Archive for the ‘states righs’ Tag

Being Specific   Leave a comment

The Convention of the States organization proposes a unique method for states to propose amendments to the Constitution. At first, I thought it might not be constitutional, but I’m beginning to soften on that stance without actually relinquishing it.

Primarily, my reason for softening on this is that Congress is trying to nullify some of the state applications for a balanced budget amendment, saying that the applications must be precisely worded. We’re one application away from a convention of the states on a balanced budget amendment IF Congress doesn’t set any of them aside and my gut says they will if they can. Constitutional amendments do not fit the progressive agenda. If you can reform government through a careful method that’s been around for 230 years, it negates their arguments that the president needs vast powers, the administrative state should be in charge and the states should just go along with whatever the federal governments says.

I reread Article V and it doesn’t say the applications can’t be on a particular subject rather than a particular amendment. I can’t find such a limitation being discussed in the Federalists or in the various writings in the runup to ratification of the Constitution. If someone has something to show me wrong, please let me know.

I still hold that you can’t just apply for a convention without a specific topic. That’s a good protection that provides for an amendments convention rather than a constitutional convention and there is support in the Federalists for that stance.


This is what COS says on its website:

Two goals separate our plan from all other Article V organizations:

1. We want to call a convention for a particular subject rather than a particular amendment. Instead of calling a convention for a balanced budget amendment (though we are entirely supportive of such an amendment), we want to call a convention for the purpose of limiting the power and jurisdiction of the federal government.

2. We believe the grassroots is the key to calling a successful convention.  The goal is to build a political operation in a minimum of 40 states, getting 100 people to volunteer in at least 75% of the state legislative district (that’s 3,000 districts).  We believe this is very doable. Only through the support of the American people will this project have a chance to succeed.

Our Solution is Big Enough to Solve the Problem

Rather than calling a convention for a specific amendment, Citizens for Self-Governance (CSG) has launched the Convention of the States Project to urge state legislatures to properly use Article V to call a convention for a particular subject—reducing the power of Washington, D.C. It is important to note that a convention for an individual amendment (e.g. a Balanced Budget Amendment) would be limited to that single idea. Requiring a balanced budget is a great idea that CSG fully supports. Congress, however, could comply with a Balanced Budget Amendment by simply raising taxes. We need spending restraints as well. We need restraints on taxation. We need prohibitions against improper federal regulation. We need to stop unfunded mandates.

A convention of states needs to be called to ensure that we are able to debate and impose a complete package of restraints on the misuse of power by all branches of the federal government.

What Sorts of Amendments Could be Passed?

The following are examples of amendment topics that could be discussed at a convention of states:

  • A balanced budget amendment
  • A redefinition of the General Welfare Clause (the original view was the federal government could not spend money on any topic within the jurisdiction of the states)
  • A redefinition of the Commerce Clause (the original view was that Congress was granted a narrow and exclusive power to regulate shipments across state lines–not all the economic activity of the nation)
  • A prohibition of using international treaties and law to govern the domestic law of the United States
  • A limitation on using Executive Orders and federal regulations to enact laws (since Congress is supposed to be the exclusive agency to enact laws)
  • Imposing term limits on Congress and the Supreme Court
  • Placing an upper limit on federal taxation
  • Requiring the sunset of all existing federal taxes and a super-majority vote to replace them with new, fairer taxes

Of course, these are merely examples of what would be up for discussion. The convention of states itself would determine which ideas deserve serious consideration, and it will take a majority of votes from the states to formally propose any amendments.

The Founders gave us a legitimate path to save our liberty by using our state governments to impose binding restraints on the federal government. We must use the power granted to the states in the Constitution. 

The Grassroots

The leadership of the COS Project believes the success of a convention of states depends to a large extent on the American citizens. Our plan is as follows:

1. We seek to have a viable political operation that is active in at least 40 states.

2. Initially, we will focus on those 40 states, which have approximately 4000 state house districts. Our goal is to have a viable political operation in at least 3000 of these districts.

3. We will have 3000 district captains who will organize at least 100 people in each district to contact their legislator to support a convention of the states, and turn out at least 25 people per district at legislative hearings.


Lela – I’m not convinced this is the way to go, but I do find the argument compelling.

Four Problems in Need of Solution   Leave a comment

There are four major federal abuses that are driving us toward an age of tyranny such as Alexis de Toqueville described in Democracy in American (1840). These abuses are not just bad policy, but they create a government that does not shatter men’s wills so much as it “softens, bends, and guides” them until we run the risk of becoming nothing more than “a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.”

