May 10, 2017 – Statement of Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer
Nevada yesterday became the third state this year to rescind its previous call for a constitutional convention to adopt a balance budget constitutional amendment.
Successful rescission efforts in New Mexico and Maryland earlier this year, along with Nevada’s rescission yesterday, have stopped the momentum of proponents seeking to call a constitutional convention.
Nevertheless, a tough battle still lies ahead.
Under the constitution, two-thirds of the states, or 34 states, can call a constitutional convention to adopt constitutional amendments and send them to the states for ratification.
Both chambers of a state legislature must pass resolutions for a state to call a constitutional convention. Resolutions previously passed can be rescinded by votes in both chambers of the legislature. Governors play no role in this process.
At the start of 2017, proponents claimed to have resolutions passed in 28 of the 34 states they need to call a constitutional convention for a balanced budget amendment. More than half of these states passed their resolutions more than three decades ago.
Wyoming and Arizona added their names to the list in February and March. Wisconsin is considered likely to pass a call for a constitutional convention later this year.
With rescission victories in three states, however, we are now back to 27 states claiming to have passed resolutions for the constitutional convention. If Wisconsin does pass a call for a constitution convention later this year, we are likely to end 2017 where we started the year, with 28 states on record for a constitutional convention.
Most experts agree that once a constitutional convention is called, the actions of the convention cannot be limited in advance to any one particular issue, such as a balanced budget amendment, and the delegates can consider any number of constitutional amendments they wish to adopt.
Thus, calling a constitutional convention for a balanced budget amendment could open the door to a runaway convention in which all of the constitutional rights and protections provided to the American people would be up for grabs.
Thus, constitutional rights and protections for civil rights, civil liberties, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, voting rights and privacy rights, among others, all would be open to revision.
The great threat posed by a constitutional convention to the constitutional rights and protections of the American people have led 230 organizations to release a letter earlier this year opposing a constitutional convention.
A constitutional convention would open up the nation’s most sacred document – our national charter – to fundamental changes in a political environment of great national divisiveness and polarization. A convention and its aftermath would tie the country up in knots for years to come.
Unlike our first and only constitutional convention that took place in 1789, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton will not be available to serve as delegates if a second constitutional convention is called. A constitutional convention must be prevented.
Democracy 21 along with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Common Cause and AFSCME have helped lead a national coalition of groups working to oppose the calling of a constitutional convention. www.democracy21.org