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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 5/23/15

How our State Legislatures Might Help Prevent Tragedies

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Our state legislatures cannot interfere with specific decisions implementing US domestic or foreign policies. However, Article V does give them the exclusive power to rearrange our federal powers and to lay down guidelines for the exercise of these powers. [1] This rearrangement and lying down of guidelines could increase our control over our government and decrease the control of our plutocrats.

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This article assumes that, if our government were controlled by us it would be more humane and peaceful. It assumes that we would do a better job of making and implementing domestic and foreign policies than is being done at present. Article V of the Constitution empowers our state legislatures to increase our control. It follows that our state legislatures have the power to make our country more peaceful toward the people of other countries and more responsive to us.

However, they would face many obstacles should they choose to take on this task. This article comments on some of these obstacles and suggests approaches that might help overcome them...

OBSTACLES TO FIXING OUR DEMOCRACY

Fixing our democracy requires altering our Constitution. For over two centuries we have believed there are only two methods of proposing amendments to our Constitution: congressional proposals and proposals made by a proposing convention. The possibility that the members of Congress will propose amendments that would end their celebrity status and elitist life styles is nil. The chance that they will call a convention that might propose genuine reform is also unlikely.

Congressional resistance has stood in the way of both methods. Other factors (for example, fear of a runaway convention, fear of a party-dominated convention and fear of a money-dominated convention) have dampened public interest in the convention method. The obstacles standing in the way of our amending our Constitution appear prohibitive.

Another circumstance has added to the confusion. Article V requires Congress to call a proposing convention, ". . . on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states."

However, the Constitution does not specify whether all two thirds of the required applications must be for a convention to consider the same issue, whether or not an application can be limited in scope, or whether or not applications expire and, if so, when. These uncertainties have enabled Congress to ignore the hundreds of applications that have been filed.

MADISON'S REMEDY

As Col. Mason warned near the end of the 1787 Convention, Congress would not propose amendments benefiting the people, ". . . if the government should become oppressive, and as he verily believed would be the case." Our government has become oppressive. It now appears that Col. Mason had a valid concern when he declined to sign the proposed constitution.

We seem to be presented with a "chicken or egg" puzzle: we cannot have a convention without an amendment and we cannot have an amendment without a convention. Therefore, we can't have a convention.

Fortunately, Madison's remedy overturns this syllogism. On the last day (before signing day) of the 1787 Convention, he objected to approving Article V until it included specific procedures for calling and holding conventions. After it had become apparent that there was not enough time to develop these procedures before signing day, he pointed out that the Constitution could be amended without either (1) relying on the federal government to propose a beneficial amendment or (2) holding a convention. He said that he "did not see why Congress would not be as much bound to propose amendments applied for by two thirds of the states as to call a convention on the like application." [2] It is worth noting that the 9 th and 10 th amendments appear designed to authorize interpretations of this nature.

THANK YOU MR. MADISON

When Madison pointed out that he saw no reason Congress should not be "bound" to propose an amendment without the need for a convention, he opened the door to an amendment that would "pave the way" to a subsequent convention. Such an amendment could remove the present obstacles to a convention. For example consider the following language. [3]

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Neal Herrick is author of the award-wining After Patrick Henry (2009). His most recent book is (2014) Reversing America’s Decline. He is a former sailor, soldier, auto worker, railroad worker, assistant college football coach, (more...)
 

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