Constitution, Politics, United States

Convention of States; Questions & Answers from Mt Vernon Meeting Participants

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I have been trying to fill you in on this Convention of the States since the meeting at Mt Vernon On December 7, 2013, in which an Arkansas delegation attended.  Those in the delegation were State Senator Jason Rapert, State Representative Randy Alexander, State Representative Bob Ballinger and State Representative Nate Bell.  As you may recall this method is being called a constitutional convention by many who are in fear of opening up the constitution just as they did in 1787 when the 13 states were to come together to amend the Articles of Confederation only to scratch the articles in favor of our Current U.S. Constitution.  The Article V, which some believe will lead to a runaway convention and scrap our constitution if proper process is not followed, does allow for a Constitutional Convention to be called by Congress to add amendments or remove amendments from the Constitution. It is important to note however that this process has never been used as in the past Congress would typically brings forth an Amendment before it comes to this. I feel it is my duty to give you the facts regardless of my own opinion and so I shall do just that.  

The questions I asked of the Arkansas delegates are as follows:

1. What was discussed as the main points of the meeting?

2. What were the concerns of attendees?

3. Were those concerns alleviated?

4. I know a meeting is being scheduled for May 1, 2014 so what will the next steps be?

5. Who paid for your trip to Mt Vernon, The State of Arkansas, you personally or an outside organization?

6. Do you believe calling a constitutional convention is the only path to a balanced budget?

7. If so please explain?

8. How can you guarantee that a constitution convention will not become a free for all on the constitution?

9. Why do you think a constitution convention has never been called to date since the writing of the current Constitution?

10. How does it feel to be a part of this historical event?

11. How were you invited?

12. Will you be able to participate in the next meeting?

13. Will AR be sending a delegation as set forth in the letter circulating on the web?

14. How will delegates be chosen from AR?

15. What if any rules were put in place at this past weekends meeting?

16. What will be on the agenda for the Constitution convention besides a balanced budget amendment?

17. How will you ensure that the agenda will not veer off task or topic ending in a complete overhaul of our current Constitution?

18. Who is paying to bring this event together as I know meeting space, catering hotel and flights are not cheap?

19. Is there anything else you would like people to know about what you are doing or working on regarding this constitution convention?

 

Today I am posting Representative Alexander’s response to my questions.

Val,

I first learned of the Mount Vernon Assembly when another representative forwarded me the information he had received.  The cost of the trip was approximately $500 for airfare, hotel, rental car and food.  $350 of this amount was paid by a local group (for me and Representative Ballinger) called Conduit for Commerce and I paid the balance.  Conduit for Commerce is an organization that represents small businesses, and the two people who started the group have been friends and supporters of mine since before the group began.  I believe Senator Jason Rapert and Representative Nate Bell were already in D.C. attend the national ALEC conference; which ended the evening before this meeting.  You would need to check with them regarding their costs.

 The Mount Vernon Assembly was arranged by a group of state legislators from various states that wish to promote an idea called the Convention of States (COS) Project.  There were a total of 97 state legislators from 34 states across the nation, including myself and three other Arkansas legislators: Senator Jason Rapert, Representative Bob Ballinger and Representative Nate Bell. 

 The COS Project’s plan is to call an Article V Convention of the States for a particular subject, rather than a particular amendment.  The working title of the subject is to limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government. 

The purpose of this first meeting was simply to discuss the idea with a diverse group of state legislators.  Based upon our discussion, a call is being prepared to send to state legislative bodies asking that they select delegates to attend a meeting in Indianapolis next December.  COS will determine the number of delegates to be seated by each state, and the number of delegates will depend to some degree by the seating capacity of the Indiana House chamber.  The method of selecting the state delegates will be left up to each state.  There will also be a planning meeting sometime late spring or summer (could be May 1 but not necessarily) to work out some logistics related to the December meeting.

 The purpose of the December meeting is to create the rules and guidelines for a future Article V Conference of States.  No amendments will be submitted or voted on at this meeting. Upon approval of the rules and guidelines, each state legislature will be asked to vote to approve an application for the convention.  Congress will call the convention upon receipt of 34 qualified state applications. 

 Several amendments could be proposed at the Convention of States, but all amendments must fall under the subject definition, which will likely be similar to that described above.  Following discussion and debate, the convention will vote to approve none, or one or more amendments to send to the states for ratification.  Each state delegation (the number is not yet known but will be an odd number) will have only one vote on each amendment so that every state’s vote carries the same weight.

 Ratification of each amendment will be voted on separately by each state; proposed amendments will not be grouped together in a single package.  Any proposed amendments ratified by at least 38 states will become new amendments to the Constitution!

