Testimony before the Michigan Committee on Financial Liability Reform
Wednesday, November 4, 2015
Nathan Makla, State Government Relations Manager, The Heartland Institute
Chairman Pat Somerville and Members of the Committee,
Thank you for affording me the opportunity to testify today. My name is Nathan Makla and I am a state government relations manager for The Heartland Institute, a 31-year-old national nonprofit research organization dedicated to finding and promoting ideas that empower people.
The Heartland Institute’s new Center for Constitutional Reform was created to highlight individuals and organizations working to find solutions to the nation’s constitutional problem. It will not endorse one particular path to constitutional reform, seeking instead to support and seek constructive debate on all efforts to restore constitutional order.
Point 1: States Can and Should Limit the Powers of Congress
The national government currently faces a debt of $18 trillion. National entitlement programs are headed toward bankruptcy, some as soon as 2016. Many state and local governments face their own impending financial cliffs. Government debt threatens to destroy people’s savings, the economy, and the United States’ leadership in the world.
The national government has grown to the point that it is now a clear and present danger to the American people’s life, liberty, and happiness. States now have an obligation to address this threat.
The system created by the Founders to rein in the national government is now broken. The national government has unlimited power to tax, regulate, and borrow. The system of federalism designed to check and balance the national government’s powers was undermined by granting the national government the power to tax personal incomes without limit (Amendment XVI) and requiring the direct election of senators (Amendment XVII). The courts have failed to interpret and enforce key provisions of the Constitution that severely limit the powers of Congress and the executive branch. State governments have become addicted to “revenue sharing,” losing their independence and hence their ability to check the growth of the national government.
Point 2: State Legislatures throughout the Nation are Pursuing Constitutional Reform Measures
Over 200 bills for nullifying federal power have been filed by state legislatures across the nation during the 2015-2016 session. 56 bills calling for an Article V convention e purpose of enacting a federal balanced budget amendment were also filed.
The states of Alaska, Georgia, Mississippi, and North Dakota have passed the Compact for a Balanced Budget. The measure would call for an Article V convention to balance the federal budget in addition to an interstate compact agreement to simplify the procedures for calling a convention.
27 states have also passed single-subject applications for an Article V convention calling for a balanced federal budget. North Dakota became the latest state to pass a single-subject application in 2015.
26 states have filed legislation to form a compact commission to suspend the regulations of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2009. Legislatures in Georgia, Indiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah have already enacted the agreement.
Point 3: States Should Do the Following:
A new social movement is arising across the nation in support of constitutional reform. Legitimate and increasingly successful groups that exist solely for the purpose of pursuing constitutional reform include the Assembly of State Legislatures, Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force, Compact for America, Convention of States, Friends of Article V Convention, and State Legislators Article V Caucus.
Constitutional reform is on the front burner in countries other than the United States. Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada has advocated for the elimination of the country’s senate. Mexico is considering constitutional changes to stem corruption in its national government. The United Kingdom is planning to write its first formal constitution in the nation’s 300-year history.
In the United States, constitutional reform should be used to impose fiscal discipline on the national government, restore the role of the states in our system of federalism, and end the practice of burdening future generations with the debt that results from today’s reckless spending.
Constitutional reform is necessary to restore checks and balances to the federal government. Constitutional reform is possible without putting cherished freedoms at risk from a “runaway convention.” States should have the right to say no to burdensome federal regulations that affect economic activity. The country is asking their state legislators to rein in the power of the federal government. States should work collaboratively with one another to form interstate compact agreements to check the unintended consequences of the Affordable Care Act.
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For more information about The Heartland Institute’s work, please visit our websites at www.heartland.org and http:/news.heartland.org, or call Nathan Makla at 312/377-4000 or reach him by email at [email protected].