Sunday, February 08, 2015

Oregon Legislators Should Support an Article V Convention of the States

By Mark Alspaugh

If your world view favors an all-powerful federal government that is master of virtually every social, economic and moral aspect of our lives, then you probably like the government we have in Washington today. But beware of where it leads. As Thomas Jefferson wrote: "When all government, domestic and foreign, in little as in great things, shall be drawn to Washington as the center of all power, it will render powerless the checks provided of one government on another, and will become as venal and oppressive as the government from which we separated."

Many believe we have arrived. The federal debt and deficit are out of control. Entitlement programs are unsustainable. National security is center stage while our national defense capability is being hollowed out. De facto lawmaking by executive fiat and regulation is epidemic. The federal bureaucracy has become overly powerful, oppressive and politicized.

It is little wonder that by a margin of two to one, the American people believe our country is headed in the wrong direction. Yet history suggests that trying to change Washington is an exercise in futility. Electing different people may make for interesting sound bites but little more. Washington will never voluntarily give up significant power and return it to the states.

A solution is in plain sight. It is the state-led way of reining in Washington and restoring the sovereignty of the states found in Article V of the Constitution. Article V provides that whenever two-thirds of the states make application for it, Congress must convene a convention of the states for the purpose of proposing amendments to the Constitution. Congress has no discretionary alternative. Once there are sufficient applications for a common purpose, it must call the convention.

If ever there was a time for the states to intervene to right the ship of state, it is now. Time is growing short. But be not dismayed. As in other times of distress, people are standing up, stepping out and speaking up. A national, highly coordinated, nonpartisan, grass-roots movement is well under way to bring about an Article V amending convention of states. Currently enabling legislation has been introduced in a total of 38 states, including Oregon, and of these, three have already passed such bills during legislative sessions of 2014.

Oregon's Senate Joint Memorial 6 is an application for an Article V convention for the express purpose of "proposing amendments to the United States Constitution relating to imposing fiscal restraints on the federal government, limiting the power and jurisdiction of the federal government and limiting the terms of office of federal government officials and members of Congress."

Among prospective amendments that might be deliberated upon by the convention that are within the scope of this application language include: balancing the budget; establishing simpler and fairer tax law; establishing term limits for Congress and federal judges; limiting de facto lawmaking by executive order and regulation; clarifying the general welfare and commerce clauses consistent with original intent; prohibiting use of treaties to govern U.S. domestic law; and providing meaningful oversight and accountability.

Anti-Constitution opponents raise many extremist hobgoblins: The runaway convention conspiracy; the futility of a process that will be ignored; secret conspiracies by the rich and evil to compromise the process; subversion of the process by untrustworthy legislators; and a continuous serving of innuendo and fear-mongering diatribe. They make no offer of objective, fact-based proof. Instead, they are strong on unsupported allegations and on demeaning those who would dare exercise the fundamental constitutional right guaranteed by Article V.

Don't fall for false narratives. Become fully informed. Numerous papers written by nationally recognized, independent constitutional scholars that thoroughly dismantle such false narratives are available at for those who seek the truth about Article V.

In the final analysis, the convention of states cannot change one word of the Constitution. It can only propose amendments. Thirty-eight states must still ratify any proposed amendment for it to become a part of the Constitution. Any 13 states could block any proposed amendment by just saying, "no." This safeguard is an absolute bar to wild conspiracy theories of the anti-constitutionalists.

The convention of states, as exemplified in part by Oregon's Senate Joint Memorial 6, is arguably the most important constitutional initiative since the Constitutional Convention of 1787. The founders gave us the Bill of Rights. This initiative can give us a Bill of Renewal. Oregon should get on board.

Mark H. Alspaugh is Arkansas state director of The Convention of States Project.

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