State governments are increasingly being beaten down by federal edicts and mandatory spending increases. That’s why state legislators from all over the country are now looking at ways to fight back against a centralized federal government that has grown far beyond its constitutional limits.
Earlier this month in Arizona, hundreds of state legislators gathered to discuss solutions, and the words on everyone’s lips seemed to be “Article Five.”
“We’ve been blessed with this Article Five provision,” Minnesota State Rep. Cindy Pugh said. “Our Founders knew that our federal government would get out of control.”
“Everyone else has to balance their budget. We think the federal government should too,” said State Rep. Bill Patmon of Ohio, who is a strong supporter of invoking Article Five.
“In the past state legislators would say… ‘That’s a federal government problem,'” said State Rep. James White of Texas. “Now people are saying, ‘We want you to deal with it using Article Five.'” White pointed out that federal debt is also driving up state spending, because legislatures are often required to match federal monies for certain programs.
“We need to reassert our constitutional powers through the Convention of States,” said White.
Article Five of the Constitution says that state legislatures can meet to craft constitutional reforms provided that two-thirds (34) of the states agree on a particular subject. The most organized movement, by far, is Convention of States Project, which has about one million supporters. Their resolution calls for term limits, fiscal restraints, and reining in the power of the federal government.
“What I like about Convention of States,” said South Dakota State Rep. Isaac Latterell, “is that this is an opportunity for people really to do something about the balance of power.”
Robert Natelson, a Senior Fellow of Constitutional Jurisprudence at the Independence Institute, is an Article Five scholar who also attended the event.
“Article Five is a lot like voting,” Natelson said. “It’s a constitutional right that the Founders gave to us, and it’s a right that we have an obligation to exercise and pass onto our children.”
“The Founding Fathers were so intelligent,” said State Rep. Abigail Whelan of Minnesota. “They gave us a gift… ‘Here’s Article Five. States, take back your power.’ We don’t have to repeat history.”
Convention of States Project hosted a workshop for legislators, who packed the room full. The event was broadcast live on the internet, allowing thousands of Convention of States volunteers to witness the proceedings. The panel at the workshop featured retired U.S. Senator Dr. Tom Coburn, Natelson, and Convention of States co-founders Michael Farris and Mark Meckler.
“I retired early, because the answers aren’t going to come out of Washington,” said Coburn. “Our Founders intended for you to hold them accountable. And let me tell you, they need to be held accountable.”
Several state legislators who were not able to attend reportedly watched the live stream from their home states. The workshop included a special grassroots presentation, featuring messages from several Convention of States volunteers.
“We are calling you to a greater calling,” Meckler said. “What more important thing can you do in your legislature than to save this nation for posterity?”
Next Up: Convention of States Simulation
At the workshop Meckler announced that Convention of States is planning to host an Article Five convention simulation sometime next year. Legislators from across the country would participate in the simulation, allowing them to test the proposed rules and even draft amendment proposals.
Some of the constitutional reforms that legislators are talking about include a balanced budget amendment, congressional and judicial term limits, a repeal of the 17th Amendment, limitations on taxation, and a measure that would allow a majority of state legislatures to overturn a Supreme Court ruling, federal statute, or regulation.
Along with restoring power to the people and to the states, supporters believe that a convention of states would also spark unprecedented economic growth.
“There is a bigger sugar daddy than the federal government, and that’s we the people,” said Rep. Latterell. “If people are unleashed to keep their resources and do with them as they see fit, they will enjoy a lot more prosperity than they are seeing today.”