State legislatures returning to work in January include 72 lawmakers from 19 states who attended a September 2017 national planning session authorizing rules and procedures for an upcoming national amendment convention.
In September, delegates met at the Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA) Planning Convention, hosted by the Arizona State Legislature, to set ground rules for a possible future amendment convention.
Article V of the U.S. Constitution established methods for proposing and enacting amendments.
After 34 states call for an amendment convention, commissioners will be limited to consideration of amendments requiring the federal government to enact the proposal specified by the call. State legislatures are responsible for selecting commissioners.
Currently, 27 states have resolutions on file with Congress calling for new constitutional restrictions on federal spending.
Setting the Rules
Arizona state Rep. Kelly Townsend (R-Mesa), the Planning Convention Committee’s chairwoman, says the meeting prepared attendees well for a real amendment convention.
“It was a really good exercise where we focused on the rules of the convention,” Townsend said. “We talked about the logistics of when the convention is called. They also decided to go forward with the Phoenix Correspondence Committee, a unique thing that came out of it, so that we can stay in touch with each other and continue to plan on other things, as we get closer to an actual convention.”
The amendment convention process is about restoring the proper relationship between the states and the federal government, Townsend says.
“We are far too disconnected from where we were intended to be, as state legislatures, in our relationship with the federal government,” Townsend said. “The weight [of authority] was supposed to be with the states, and the federal government was only supposed to have the enumerated powers [explicitly granted in the Constitution]. Yet, we have ceded those powers to the federal government in exchange for funding from them. We do have control, and we ought to have control, over the federal government.”
David Guldenschuh, secretary of the Planning Convention Committee, says state-led amendment conventions would revive federalism in the United States.
“The use of the Article V mechanism by the states will bring about a rebirth of federalism within the country,” Guldenschuh said. “The people will realize that we actually do have a say-so, through the Article V process, in how our federal government operates.”