The following article was written by Mike Buhler and originally published in the Norfolk Daily News. It describes a recent Convention of States event in Norfolk, Nebraska.
When most people think of amending the U.S Constitution, they think of doing so through Congress.
However, there is another way — and that is what David Schneider from the Convention of States movement told a group of people Friday night at the Eldorado Golf Club in Norfolk.
Schneider and the Convention of States supports calling an Article V convention, where representatives of two-thirds of states (meaning 34 or more) would meet at the convention and their powers would be limited to proposing amendments for state legislatures to vote on and nothing more.
Specifically, the Convention of States supports amending the Constitution to rein in the federal government on fiscal matters, limit the federal government's power and also to institute term limits on elected officials — basically to reduce the size and scope of the federal government.
“Any amendment that would do that essentially would be germane to the conversation that could be had at the meeting that we also call a convention,” Schneider said. “Obviously this is all we're trying to do is to get the states together in a meeting-type setting, where each state comes together as a sovereign entity and (is) able to propose real reform for Washington, D.C. We hear a lot about 'draining the swamp' or whatever — this is really the tool to be used. The Founding Fathers put it in the Constitution for the states to use, and it's way past time to actually have called the convention.”
Schneider said that he thought Washington, D.C., was less like a swamp and more like a barrel full of small fish.
“There are 435 congressmen running around that place,” Schneider said. “We compare it to a small town of individuals where the lobbyists can really pick them off one at a time. That's what I mean as far as the little fish in a big barrel — whereas what we're trying to decentralize that power back to the states, put the power back in the 50 individual state capitals and make it a lot harder for lobbyists to corner those guys.”
While there have been other amendment-proposing conventions held — the last one being the Colorado River Compact in 1922 — they were not Article V conventions, Schneider said.
“All the other prior conventions were extra-constitutional — they weren't called within the Constitution,” Schneider said. “Article V is within the Constitution and specifically lays out an action plan for the states to follow. First of all, 34 states have to make an application — nearly identical applications — on a subject matter to hold a convention on that particular topic. The only power that the Constitution gives to the states in the convention setting is to make proposals or suggestions, which would then get turned around and sent back to the states for ratification — just as if Congress had done the same exact thing in the first part of Article V.”
Any proposed Constitutional amendment would then require the approval of three-fourths, or 38, of the each state's legislatures, which would prevent any radical amendments from becoming law.
“It's even higher if you think about the different legislative bodies,” Schneider said. “Here in Nebraska, you have only one legislative body, but every other state has two. If you add up all the different legislative in each of the states, that's 99 legislatures — and of those 99, you'd need at least 75 of them to agree on anything.”