The Leaflet: The Constitutional Reform Planning Convention

Published September 8, 2017

On September 11, delegates from across the country will gather in Phoenix, Arizona at the Arizona Capitol Building for a historical event that could be remembered as one of the first steps toward enacting important constitutional reforms. State legislators will convene for the purpose of planning “a prospective convention for proposing a balanced budget amendment to the United States Constitution,” under the authority of Arizona House Concurrent Resolution 2022.

In recent years, the United States’ national debt has ballooned to greater than $19 trillion, causing numerous advocacy groups concerned about reining in out-of-control government spending to urge state lawmakers to enact an Article V amendments convention for the purpose of enacting a balanced budget amendment. Under Article V, two-thirds of state legislatures, currently 34, can approve and submit applications to Congress to call a convention of the states. Once a convention has been called, states, without the approval of Congress, can pass amendments to the Constitution. Once ratified by three-fourths of states, those amendments would become law. 

The convention taking place next Tuesday in Arizona is not an Article V convention that will propose amendments, but lawmakers will use the convention to outline the procedures that would need to be enacted for a future amendments convention to run smoothly.

There are currently numerous Article V movements that could eventually lead to the passage of a balanced budget amendment. For instance, the Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force (BBATF), a coordinator of the Arizona Planning Convention, advocates for the use of Article V for a convention to propose a single-item balanced budget amendment.

As of August 1, 27 states have passed BBATF balanced budget amendment applications. Six more states must pass applications in order for a convention to be called. Idaho, Kentucky, and Virginia all introduced balanced budget amendment resolutions in 2017, but none of them passed.

Another influential Article V plan has been advanced by the Convention of States Project (COSP), which proposes the passage of amendments that would create a balanced budget requirement and term limits. Twelve states have active COSP applications.

Compact for America’s plan would streamline the amendment process and condense legislative acts. A total of five states have passed applications.

Experts awaiting the momentous convention in Phoenix remain uncertain about exactly what will come out of the Phoenix convention, but it’s important to note the convention is being held just as the Article V movement is gaining a lot of steam.

David Guldenschuh, a Heartland Institute policy advisor and president of the Committee for a Fiscal Responsibility Amendment, has reported 25 states have selected delegates for the Phoenix convention and “about 10 states are currently discussing the matter, but divided leadership and logistics are creating hurdles.”

Guldenschuh argues partisanship should not stand in the way of the convention. “The Phoenix convention is not about a ‘right’ or ‘left’ agenda; it’s about the states re-uniting our republic,” he said.

The Heartland Institute has had the privilege of working with many of the leading Article V groups in recent years, and Heartland experts will be in Phoenix next week to report on the planning convention. Heartland will provide daily updates, videos, and a live stream of the convention on the Heartland website. You can also check out lots of other articles, news, and opinion at Heartland’s Center for Constitutional Reform website and the Center’s Twitter page.


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