by Larry Greenley, Director of Marketing
Hopeful News From the State Legislative Battlefronts!
The “good news” is that our members and their allies have been successful in stopping constitutional convention (Con-Con) call resolutions in many state legislative committees and in getting ObamaCare nullification bills introduced in at least 12 states. The “bad news” is that 1) the Con-Con proponents with their multiple Con-Con resolutions will keep on pressuring state legislators in every state to issue Con-Con calls until each state adjourns its legislative session; and 2) even in the states where ObamaCare nullification bills have been introduced, our members and allies must now generate sufficient grassroots pressure to convince a majority of state legislators to pass those bills.
Although I’ve been inspired by our initial successes on the Con-Con front, it would be unwise to publicize them because it would provide battlefield intelligence to the Con-Con proponents.
Be sure to get involved in stopping Con-Con call resolutions in your state. Every state is being targeted by the Con-Con proponents, so it’s virtually certain that your state has one or more Con-Con call resolutions already introduced. You need to find out when committee hearings are scheduled on your state’s Con-Con resolutions, then arrange to have many people show up to testify against them. Check with your Coordinator or volunteer leaders in your state to see whether this is already being done. Go to http://www.JBS.org/STOPaCon-Con for educational tools.
New Tools for the Con-Con Battle
I have heard from our members that “Amending the Constitution by Convention: A Complete View of the Founders’ Plan (Part 1 in a 3 Part Series)” by Robert Natelson (posted at the website of the Goldwater Institute on September 16, 2010) is persuading some state legislators that convening an Article V constitutional convention would be safe. We’ve recently posted a refutation of Natelson’s constitutional convention claims by Joe Wolverton at TheNewAmerican.com. We’ll also have a link to it at http://www.JBS.org/STOPaCon-Con.
As most of you know, the battle over calling for a constitutional convention hinges largely on whether such a convention could become a “runaway convention.” Recently we’ve located a gem of personal testimony by a qualified witness on this point, which several members have already put to good use in committee hearings. We found this testimony in a huge green book, Constitutional Convention Procedures, which resulted from a “Hearing Before the Subcommittee on the Constitution of the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, November 29, 1979.” This Senate subcommittee had held this hearing due to the rapidly increasing number of states petitioning Congress to call a balanced budget amendment constitutional convention in the late 1970s.
This gem of a statement was provided to the Senate subcommittee by James A. Michener, the world-famous author. Michener had been Secretary for the Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention in 1967-68. Here are some very relevant excerpts from his statement to the subcommittee in 1979:
I am, however, totally opposed to any measure that would encourage the 50 states of our nation to amend our national Constitution by means of the convention method, for I, better than most, appreciate the hidden dangers inherent in this system....
I object [to convening a constitutional convention] for two reasons: The plan we are using has served us so well and so constructively in the 182 years since 1789 that as a traditionalist I see no need for meddling with the system; but more important, I know from history and from experience that once a constituent assembly has been convened, there is no power that can restrict it to limits arbitrarily set.
Any such a convention contains the right and the implied power to become a runaway convention, and this is the most dangerous possibility that should be avoided if at all possible. And in the case like the present, when we already have a splendidly functioning system of amendment, it would be folly to lurch off irresponsibly to an alternative method which has not been proved and which contains dangers of the most treacherous kind.
History is replete with examples of innocent conventions, assembled for one purpose, which exploded into unforeseen directions, the two most memorable being the Legislative Assembly which gave hideous guidance to the French Revolution and the Long Parliament which supervised the more peaceful revolution in England. I am afraid of such runaway conventions.
But, it is argued, if the United States convened such a constitutional convention its powers would be strictly limited by the enabling legislation which summoned it into being. And here precisely is the trouble. I do believe that any prior law, no matter how carefully drawn, cannot inhibit, or restrict, or delimit a constituent assembly once it convenes. Of course, those initiating the convention would say, ‘But its field of legal operation is limited. We have said so.’ My contention is that it cannot be so limited. At the moment a convention is assembled and sworn in, it becomes a self-directing body with only such limitations as it prudently places upon itself, and the prior constraints which have so carefully been placed upon it no longer apply.
As you can see, Michener’s statement, based on his experience as Secretary for a state constitutional convention, is very clear as to why it is not safe to convene a national constitutional convention. Michener’s full statement is also worth reading. It is highly readable (no surprise here) and includes a very interesting story of how the Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention was only kept on track through a personal threat to do physical harm. Don’t worry, the story has a good ending. We’ll post links to these excerpts as well as Michener’s full statement at http://www.JBS.org/STOPaCon-Con.
Create the Pressure to Pass Nullification Bills
At least twelve states have already introduced bills to nullify the ObamaCare law entirely. Here’s the list of the 12 states with their bill numbers: Texas (HB297), Montana (SB161), Wyoming (HB0035), Oregon (SB498), Indiana (SB505), Maine (LD58), Nebraska (LB515), Oklahoma (HB1276), Idaho (HB117), New Hampshire (HB26), South Dakota (HB1165), and North Dakota (SB2309).
At this point in mid-February, the Idaho nullification bill seems to be leading the pack in terms of coming to a vote in a full house of a state legislature. On February 10 the Idaho House State Affairs Committee passed HB117 on to the full House by a vote of 14 to 5 with a recommendation that it be passed.
This passage out of committee is the good news. However, the Idaho nullification bill also led the pack in attracting media attention, which caused some complications. First, the Idaho attorney general issued a statement that the original Idaho nullification bill, HB59, was unconstitutional. In response, TheNewAmerican.com posted an excellent refutation, “Idaho ObamaCare Nullification Bill Is Constitutional,” by Bill Jasper on January 31.
Next, on February 7 a new version of the nullification bill was introduced as described here in The Spokesman-Review online:
Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, introduced a new version of his health care “nullification” bill this morning, and Barbieri said it’s been toned down and made “kinder and gentler.” “I think you could say it’s no longer a nullification bill,” he said. “We have removed the words ‘null and void.’” The issue in the bill is no longer the controversial argument about whether states have the final say over which federal laws are constitutional, Barbieri said; now it’s just about halting implementation of the health care reform law in Idaho. Also removed from the bill: Misdemeanor penalties for state employees who follow federal requirements under the bill.
Barbieri said the changes were made “to get it through the Legislature.” He said, “There are politics,” and said he got “pushback” on the original bill, which followed a course an Idaho Attorney General’s opinion said would violate both the state and federal constitutions and Idaho lawmakers’ oath of office.
As you can see from this excerpt from The Spokesman-Review, the sponsors of the Idaho nullification bill felt sufficient pressure to make them modify the bill to the extent that the bill’s sponsor said, “I think you could say it’s no longer a nullification bill.” However, after reading HB117, I would say it is still an excellent bill for protecting the citizens of Idaho from the implementation of ObamaCare in their state. Hopefully, most of the other 11 states with nullification bills will be able to pass their bills intact, or nearly so, without the extensive rewrite Idaho’s nullification bill underwent. Nonetheless, if other states also experience “pushback” on their nullification bills to the point of needing to revise them, they should consider Idaho’s HB117 as a good model to emulate.
The Idaho experience shows just how important it is to create grassroots pressure for passage of ObamaCare nullification bills.
- Defeat Con-Con calls in your state legislature. Check for educational tools at http://www.JBS.org/STOPaCon-Con.
- Get ObamaCare nullification bills introduced and passed in your state legislature. Check for educational tools at http://www.JBS.org/StopObamaCare.