LANSING, Mich., April 4, 2014– Michigan’s recently passed resolution calling for an Article V convention of the states to amend the federal Constitution may have been the catalyst to finally put the process in motion. At the magic number of 34, Michigan joins multiple other states that have successfully passed a resolution calling for a federal balanced budget amendment (BBA). Tennessee passed its BBA resolution only a couple weeks before Michigan.
Michigan Senate Joint Resolution V calls upon Congress to allow Michigan to join other states in requesting an Article V convention of the states.
“A JOINT RESOLUTION to petition the congress of the United States to call a convention to propose amendments to the constitution of the United States to require a balanced federal budget.”
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder (R) has been calling upon the state legislature to pass the resolution since the beginning of the legislative season.
Ambiguity surrounds Article V. Some pundits have claimed that because multiple states have rescinded their applications the magic number requiring Congress to call a convention to move forward has not been reached. Furthermore, because all of the state resolutions differ in many ways even though they may have the same general theme, it is not immediately clear whether or not they will be considered germane.
New York Times best-selling author and constitutional scholar Dr. Kevin Gutzman says states cannot rescind their applications.
“The Constitution makes no provision for a state to rescind its application for an amendment convention.”
Rep. Duncan Hunter (R- Cali.) pressed House Speaker John Boehner last Tuesday to determine if Michigan was the final state to cross the threshold for this specific classification of convention.
Although it may seem these states will only be allowed to propose a BBA at the convention due to their state resolutions (applications) saying this is the reason they are requesting Congress call the convention that simply is not true.
Gutzman warns that although the idea of a runaway convention is “absurd” the current convention being pursued would allow states to propose any sort of amendment they want. For example, Hawaii passed its resolution and wants to make Obamacare part of the federal Constitution. According to Gutzman, Hawaii would be allowed to propose such an Amendment at this convention if it is not constrained.
According to Gutzman, there is a way to ensure states only propose a BBA and nothing more in this type of open convention. When state legislatures pass their resolutions they can bind their delegates to vote only on the proposed amendment at the convention. Gutzman says that founding father George Nicholas expounded upon the notion that individual state legislatures would be able to control this convention process.
This can also be accomplished through what has been named “Compact for America“. The compact process consolidates the convention process and ensures that only the amendment proposed by the state legislatures may be considered (video below).
“If there were an interstate compact such as the Compact for America (so far approved by the Georgia Legislature and one house each in Alaska and Arizona), it would be true to say that states would be limited to only proposing a balanced budget amendment. This is an open convention (currently being pushed), and thus its agenda cannot be limited–just as at Philadelphia in 1787.”
Gutzman believes that an open convention is likely to produce either no amendment proposal or an undesirable amendment proposal. Meanwhile, he believes that the Compact for America BBA would actually limit spending, and it would do so in a far less time consuming fashion.
Furthermore, after additional research, Gutzman has concluded that the resolutions most likely deviate from one another too widely for them to be considered germane to a single Amendment, which would warrant Congress calling the requested convention.
For proponents of the convention, it seems as though the only way to ensure that Congress call one would be to utilize the compact process. This ensures that all resolutions are identical and could not be considered non-germane.
*An earlier version of this story read “Congress has no option: Michigan triggers Article V Constitutional Convention”. Upon further investigation, the expert opinion provided by Dr. Gutzman was changed to reflect the current version of this ongoing story.