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Michael Farris on "What We Can Do Through a Convention of States." Pt. 1 - A Single-Subject Rule

Published in Blog on January 10, 2023 by Michael Farris

Congress passed a 4,000+ page spending package on December 20, 2022 with a staggering price tag of over $1.7 trillion. Among the expenditures there is: 

$45 billion in assistance for Ukraine

$2.6 billion to fund the U.S. Justice Department, an increase of $212 million, including $34 million for January 6 prosecutions

$5 billion for low-income utility assistance

$8 billion for childcare subsidies (a 30% increase)

And much more. 

But there are many items included in the measure that have nothing to do with a “spending package” if we assume the normal meaning of those words. 

Here are some of the more important provisions:

  • An overhaul of the 1887 Electoral Count Act, passed in response to the attempts to use Congress to overturn the certified results of the 2020 presidential election. 
  • The dangerous app TikTok was banned from all federal devices. Bi-partisan legislators pushed this idea to stop spying by the Chinese government. 
  • A cluster of civil-rights protections for pregnant workers. 

Most citizens would support some of these ideas while they would oppose others. And we can say with confidence, that if we lined up every specific expenditure or substantive provision virtually no one in the country would support each item of this legislative conglomeration. 

It defies logic to contend that the citizens of this country are well-served by such a colossal combination of spending, regulatory, and substantive measures. Indeed, no member of Congress can fairly say that they know the entirety of what they are voting for or against. 

Convoluted packages stuffed with pork and hidden regulations are a time-honored tradition. If each item was subjected to its own vote, many of these ideas would fail. 

How can the citizens of this country force proper reforms to processes Congress uses? How can we stop this kind of massive imposition of spending and debt and escalating regulation of our lives? 

After spending 40 years working on freedom issues in Washington, DC, I can tell you one way that will absolutely never work. And that is to ask Congress to reform itself. 

Congress will never limit its own power. And both parties are way too fond of the ability to load up legislation with pet projects for us to expect them to make this needed reform–even if there is a red wave or a blue wave in a particular election cycle. Republicans and Democrats alike love their power. It is painfully obvious that power is as addictive as crack cocaine. 

The solution to this is to adopt a new constitutional amendment that mirrors provisions found in 41 state constitutions and in some form or another, in the constitutions of Australia, Ireland, Sweden, and Switzerland. It is called the “single-subject rule.” 

The Constitution of Minnesota provides a typical example: “No law shall embrace more than one subject which shall be expressed in its title.”

Imposing a single-subject rule on Congress would result in a dramatic reduction in both spending and regulatory efforts because they simply can’t get enough floor time to debate and approve all of the items that are now being foisted upon this country through 4000-page bills. 

Sadly, such an amendment will never get more than a handful of votes in Congress—much less the two-thirds majority of both houses required to propose constitutional amendments. But the resolution championed by Convention of States Action, if approved by 34 state legislatures, will result in a convention where such a measure can be drafted, refined, and sent out to all 50 states for ratification. There would be no way for Congress to stop this process. 

Grandiose legislative packages have been the chief vehicle for turning Washington, DC into the infamous swamp. Article V of the Constitution gives us an effective remedy. Let’s use it to drain the swamp.

Sign the petition to call for a Convention of States!

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Almost everyone knows that our federal government is on a dangerous course. The unsustainable debt combined with crushing regulations on states and businesses is a recipe for disaster.

What is less known is that the Founders gave state legislatures the power to act as a final check on abuses of power by Washington, DC. Article V of the U.S. Constitution authorizes the state legislatures to call a convention for proposing needed amendments to the Constitution. This process does not require the consent of the federal government in Washington, DC.

I support the Convention of States Project; a national effort to call a convention under Article V of the United States Constitution, restricted to proposing amendments that will impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit its power and jurisdiction, and impose term limits on its officials and members of Congress.

I want our state to be one of the necessary 34 states to pass a resolution calling for this kind of Article V Convention. You can find a copy of the model resolution and the Article V Pocket Guide (which explains the process and answers many questions) here:

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