Last November’s elections portend changes for U.S. citizens and businesses in ways you may not envision.
Republicans now hold a majority in 33 state legislatures, one shy of the two-thirds needed to initiate a convention on Constitutional amendments. The national mood seems to favor a 2017 push for matters such as: term limits for elected federal offices that are not responsive to public wishes; and enhanced means to recall elected people for failure to perform their responsibilities, to reign-in various federal powers and to limit federal spending. It is predicted that this convention proposal will move forward this year.
“Recall” is a procedure where a sufficient number of voters sign a petition to remove an elected person from office. It was first used in Massachusetts in 1631 but has not been used since Constitution ratification because removal of Senators or Representatives is not a topic covered by our national definition of citizen’s rights. Recall power is left to each state legislature. Nine states have broad recall provisions in their law and 29 have limited recall provisions, but 10 states have no relevant provisions whatsoever! Interestingly, 25 states have an “initiative process,” where citizens can propose Constitutional amendment and conventions.
Significantly, the First Amendment in our Constitution states that “Congress shall make no law abridging the right of the people to petition government for redress of grievances,” and the 10th says what is not delegated to federal government is left to the states or the people. It is understandable that recall and convention convocation processes vary widely between states. Over the past 25 years no Congress has addressed an amendment regarding recall, but every one for 10 years has had from five to 17 proposed amendments regarding constituent contributions and their expenditure.
Our Constitution has been amended 27 times since ratification in 1788. Article V defines two ways to propose amendments: by two-thirds vote of both Senate and House an amendment can be referred to all states for approval or rejection by citizens; alternatively, two-thirds of state legislatures (34) can request Congress to call a convention of the states. This latter approach, however, has never been used. In both cases, three-fourths (38) of states must ratify an amendment to become law.
Today, 28 state legislatures have approved measures calling for a convention to propose a federal balanced budget. Remember that 33 Constitutional amendments have been approved by Congress, and 27 were ratified into law. The convention process was not used in any of these additions. But if 34 states ask for a convention (something I think is likely this year), the nation may be on an altered course. It is important to note that Congress has never called a convention, and courts have always rejected attempts to force Congress to call one.
All of this speculation is “in the air” because there is no definition, and none ever issued by a court, that limits what may be addressed by such a convention. This leads to the supposition by those not wanting a convention that such a meeting by the states would lead to a runaway meeting that exceeds its scope and authorities. It is not clear, but probably would be upheld in the courts, that a convention can address anything it chooses without preconditions. The general thinking is that a state-led option for Constitutional amendments on several subjects should and will be pursued because the political establishment on any side of every important issue facing the nation is either somewhat or seriously dysfunctional.
Any such matters that face the country have not been addressed by our elected Congress. Our corporate tax rates are important, the highest in the world, and they have not been dealt with; neither has the national deficit that has bankrupted America. A decaying public education system is not allowing competent replacements for the workforce. An inept legislative hierarchy has not repealed and/or replaced a plethora of (illegal) regulations that pose as such but are actually stultifying laws.
The time has come for citizens to DO what is necessary instead of TALK about regaining control of federal government. A Constitutional Convention can be a step in the right direction as long as political nutcases do not ruin the day, and the future, for all Americans.