State lawmakers weighing whether to apply for a federal amendments convention are often asked, “How do you know an amendments convention is a convention of the states?” In a new Heartland Policy Brief, titled “Why the Constitution’s ‘Convention for Proposing Amendments’ Is a Convention of the States,” renowned law professor Robert Natelson argues, using ample historical evidence, the Founding Fathers and lawmakers and scholars throughout American history have understood an amendments convention is unquestionably a convention of the states.
Natelson takes on the important task of rebutting anti-convention arguments, many of which were first developed in 1960s and 1970s by academics, commentators, and lobbyists. As evidence of his claims, Natelson points to the interstate conventions of pre- and post-Independence America. Some of these conventions would summon every state in the Union, or at least every state in a region, and were thus considered to be a general convention, or a “convention of the states.” These conventions were held in 1754, 1765, 1774, 1780, 1786, and 1787, and they covered a wide variety of important issues.
Natelson also examines official ratification-era records from 1787 to 1790 that explicitly designate a convention for proposing amendments to be a convention of the states. These records include correspondence referring to a convention of states from the governors of New York and North Carolina and resolutions in the legislatures of Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Virginia. Natelson wrote, “Within a few months amid the ratification debates, five states in different regions of the country—three in favor, one against, and one neutral—issued seven official documents identifying an amendments convention as a convention of the states.”
The issue of constitutional amendments and how to best propose them has attracted more attention in recent years from supporters and critics of proposals to call for a convention of states to propose amendments to the Constitution. As the federal government continues to spend and borrow beyond the limits of the tax revenue it regularly receives, concerned citizens have sought answers to America’s bloated government problem that don’t involve relying on Washington, DC. Many have found recourse in Article V of the U.S. Constitution.
The text of Article V states two-thirds of states (34) must pass matching applications, or resolutions, compelling Congress to call a “Convention for proposing Amendments.” States can select their own delegates to represent them at the convention, with each state present getting one vote for or against proposed amendments. The amendments would then need to be ratified by three-fourths of all states (38) in order to be included in the U.S. Constitution.
In September, the Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force organized a balanced budget amendment (BBA) planning convention in Phoenix, Arizona. The planning convention brought together 72 formal delegates from 19 states for the purposes of adopting rules, practicing processes, and laying the groundwork for an eventual BBA convention of states.
Other organizations have gained support from millions of Americans and have been successful in getting their applications passed in state legislatures. The Convention of States Project advocates for an Article V convention that would consider multiple amendments to limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government. So far, the group has passed resolutions in 12 states: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas.
Compact for America offers a different route to amending the Constitution. It would streamline the Article V amendment process to a single resolution that must be passed in 38 states. Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Mississippi, and North Dakota have passed a Compact for a Balanced Budget resolution.
Natelson is a Heartland senior fellow in constitutional jurisprudence. In July, he authored a Heartland Policy Brief titled “A Proposed Balanced Budget Amendment,” in which Natelson provides a draft constitutional amendment for a balanced budget. For more information about constitutional reform or the Article V movement, visit Heartland’s Center for Constitutional Reform website at heartland.org/constitution.
WHAT WE’RE WORKING ON
Research & Commentary: Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program Leads to Significant Boost in College Enrollment
In this Heartland Research & Commentary, Policy Analyst Tim Benson discusses a new study from the Urban Institute showing Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship Program (FTC) has led to significant college enrollment gains for its students. According to the available data, FTC participation is associated with a 15 percent increase in college enrollment. For students who participated in FTC for at least four years, the college enrollment rate was 46 percent higher than their non-FTC peers.
Energy & Environment
Research & Commentary: Analysis of Oklahoma Geological Survey Data Shows Large Decrease in Seismicity Since 2015
In this Heartland Research & Commentary, Policy Analyst Tim Benson discusses a new analysis of Oklahoma Geological Survey data from Energy in Depth showing the amount of monthly earthquakes in the Sooner State has decreased 86 percent from its peak in June 2015. Concurrently, there has been an 11 percent increase in oil production and an 81 percent increase in the number of operation oil rigs in the state over the past calendar year. These numbers help reinforce what the scientific literature has long shown: Fracking is not the cause of the increases in induced seismicity.
Budget & Tax
Research & Commentary: Gas Taxes Are a Poor Option for Funding Illinois Infrastructure
In this Research & Commentary, Senior Policy Analyst Matthew Glans examines Illinois’ transportation funding shortfall and argues gasoline taxes are not the best option for generating additional revenue. “As the rise in fuel efficiency continues, motor-fuel tax revenues will continue to decline. Illinois will have to explore more modern and efficient ways to fund road construction and traffic infrastructure. These include privatizing roads and establishing toll systems. In several cities, transportation agencies are using congestion pricing—varying toll prices based on congestion—to manage demand and limit traffic problems,” wrote Glans.
Why Do Hospitals Have to Beg for Permission to Save Lives?
In this opinion article, originally published at Inside Sources, Heartland Senior Policy Analyst Matthew Glans argues the data show certificate of need laws don’t work and that the reasons why are obvious: “Doctors, hospitals and experts in the health care industry know far more about what services they need to provide medical care than a government-run health care board,” wrote Glans. “And if providers are willing to invest tens of millions of their own money to add services or expand their facilities, why should bureaucrats stand in the way?”
From Our Free-Market Friends
Which States Are Hiding the Most Pension Debt
Zachary Christensen of the Reason Foundation analyzes the states with the worst unfunded pension liabilities. He compares each state’s reported value of pension debt to the value of pension debt using a “market value of liabilities.” Christensen says some states are significantly understating their pension liabilities by using their own inaccurate accounting methods. The dollar liabilities of California, New York, and Illinois, in that order, increase the most under a market valuation of liabilities.