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General News    H3'ed 3/7/19

Washington State legislators want to amend the US Constitution. Is it risky?

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Two Washington State resolutions call for amending the U.S. Constitution:

  1. SJM 8001 2019-20: Calling on Congress to exercise its authority under Article V of the United States Constitution to regulate money spent on elections. (Sponsors: Hasegawa, Frockt)
  2. SJM 8002 2019-20: Asking Congress to call a limited convention, authorized under Article V of the United States Constitution, for the purpose of proposing a free and fair elections amendment to that Constitution. (Sponsors: Kuderer, Palumbo, Wellman, Takko)
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The first resolution, SJM 8001, aims to reverse the Citizens United Supreme Court decision that declared that campaign donations are a form of free speech and that corporations are people. You can read the full text of the resolution it's just one page here. It states: "Your Memorialists respectfully pray that the c[sic]ongress of the United States exercise the authority granted to it under Article V of the Constitution to pass and send to the several states for ratification an amendment to the Constitution that"" restores to the states the authority to regulate campaign donations.

You can read an email from Fix Democracy First in favor of SJM 8001 near the end of this article.

The second resolution also aims to assure fair elections by overturning Citizens United. You can read the text of the resolution here. But, unlike the first resolution, it calls for a "limited" constitutional convention which some progressive groups think is a very risky endeavor, because a constitutional convention might get hijacked by Republicans, who might push for harmful changes to the U.S. Constitution, or an entirely new document.

Common Cause explains:

The U.S. Constitution offers two ways to add amendments to our nation's governing document in Article V. The process that has always used for all 27 amendments added to the Constitution since 1789 is for an amendment to pass with a two-thirds vote in each chamber of Congress and then be ratified by three-fourths of the states.

The other, untested way laid out in Article V is for two-thirds of state legislatures to call for a constitutional convention, also known as an "Article V convention," to add amendments to the Constitution once they are ratified by three-fourths of the states. Throughout the 230-year history of the U.S. Constitution, an Article V convention has never been called by Congress.

My understanding of SJM 8001 is that it's trying to employ the first way to amend the Constitution: by having Congress pass an amendment, which then gets ratified by the states.

But SJM 8002 is suggesting to use the second, more risky way: a constitutional convention.

Common Cause thinks the second way is risky: U.S. Constitution Threatened as Article V Convention Movement Nears Success "A well-funded, highly coordinated national effort is underway to call a constitutional convention, under Article V of the U.S. Constitution, for the first time in history. The result of such a convention could be a complete overhaul of the Constitution and supporters of the convention are dangerously close to succeeding. "

Cenk Uygur of the Young Turks and WolfPac came to Olympia to lobby for SJM 8002. See The Young Turks Come to Washington State on a Quest to Overturn Citizens United, which presents arguments both for and against the position that a constitutional convention would be risky.

At the end of this article is a copy of email from Senator Patty Kuderer in defense of SJM 8002. Her strongest argument is that three quarters of states would need to ratify any proposal coming out of a constitutional convention. So that would likely prevent any dangerous changes from happening. She points out, too, that the first way of amending the Constitution is risky too: Congress too could propose a crazy amendment. But, there again, three-quarters of the states would have to approve. Is that any less risky?

Yet a constitutional convention sure sounds more drastic than just adding a single amendment, and that psychological factor could result in more drastic changes.

I'm surprised both resolutions are being considered. The first one seems less risky and could still amend the Constitution.

I phoned Senator Hasegawa's office he sponsored SJM 8001. His assistant said that my understanding of the two resolutions is accurate. She said, too, that Senator Hasegawa voted Yes on sending SJM 8002 out of committee.

Email I got from Fix Democracy First

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Democratic Precinct Committee Officer, activist, writer, and programmer. My op-ed pieces have appeared in the Seattle Times, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and elsewhere. See and for my (more...)

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