A growing group of state lawmakers from across the country are exploring ways to limit the power of the federal government by using a seldom-referenced clause of the U.S. Constitution.
Last week, the President Pro Tempore of the Indiana State Senate David Long (R-Fort Wayne) joined an effort to explore convening a Constitutional convention pursuant to Article V of the Constitution.
Long joins legislators from Kansas, Ohio, Oklahoma and Wisconsin who have all signed a letter calling for every state to send a three-person bipartisan delegation to George Washington’s home in Mount Vernon, Virginia on December 7th.
The purpose of the Mount Vernon Assembly is to plan an Article V Constitutional Convention. The exact nature of proposed amendments is presently unclear.
Article V of the U.S. Constitution provides a way from state legislatures to amend the country’s most authoritative founding document. Under Article V, two-thirds of state legislatures may call on Congress to convene a convention, and three-fourths of states can vote to ratify any amendments – without or without Congress’ approval.
There has never been an Article V convention.
“The authors of the Constitution included a state-led amendment option as a check on a runaway federal government,” Long said, according to a story in the Northwest Indiana Times. “The dysfunction we see in Washington, D.C., provides an almost daily reminder of why this option is needed now more than ever.”
Maine has previously joined Article V convention efforts, with 20th century proposals for the direct election of U.S. Senators, the repeal of the 16th Amendment (Income Tax), and the establishment of revenue sharing agreements between the states and federal government.
Article V of the Constitution states: “The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress; provided that no amendment which may be made prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any manner affect the first and fourth clauses in the ninth section of the first article; and that no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate.”
The assembly, inspired by conservative commentator Mark Levin’s latest book, The Liberty Amendments, will likely feature constitutional amendments designed to rein in what many see as a federal government that is out of control.
In his book, Levin proposes the following amendments to the Constitution:
1.) Term limits: Levin proposes limiting the tenure of Senators and Representatives to no more than 12 years.
2.) Repealing the 17th Amendment: Levin argues in favor of repealing the 17th Amendment, thus returning the election of U.S. Senators to state legislatures. The 17th Amendment was ratified during the American progressive movement as a way of giving power to the people, but Levin argues its repeal would ensure that state sovereignty is protected.
3.) Judiciary Power Check: Levin proposes 12-year term limits for justices of the Supreme Court. Additionally, he proposes creating a procedure for Congress and the state legislatures to overturn court decisions with a three-fifths vote.
4.) Limitation of Taxation and Spending: Levin’s balanced budget amendment would cap federal spending at 17.5 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and require a super majority, or three-fifths vote, of Congress to raise the debt ceiling. In addition, he proposes limiting the federal government’s ability to tax individuals at 15 percent. On the cheekier side, he proposes moving tax day to the day before federal elections.
5.) Reining in Regulations and Bureacracy: Levin proposes an amendment to require all federal agencies to be subjected to stand-alone reauthorization every three years. He also proposes an automatic sunset provision for all federal regulations.
6.) Cabining the Commerce Clause: Levin’s proposed amendment would clarify that the Commerce Clause does not delegate supreme regulatory authority to the federal government.
7.) Limiting the federal government’s power to confiscate private property.
8.) Make it easier for states to amend the Constitution: Under this amendment, only two-thirds, rather than three-fourths, of states would need to vote in favor of proposing an amendment.
9.) Giving states the ability to override Congress: Levin’s proposal would allow states to overdie federal law by a majority vote in two-thirds of state legislatures.
10.) Election Integrity: The last of Levin’s amendments would enact a nationwide photo ID requirement for federal elections and establish limits on early voting.
It is unclear whether any Maine lawmakers have agreed to participate in the Mount Vernon meeting.