It’s about federal government reform. And it’s in full compliance with the Constitution. An obscure part of the job description of all state legislators puts them in charge. Two things are needed from the legislators. First, they must see a need for change in the federal government. Secondly, they must be willing to consider non-partisan reform ideas.
Technically the debate will occur at a pre-convention meeting of state delegations from all 50 states. The pre-convention is a lead-up to an Article V convention and that meeting creates action to amend the Constitution. It’s a circuitous route to reform but changing our government is not easy and should not be taken lightly.
Partisanship is higher than is has been in many decades. Our country will benefit from the ‘Great Debate’ because its structure mandates a non-partisan discussion. The debate is open to all reform topics. Two-thirds of the states must agree in order for a measure to move forward and if stated opposition is very substantial, the measure dies. Adopting a new Constitutional amendment requires ratification by three-quarters of the states.
Our Founders created Article V as a means to correct flaws in our Constitution. It is important to understand why a state-initiated Article V convention has never been held. Many prairie fire issues have seen attempts at an A-5 convention derailed as Congress chose to use the Congressional method of initiating efforts to amend our Constitution. That complies with the Founder’s intent. But that also created a long-term precedent of not using the state-initiated method.
Our Constitution has not been amended by a new initiative in a full half century. Historically, that’s a long gap between amendments. Perhaps it was not that reform was not needed but rather that the traditional method to amend the Constitution has been blocked. A very high degree of partisanship makes it less likely that the two sides will agree on any policy issue. In addition, Congress likes its position of power. Incrementally, it has increased the size of the roadblocks for state-initiated government reform. Spreading unsupported fears of a runaway A-5 convention is an example.
And submitting applications for a limited A-5 convention are essentially destined to fail. Coordinating topics is a very high bar; scrutiny of the specific topic can lead to congressional obstruction. A limited A-5 convention can only discuss topics approved by 34 states. Recent history has borne out this pattern of failure.
The modern reason that an Article V state-initiated convention has never been held is that an Article V pre-convention has never been held. A pre-convention allows open discussion of all topics, not just the ones promoted by private organizations. It opens the door to all reform measures that are supported by the will of the people. Congress and the courts cannot stand in the way. It is true that the pre-convention will lead to an A-5 convention but that’s just a structural necessity needed for full compliance. The real action, the big open discussion, will occur at the pre-convention.
Our Founders could not foresee the evolution of laws, congressional roadblocks, and long-term precedents that now hamper the process of amending our Constitution. But they did have enough foresight to give equal power to the states in the amendment process. And they foresaw the potential need for congressional oversight. They did not outline the steps needed. But perhaps they expected that in some form or fashion the ‘great debate’ would take place as part of the process to correct our government’s flaws.