One of the primary reasons these steps are being taken is to prevent any unintended consequences, such as the so called “runaway convention”.  Although I once had a concern about this, as I’ve studied it more over the past several months, I no longer have any concern at all that there is a possibility of this happening.  Regardless of what the Convention of States approves, that proposal still needs to be ratified by a minimum of 38 states to become law.  That alone is a high enough hurdle to prevent any radical change to the Constitution.  Also, this is NOT a Constitutional Convention; it is a Convention of States for the sole purpose of proposing amendments.  Other safeguards will also be in place, such as:

 *  States will pass their own laws that stipulate delegates must stay entirely within the called purpose.  Failure to do so will result in immediate dismissal and/or other penalties.  Indiana has already passed a bill stating that in addition to being immediately recalled from the convention, delegates who exceed their authority will be charged with a felony.

* An oath will be administered at the convention requiring all delegates to stay within the boundaries of the call.  Any discussion, reports, or amendments, etc. will not be allowed by the chair.

* There were other ideas, but I don’t recall them at the moment.

I do believe that calling a Convention of States is the only path to a balanced budget, as well as other amendments that would restore the intended balance of power between the federal government and the states.  Our nation has strayed far from our original principles and many changes and actions, although clearly not constitutional, have not been challenged.  I have lost all faith that the federal government will police itself and turn back to our first principles.  If this country is to be saved, it will require the states to exert their constitutional authority to rein in the federal government.  People don’t seem to remember that the federal government did not create the States; the States created the federal government.  Our basic, natural rights are endowed to us by God, not permitted to us by the federal government.

 I’m not entirely sure why there has never been a Convention of States in the past.  I’m told that one reason is that whenever a critical mass of states began to form to advance this prospect regarding a particular issue, Congress has stepped in to pre-emptively offer amendments to address the concern.  But I suspect the main reason is that people have become apathetic and too busy with the concerns of life to undertake such a difficult step.  Mainstream Americans, who comprise a significant majority of our citizens, tend to be willing to accommodate and go along rather than stir the pot every time something does not go their way.  It takes something pretty significant to rouse the public to such unusual action.  Our country has been drifting away from our founding principles for at least a century.  The changes have usually happened slowly and gradually, and although people might oppose the change, they were not sufficiently motivated to take action.  Under the presidency of Mr. Obama the pace of change has accelerated significantly.  Many of his policies and actions are completely out of step with the beliefs of mainstream Americans and the founding principles of our nation.  I believe those of us who believe this to be true may look back on the Obama presidency as a God send.  No one else has ever moved so far to the left so fast.  I call him the Father of the Modern American TEA Party.  He has roused the sleeping giant; and I pray the giant is ready to respond with clarity and conviction. 

 In addition to a balanced budget amendment, other ideas I have heard discussed include term limits for federal legislators, term limits for Supreme Court Justices, repeal of the 17th Amendment, repeal of the 16th Amendment, and restoration of the original definition and intent of some of the key clauses that have been twisted to allow federal action that exceeds their constitutional authority.  Some of these include the General Welfare clause, the Interstate Commerce clause and the Supremacy clause.  There could be others as well.

 We did discuss the costs of the convention and the meetings leading up to it, and there is a clear preference that expenses be borne by the states and perhaps small donations from individuals.  We do not want any organizational sponsors because we do not want any organizational influence, either real or perceived.  The number mentioned for donations from individuals was $100.  Obviously this has not yet been determined but this gives you a flavor of the thinking of those in attendance.

 I do not know how Arkansas will select delegates but I would love to be one of those chosen.  I was very encouraged by the tone of the meeting last week and I am very excited about moving forward.  There was definitely a feeling of historical importance among those in the room.  The men and women in attendance last week did not sound like politicians; they sounded like patriots who are ready to stand up for our Constitution and restore what has historically been good and principled and effective in making our nation great.  We all know that we will be attacked by the liberals and supportive press and will be likely called all kinds of names.  Speaking only for me, I don’t care.  It’s time to stand up.

 I hope this addresses your questions.  Let me know if I have missed anything.

 Randy

 I want to thank Representative Alexander for responding and helping not only me, but my readers and listeners, to understand what is happening regarding this very touchy subject and process regarding our Constitution.  I am still not on board with this method of altering our Constitution but I want to learn more and help you understand and learn as well.  It is my job to give you the facts and let you decide for yourself and that is what I will continue to do.  If you have any questions you would like answered please forward them to me at ccvalemmons@gmail.com or send me a message at www.facebook.com/valemmons or @valemmons on twitter and I will see what I can do to get them answered.

Tomorrow I will post more responses to the questions above, but I do want to note that to date I have been ignored in my request of the same questions above from Representative Nate Bell and Senator Jason Rapert with whom I thought I had good working relationships with.  If you recall Nate was on my show the Crime Chronicle ((LIVE)) on KARN 102.9FM and I even went so far as to ask him a few questions regarding this through other means and still not a single response.  It makes me wonder why and you should too.     

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