Spending and Debt Crisis

$17 trillion in national debt ought to leave us dumfounded, but it’s only part of the story. If we apply the normal rules of accounting, the federal government owes trillions more in vested (contractually obligated) Social Security benefits and other entitlement programs. We the people are on the hook for about $2 million a piece in long-term obligations, according to the normal rules of accounting. I’m middle aged. Unless I write a best-seller and become the next flavor of the decade author with multiple movie deals, I’m not generating $2 million in taxes during my remaining lifetime. In fact, the average wage-earner only earns about $2 million over the course of a 40-year career. The government cannot tax its way out of debt. They could confiscate every bit of wage and earnings in the nation and it would not cover the true debt.

The Regulatory Crisis

The federal bureaucracy has placed a complex, conflicting, and crushing regulatory burden upon businesses. Congress has ceded its authority to agencies who, upon enacting the real substance of various laws, then moves forward with little accountability to the American people or even the Congress. Research from the American Enterprise Institute shows that since 1949 federal regulations have made America 72% poorer through a reduction of economic activity of just 2% annually. Welcome to the world of compound interest and unintended consequences. If you make $50,000 in annual income, you really ought to be making $86,000. Does that hit you where you live?

Congressional Attacks on State Sovereignty

For years, Congress has used federal grants to keep the states under its control. These grants accompanied by mandates which are rarely fully funded have turned state legislatures into Congress’s regional agencies rather than truly independent republican governments as they were meant to be. Accompanying this is an erosion of the rights of the people to direct their own lives. We are missing one of the most important principles of the American founding – that legitimate government only exists with the consent of the governed. Did you consent? I don’t recall consenting.

Federal Takeover of the Decision-Making Process

The Founders believed that the structures of a limited government would provide the greatest protection of liberty. They structured the Constitution to provide checks and balances at the federal level. Everything not specifically granted to Congress for legislative control was to be left to the states, which were seen as contraints on federal power. The Supremacy Clause of the Constitution was meant to allow the federal government to protect individual rights when states became abusive of their citizens. So how did we get here, where the states bow and scrape to the federal government instead of controlling it as they were meant to do? Collusion among decision-makers in Washington, D.C. has replaced these essential checks and balances. The federal judiciary supports Congress and the White House in its ever-escalating attack upon the jurisdiction of the 50 states.

For example, bureaucrats in Washington DC look at Fairbanksans who are paying $3.70 a gallon for home heating fuel (a 2000-square foot house requires 2-5 gallons a day, depending on heating system and insulation) and says we can’t burn wood because of health concerns, apparently not caring that freezing to death is a health concern. The State of Alaska, having accepted revenue sharing, writes regulations that will restrict wood stove use to only times when we don’t need to heat our homes because to do fight the EPA on this issue might cost federal highway funds. In the meantime, the local refinery (the second-newest refinery in America, by the way) shuts down due to regulatory burdens, meaning Fairbanksans will be paying $6 a gallon for home heating fuel next winter, just about the time the wood stove ban (they’re calling it a restriction) kicks in.

And this happens all over the country. Post your example if you like.

The only solution (not involving blood-shed) to the situation is to put big government back into the constitutionally created box it was never supposed to stray from.

Article V is a bloodless way to do that!

If we will make use of it.

Reason for Article V Convention   Leave a comment

You know how sometimes you start to research a project and you find a treasure trove of information scattered across the web? Although I found a lot of enthusiasm both for and against, I gravitated to Heritage Foundation and the Goldwater Institute for discussion by cooler heads, but the Convention of the States website has developed into a good resource since I last checked it out.

It should be recognized that the writing of the United States Constitution was an act of rebellion. It was a necessary act because the Articles of Confederation were not working and did not allow a mechanism for amendment. Shay’s Rebellion was just the tip of the iceberg of the frustration that was fomenting in the 13 states. The Articles were designed by people in the midst of a war against the only government they had ever known and thus was only one step back from anarchy. No government sounds good after you’ve lived with tyranny for a while, but it turns out to be rather hard on society. It also turns out that “virtually no government” is not a great improvement over no government at all. Thus, the US Constitution, which provided for limited government under the consent of the governed. It was a brilliant idea, but it wasn’t a perfect idea.

With remarkable insight, our Founders perceived a day when the Constitution would need amendment so they set forth a provision for how to do that. Oddly, they didn’t think allowing the sort of convention that they were in the midst of was a good idea. A wide-open convention of that sort could easily “run away”, they saw, so instead, they provided for a limited-scope convention, attended by state-chosen delegates, to address specific subject matters. This does not mean Article V cannot be abused, but that the possibility must be viewed against the clear and present danger to individual rights and freedom from doing nothing in the face of an out-of-control federal government.

Polls show that a growing number of Americans are deeply concerns by the inability of all three branches of the federal government to operate within their constitutional or financial limits. The Constitution needs amendment, either to clarify the scope of federal power or to impose restrictions upon its exercise with the ultimate goal of reviving the Founders’ view of the federal government as a fiscally responsible entity that protects human liberties.

