By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
The states created the federal government when they sent delegates to the first constitutional convention and many at the state level think that the federal government has grown far too powerful in its relationship with the states. The Alabama legislature has called for an Article V convention of states to tilt that balance of power back toward the states.
This week State Representative Jack Williams (R-Vestavia), State Senator Clay Scofield (R-Guntersville), and Senator Greg Albritton (R-Bay Minette) will travel to Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia this week as the Alabama delegates at a simulated convention of states designed to highlight needed amendments to the US Constitution.
Rep. Williams said, “The only way to rein in the ever-encroaching federal government is by adding constitutional amendments that limit its power and set strict boundary lines that officials cannot cross.”
The Vestavia Republican said. “The most used and best known manner to amend the US Constitution is for the Congress to initiate the process, but its members have proven unwilling or unable to take the necessary first steps. But Article V outlines that our Constitution may also be amended by having representatives from the individual states gather in convention and propose the needed changes. Our Alabama delegation will participate in a simulated convention designed to demonstrate exactly how that process would work.”
This unprecedented event is sponsored by Citizens for Self-Governance, state delegations will perform a test run of an actual Article V convention called to consider amendment proposals that “impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and set term limits for its officials and for Members of Congress.
According to Rep. Williams, proposed constitutional amendments affecting issues like federal term limits, a balanced budget requirement, and limits on executive orders and rule making are among those that delegates will debate, discuss, and consider.
Under the terms of the US Constitution there are only two ways to amend the document on which our government is based: Congress can pass an amendment or the states can pass a call for a new constitutional convention. In both cases, the amendment passed either by Congress or the convention must then be ratified by 3/4s of the states. Since that original convention all amendments have been introduced through the Congress. There are however several efforts under way to change that: there is a call for a convention solely to pass a balanced budget amendment (that Alabama passed); the Convention of States (COS) project to reign in the federal government with amendments to balance the budget, impose term limits, and reassert state sovereignty by limiting the scope of the federal government; and a call for a convention to pass amendments to impose stringent campaign finance reform.
The delegates would likely be members of the state legislature, but not necessarily so.
Terry Richmond is one of the legislative captains for the Convention Of States Project in Alabama. Mr. Richmond told the Alabama Political Reporter last year “I am gratified to see the Legislature is getting the rules in place to act quickly when the Convention of States is called. We have Applications working in 30 States this year.”
Many conservatives believe that the federal government is too large, is out of control, and has exceeded the mandate that it received from the authors of the US Constitution. Conservatives are however divided on exactly how to do that. The Convention of States Project looks to the US Constitution and are proposing that states call an Article V convention to rein in the excesses of the federal government.
The COS effort is supported by former Alaska Governor Sara Palin, conservative talk radio hosts Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck and Mark Levin, as well as many other conservative leaders.
Critics believe that there is a danger of a runaway convention doing major damage to the Constitution.
COS proponents say the first level of protection is the commissions of the delegates. If they go outside their commissions the state legislatures could recall or replace their delegates. The second protection is the convention itself. While some delegates might propose a new constitution it would have to actually pass the convention. The states’ delegations would necessarily limit any radical departure from the commissions of the delegates. Finally whatever amendments are proposed at the convention would still have to be ratified by the states.
It takes 34 states to call a national convention (2/3s); but it takes 38 to actually ratify any amendments (3/4s). All it takes to block ratification would be one house in 13 states. Each state can send as many delegates as they want; but each delegation gets just one vote at the convention.