State legislators from across the country will soon be gathering in northern Virginia to discuss the possibility of amending the U.S. Constitution. Some legislators in Idaho report that they’re aware of increased discussion about such an undertaking.
“I definitely heard about this idea, yes,” said Rep. Steven Harris, R-Meridian. Harris told IdahoReporter.com that he frequently receives email from constituents, many of whom reference “The Liberty Amendments,” a book from author and constitutional scholar Mark Levin. “People seem to be motivated by the book, but I get plenty of messages in all directions on this issue. Some that favor, and others that oppose the idea of amending the U.S. Constitution.”
Levin’s book details a specific section of the U.S. Constitution that he believes puts a check on big government. Article V provides two paths to amending the Constitution. One is through two-thirds of both chambers of the U.S. Congress, followed by ratification by three-fourths of the states. The other begins at the state level, where two-thirds of all the legislatures ask Congress to call "a convention for proposing amendments."
In the latter scenario, states would send delegates to this convention to propose amendments to the Constitution. Then, three-fourths of the states would have to ratify any amendments approved by the convention, either by a vote of the legislatures or through special ratifying conventions.
As a precursor to a “convention for proposing amendments,” Wisconsin state Rep. Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield, has undertaken the task of organizing a meeting of state legislators from across the nation for next weekend.
“On Dec. 7, we’ll be gathering at Mount Vernon, the home of President George Washington,” he explained, adding his intent for next month’s meeting is to “start a movement of the states that would give voters hope that the government still gets its power from them, and not the other way around.”
Kapenga said that the U.S. Constitution stipulates that there be a balance between the powers of the individual state governments and the federal government. “Few will deny that the balance of power has shifted significantly toward the federal government over the course of time,” he explained. “We have a broken system that transcends political parties and voters are frustrated.”
According to Kapenga, every elected member of every state legislature in the country received an email invitation to next month’s meeting at Mount Vernon. His goal is for each state to send a “bipartisan delegation” of three individuals. Harris says he doesn’t recall receiving an invitation, but finds the process to be intriguing.
Similarly, Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene, told IdahoReporter.com that he doesn’t recall receiving an invitation to the December meeting, but acknowledged that constituents contact him about the constitutional amendment process.
“I wouldn’t say that I’ve gotten much in the way of original material about this,” Goedde said. “Usually people are cutting and pasting somebody else’s information about it. But I think it’s important to maintain the rights that are entailed in the U.S. Constitution. I think we do serve people better in Boise than my counterparts do from Washington, D.C.”
Rep. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, told IdahoReporter.com that he likes the idea of amending the U.S. Constitution, but not for the reasons that Kapenga suggests. “The dysfunction of the federal government is now so complete that our country faces some significant and very real dangers. For this reason I have come to favor an Article V constitutional convention.”
Burgoyne listed several types of amendments to the U.S. Constitution that he’d like to see: These include amendments to require balanced budgets except in times of war and other emergencies; a presidential line item budget veto; amendments recognizing the principle that it is not $1 one vote, but one person one vote; amendments to prevent the gerrymandering of congressional districts; and amendments to prevent political parties from exercising governmental-like powers to control voting and elections.
“I do not think that the relative constitutional powers of the states and the federal government are out of balance when the Constitution is properly read and applied,” Burgoyne said.
Kapenga says that about 90 state legislators have committed to attending next month’s meeting at Mount Vernon, and he is still hoping for more. He was uncertain, however, whether or not any Idaho legislators will be attending.