Article V of the Constitution provides that either Congress or a convention of delegates may propose amendments for the states to ratify. A convention arrives when two-thirds (34) states send applications to Congress direction it to call such a convention. An amendment must be approved by three-quarters (38) states before it can become effective, regardless of whether it is proposed by Congress or by the states.

Our Founders had just experienced the endless debate that was Congress under the Articles of Confederation. They recognized that Congress might become irresponsible or corrupt and refuse to proposed needed changes, particularly if those changes might restrain the power of Congress. The state-application-for-convention process allows states to curb federal abuses by their own initiative.

And aren’t we living in those times today? States have sent hundreds of convention applications to Congress over the years, primarily arising from widespread efforts to solve serious problems that the federal government seemed unable or unwilling to solve. None of these applications succeeded in triggering a convention because usually Congress finally felt compelled to act just before the threshold for a convention was met.

A mid-19th century campaign to call a convention to reconcile North and South over the issues of slavery was blocked by politicians more interested in debate than solutions. The Civil War imposed unconstitutional reconstruction upon the South that has had widespread repercussions on the western states ever since.

In the Progressive Era, a carefully orchestrated propaganda campaign focused on corruption in state legislatures caused efforts to call a convention to force direct election of US Senators. This movement was then torpedoed by fear-mongering about the “runaway constitutional convention” that would ensue if Congress didn’t act. The Senate finally yielded and submitted the 17th amendment to the states. The problem of corruption in state legislatures then shifted to corruption in the Senate.

The 20th century balance budget movement was torpedoed by the same fears. When Congress failed to pass an amendment to restrict its own power, if left Congress still unable to balance its budget, resulting in a loss of political legitimacy and a federal debt now almost as large as the entire annual economy.

I think it’s important to understand how this process was meant to work, so that we’re not confused by the propaganda.

Interstate Highways Need National Leadership   Leave a comment

Let’s look at this clearly. We’re talking transportation. I submit that transportation projects can be handled by the states far better than they are currently being handled by the federal government.

Highway : this is an elevated highway in Austin Texas.

There have been various plans to end the federal role in the highway system. This is not a new idea. The “turnback” proposal was floated in the Reagan administration and promoted by John Kasich and Connie Mack in the 1990s. Most recently Jeff Flake sponsored a bill that proposed a gradual elimination of the federal fuel tax, elimination of the Highway Trust Fund, and devolution to the states of responsibility for funding the maintenance and construction of their highway systems. These proposals would enable each state to finance its roads in accordance with the wishes of its voters.

There are people who will insist that the nation needs federal oversight of highway programs in order to avoid chaos. Hmm, well, the Building Codes that govern construction of structures throughout the United States would argue otherwise. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is a non-profit, nonpartisan association that produces the building codes every three years. These codes are usually adopted unedited by city building departments. There’s no chaos. Most states accept occupational licenses from other states without testing so long as the license is based on NFPA standards.

You may be surprised to learn that there is a similar organization that could fulfill such a function for highways.

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan association representing highway and transportation departments in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. It represents all five transportation modes: air, highways, public transportation, rail, and water. Its primary goal is to foster the development, operation, and maintenance of an integrated national transportation system.

Wow, doesn’t that sound like a non-governmental agency that is doing what FHWA claims to do?

As the voice of transportation, AASHTO works to educate the public and key decision-makers about the critical role that transportation plays in securing a good quality of life and sound economy for our nation. AASHTO serves as a liaison between state departments of transportation and the Federal government. AASHTO is an international leader in setting technical standards for all phases of highway system development. Standards are issued for design, construction of highways and bridges, materials, and many other technical areas.

File:AASHTO logo.gif

AASHTO serves as a catalyst for excellence in transportation by offering:

  • Smart solutions and promising practices;
  • Critical information, training and data;
  • Direct technical assistance to states; and
  • Unchallenged expertise.

AASHTO is guided by a Board of Directors made up of the chief transportation officers from the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. The 12-member Executive Committee is led by AASHTO’s elected officers, and is assisted by its executive director.

AASHTO’s policy development, standards setting, and technical activities are the product of volunteer state department of transportation personnel who work through the AASHTO committee structure. The committees collaborate throughout the year and typically meet annually. These committees, which represent the highest standard of transportation expertise in the country, address virtually every element of planning, designing, constructing, and maintaining transportation services.

Yeah, that is exactly what the Federal Highway Administration claims to do. So why do we need two organizations? Leave the money in the states, eliminating the administrative “fees” the federal government takes, thereby lowering road costs or increasing the amount of money available for road projects. Allow a neutral, state-based party like AASHTO to set a nation-wide standard and eliminate a whole lot of federal waste. Our interstate highway system can have national leadership that is not top-down dictatorship.

Why can’t we do that? “Because we’re not used to it” is not an acceptable answer!

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