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Minnesota Rep. Quam champions Convention of States on radio

Published in Blog on October 28, 2019 by Edward Douglas Thompson

Representative Duane Quam, chief author of Convention of States Minnesota's resolution in the Minnesota House (HF 855), was on the KROC News Rochester Today show promoting the Convention of States Rochester town hall.

It was a great interview. The Convention of States process was broken down into plain language, and common criticisms were addressed. To listen to an audio recording of the interview, click here.

Here is a transcript:

Andy: It's Rochester Today, James Rabe is here, I'm Andy Brownell and--via the telephone--State Representative Duane Quam is with us and here to talk about an event in Rochester tomorrow concerning the Convention of States. So, first of all, good morning, Duane.

Duane: Well, good morning! Everybody should be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed with the fresh, crisp temperatures.

James: We are working on the bushy-tailed part, but we are bright!

Andy: Yeah, it wakes you up, that's for sure! I'm just thankful I'm not in Fargo or Grand Forks where they're going to get really pounded.

Duane: You know, I often tell ... I've told my kids and, now, grandkids: "You know, there's always places that are worse." And, unfortunately, at times in northern Minnesota and the Dakotas, it's difficult to find one.

[laughter]

Andy: And it's happened here as well. But at least it's temporary. But what we're really here this morning to talk about is the Convention of States and, I'm going to throw it at you, Duane. Maybe you could explain what this is all about, because a lot of people aren't aware of a mechanism that was built into the U.S. Constitution that allows for the amending of the Constitution without Congress.

Duane: Well, it all goes back to the fact that the states birthed and gave the power and made the federal government. And the states have had--you know, from conception--have had some rights and powers still invested in them. And we've sort of forgotten that over the years, and the federal government sort of tends to dominate. But there is--because the states generated it--there is the mechanism where the states can initiate amending, and improving, or clarifying in the Constitution and that's sort of what the Article V is. And, it's basically saying, if we think the federal government has gone astray, and they're not fixing stuff, we can--as states--get together, if enough of us do, and change things ... set things back on course.

Andy: How would that work?

Duane: Basically, each state would have to pass legislation and the Convention of States Article V petition basically is saying: We want to look at term limits, we want to look at having a ... you have to have ... a balanced federal budget, and then also fixing the clarification of state sovereignty. And so you put it together and--in common language--pass it through a majority of the states, and then there shall be, or must be, a convention called. The states would pick their delegations and they would get together. We had, a couple summers ago, a simulated one to sort of see what the mechanisms would be. So we had people from, I believe it was all 50 states represented, and we went through the mechanisms that would be involved: Having groups work on each of the amendment topics, and come forward and debate. But frankly, it's just saying we want to fix or improve things, not scrap it. [It's] for amendments, it's not for a brand-new Constitution. And frankly, if something crazy happened, you'd be able to have just a few states say "No, we're not going to adopt it" and it wouldn't go through.

Andy: So it's not drawn up in each state's request for the [misnamed], or the Convention of States, that says "You can't change everything", but it's in the body that's brought together, using their ... their power to say "No, no, no, we're not going to change everything." Only one state has to drop out, as you say?

Duane: No, no, no. Let me see, I believe it is thirteen ... if thirteen states decide not to adopt, then it doesn't become adopted.

James: So it's a super-majority.

Andy: A "super-super" majority!

Duane: And that's even, you know, to be adopted, you know frankly you've got two chambers and, if one chamber decided not to adopt, it's not adopted. So it's even more difficult and stringent.

Andy: Okay, so I'm just going to throw a scenario at you, Duane. You're successful in pushing forward an amendment for term limits at the convention. Then it goes back to the state legislatures for approval at that point?

Duane: Whatever comes out of the Convention of States, has to go back and be adopted by a super-majority of the states.

James: And if it doesn't, then it doesn't go.

Andy: Okay and, as far as the question of what would be dealt with at the convention, if it were to be convened--I know the folks behind this are pushing the term limits, the federal budget proposal and, as you pointed out, sovereignty of the states--would there be an ability, say, for somebody to come forward from one of the other states and push a different agenda during the convention, let's say, getting rid of the electoral college?

Duane: By having it set up in the calling of the agenda, it sets the groundwork. But, if you had some contentious thing, if it wasn't contentious, it would be part of the original call, so to speak. But if something like that is pulled up--no matter what it is--then you've got ... again, you can't get past that it has to pass. It's a positive affirmative. It's not, you know, if you decide not to, then it'll go through anyway.

Andy: So you're going to have to get a super-majority of the delegates at the convention to consider your proposal before you can even move forward on this.

Duane: You've got to get through the convention, and then you've got to get through being adopted by all the states. And that's the trickiest part.

James: It is, and I think that's the part that would make people feel safer about calling a Convention of States, because I think a lot of people worry that: Well, what if they just all go off and decide to change the name to Timbuktu Land, or something. [laughter] I think people worry about that but there sounds like there's enough hoops to jump through with enough ... I mean, thirteen states? That's a pretty small number of states that have to disagree!

Andy: Well, and I love this, that the Founding Fathers, this level of detail was included in the way we move forward in this country that--to change the Constitution--if you have a dysfunctional federal body, like we do now, in my opinion at least, there is an ability to go around them if you can muster enough support.

Duane: And the balanced budget thing has a lot of support. You know, frankly, there are some things which get through with huge, huge support--but a major topic and issue is difficult to get such vast unanimity across a state, let alone the nation. So, it'd be pretty important. It's not a trivial thing and, when the United States have important things pop up, we tend to step forward and do the right thing, as opposed to ... self-interest is less predominant, when you're doing a super-majority agreement. It's a monumental, it's not a trivial, thing.

Andy: Okay so, if folks want to learn more about this, Duane, I know there's an event tomorrow. Maybe you can tell us about where the gathering is and about what folks can expect.

Duane: There's a town hall and it's on Elton Hills, the Rec Center, 21 Elton Hills Dr NW, Saturday, and it starts at noon.

Andy: Okay. And you'll have a speaker there who can go through all the machinations. If my memory serves me correct, there are fifteen states that have already adopted the resolution.

Duane: That's my understanding also.

Andy: And we need twenty-six, if I do my math correctly.

Duane: We need nineteen more states, and that'll trigger it.

Andy: Oh, okay.

Duane: It's easier to trigger the call, than it is to add an amendment to the Constitution.

Andy: Alright, very good. State Representative Duane Quam, and that meeting, again, is tomorrow at noon at the Rec Center--if you want to learn more about the proposal in Minnesota to adopt the call.

James: Well and, if nothing else happens, I'm still thankful that you're doing this so that people can learn that there is another process where the people maintain the power so, thank you for doing that.

Andy: De-centralize it!

James: Yeah!

Duane: Well, absolutely. And often times, when it comes closer, Congress decides: "Oh ... yeah! We should ... !"

[laughter]

James: "TODAY, we'll do the right thing!"

[laughter]

Andy: A little prodding!

[laughter]

James: "I'm tired of the right thing! Where's the money?"

[laughter]

Andy: Alright Duane, thanks for being with us!

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