Cole County, Missouri Circuit Court Judge Jon Beetem dismissed a lawsuit challenging the General Assembly’s May 2017 approval of a resolution calling on Congress to convene an convention drafting an amendment to “impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and limit the terms of office for its officials and members of Congress.”
The lawsuit, filed in September 2017, claimed the call, officially known as Senate Concurrent Resolution 4 (SCR 4), should have been presented to then-Gov. Eric Greitens for approval or rejection.
Judge Beetem dismissed the case on June 28, 2018, finding that the authority of the General Assembly to file amendment convention calls is granted by the U.S. Convention and supersedes procedures for concurrent resolutions listed in the state’s constitution.
SCR 4 was based on model legislation proposed by the Convention of States (COS), a project of Citizens for Self-Governance, a nonprofit organization advocating restoration of state and local authority.
Article V of the U.S. Constitution establishes methods for proposing and enacting amendments, including a state-led process.
After 34 states call for an amendment convention, commissioners from the states meet to draft an amendment or amendments enacting the specified proposal. Three-quarters of the states must ratify the proposed amendment for it to take effect.
Currently, 28 states have passed resolutions calling for a convention to draft a balanced-budget amendment, and 12 have approved the COS resolution.
A Blueprint for Fighting Tyranny
Missouri state Rep. Keith Frederick (R-Rolla), the sponsor of SCR 4 in the lower chamber, says the amendment convention movement is a constitutional key to beating back an overbearing federal government and restoring the proper balance of power.
“Just think about the Constitution: It was written by people who had been oppressed to such a degree that they were willing to pledge their lives to break free from that tyranny, and they gave us a blueprint, with the Constitution, of how to keep it from happening again in the future,” Frederick said.
Says Elections Insufficient
Brett Sterley, Missouri director with Convention of States, says the amendment convention movement is becoming popular because both major political parties are contributing to the problems plaguing the country.
“Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, it became more apparent that DC was becoming less responsive to the people,” Sterley said. “Regardless of which party controlled Congress and the White House, government and the deficit continued to grow. Elections were important, but it was clear they were not sufficient. There has to be another answer.”
Fighting for Founding Principles
Frederick says fighting against government overreach is important.
“One of the things that made me run for office was because I felt the principles America was founded upon were being threatened,” Frederick said. “During the Obama administration, I felt like there was a lot of federal overreach around. A basic, fundamental belief of mine is that the states created the federal government, not the other way around.”
Frederick says the amendment convention movement is an example of the people exercising for their rights.
“If you look at the Constitution, Article V talks about the ability of the people to propose amendments to the Constitution that the U.S. Congress will never propose,” Frederick said. “For example, they’ll never propose to limit their own terms. I’m just a constitutional conservative who believes that when the federal government overreaches, the people have a right to fight back.”
Praises Judge’s Decision
Sterley says dismissing the case was the right call, from a constitutional and legal perspective.
“The judge addressed the underlying fallacy of the lawsuit,” Sterley said. “This resolution called for an interstate meeting to discuss proposals to limit the size and scope of the federal government, discuss term limits for federal officials, and restore fiscal restraints. It was our position, and that of the historical record, that the Missouri legislature acted in accordance with Article V of the U.S. Constitution. The court agreed the legislature’s authority was derived from the U.S. Constitution and not from the legislative power of the state.”