As we finish up the month of January in the Iowa Legislature, the committee system is in full motion. Bills are being considered at the subcommittee level and successful bills are moved up to full committee. The largest issues of the session, tax cuts and workforce development are still being developed and will be filed soon. I’ll cover those two issues in future reports.
One of the issues about which I receive the most emails is generally known as the Convention of the States movement. The Constitution of the United States allows for two ways to amend the Constitution. One process is for Congress to consider an amendment, which then requires three-fourths of the states (38) to ratify the change to make it official. The second way is for two-thirds of the states (34) to agree by identical resolution to trigger Congress to call a Convention of the States in order to consider the subjects of proposed amendments listed in the States’ resolutions. The Convention cannot by itself pass any amendment, only offer them. It has no legal power to ratify. If proposed amendments are offered out of the Convention it would then take three-fourths (38) state legislatures to ratify these amendments without the approval or input of Congress.
The resolution being considered nationwide has been passed in 16 states as I write this with Wisconsin passing the resolution this week. I am told Nebraska is likely to adopt the resolution this session. A few years ago, Iowa’s House of Representatives passed the resolution, but the Senate majority didn’t have the votes to follow suit.
The resolution being considered would authorize the states to consider three topics: Term limits for federal officials, to limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and spending restraints on the federal government. The delegates of the attending states would consider ideas for amendments. It is possible that no amendment proposals would come out of the Convention, or that only one or two of the subjects would have a finished amendment idea to offer to all fifty states to consider.
The worst part of this issue is that it has caused what I call a family fight among conservatives. Many relationships have been damaged as this issue is debated across the state. For the last few years I have stepped back to watch the discussion and see how the case for and against developed. Opponents of the Article V effort maintain first that there is nothing wrong with our Constitution and that we just need to elect officials who respect and abide by the Constitution. Secondly, that the event could become a runaway Convention and rewrite the whole Constitution to erase our fundamental rights.
I have considered these points very seriously, and have concluded that doing nothing is more dangerous to the republic than signing on to the list of states calling for a convention. Electing the right people didn’t work when we have had Republican control of Congress and the White House as recently as President Trump’s first two years. We also found that the power and reach of the federal government grew as mandates and shutdowns were ordered by Washington in a questionable response to the Chinese Covid Crisis. I am also satisfied that the Convention cannot ratify, only propose, amendments. It would take only thirteen state legislatures to stop any amendment’s adoption if it fell outside the subject of the resolution.
The issue seems simpler for those on the political left for this issue. They are solidly against it. In fact, a coalition of over 200 liberal organizations have banded together to fight the Article V effort. A powerful and growing federal government helps them achieve their goals. This alone should indicate the value of a convention discussion.
I’ve made no secret of my belief that the federal level of government is a lost cause regardless of who’s in control. This is why I am so dedicated to strengthening Iowa and ensuring our rights are protected. Congress cannot rein in its own lust for power, the well-funded interests have more influence over decisions than voters, and huge departments write overreaching rules that somehow have the power to control and punish far beyond the law they are to administer. This can’t be fixed from Washington, D.C. I am convinced Article V was given to us by our Founding Fathers for a time such as this.