long said. “It’s a meeting to set up the rules and construction – how many votes per state, how many delegates, how do you establish what will be considered.”
Long said there will most likely be another meeting to finalize the rules in December, but the exact date and place has not yet been disclosed.
There are two ways to propose an amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Congress can propose an amendment with a two-thirds majority vote of the House and Senate or two-thirds of the states – which is 34 – can call a convention to propose amendments.
Smaltz said the state-initiated amendment process “is the only mechanism, besides voting, for the states to be the rudder of our country and redirect the U.S. to a more positive direction.
In both scenarios, three-fourths, or 38 states, must ratify the amendment for it to be added to the U.S. Constitution.
“To get 38 states, then you really need something that can be bipartisan,” Orentlicher said. “The Constitution is very hard to amend. It’s not done very often.”
According to the Congressional Research Service, all 27 current amendments have been passed through the congressional process.
That means the second process – the one more than 100 legislators are meeting to discuss this week – has never been successful.
The last assembly was in the 1980s and focused on the same issues appointed delegated will likely discuss if there is a convention – amending the constitution to require the federal government to propose a balanced budget.
“I think the problem is that the federal government is not required to balance their budgets and the states are. The federal government can just print money has gotten into that habit,” Long said. Congress has “a culture of unaccountability that does not exist in the states.”
In the 1980s, the balanced budget campaign failed to meet requirements, falling short by just two states, and the convention option faded and has remained unused for about 30 years. Typically, the assemblies were held to rally and prod congress to propose an amendment.
“One of the most important things is that we have no contemporary best practice,” Smaltz said. “We have to look into historical best practices and look at how the constitution was created.”
Long said it’s possible that congress could propose an amendment after the Mount Vernon Assembly, but he does not think it’s likely.
“That has happened in the past, but I don’t think Washington today is the Washington it was in the past,” Long said. “I think it would be very difficult to see any change in Washington. The system is very broken.”
Orentlicher said he thinks Washington is dysfunctional but still motivated by the people’s interests.
“Ultimately, members of congress want to get re-elected, and if they get their constituents to send a strong message, they will respond,” Orenthlicher said. “When the public sends a consistent message, congress will response.”
Also, if there is going to be an amendment passed, he said, “I think (congress) would rather do it themselves.”
Critics of constitutional conventions say they worry that they are open-ended and could allow for the consideration of any amendment on any issue.
“It amazes me those that want a convention assume it would come out the way they expect it to,” said Indiana House Minority Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City.
Orentlicher said he thinks people will be reluctant to support the convention if the agenda is open-ended. Still, he said he thinks “it’s good that they’re talking about constitution reform.”
Long said the discussion this weekend will eliminate fears that the possible convention will be a “runaway.” He said delegates will set rules to establish what will be considered.
But Pelath said “it doesn’t merely mean it will get done the way they envision it will get done.”
“It will lead to nothing,” Pelath said. “It’s a carnival show.”
^Notice it’s always the Democrat who has to bring the negativity into the room.
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Excellent resource for Article V state convention activities http://t.co/jpezOohLXN
— Mark R. Levin (@marklevinshow) December 11, 2013
This is an excellent website. Great discussions about constitutional issues. http://t.co/nApLiAMQKM
— Mark R. Levin (@marklevinshow) June 2, 2014