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A Constitutional Convention;
A Real Possibility?

April 13, 2015

A group of state legislatures and other concerned citizen groups are proposing a Constitutional Convention be convened. Didn't we have one of those?  Yes, in Philadelphia in 1787.  But, in the last few years many people are proposing that our nation hold another one. 

Article V of the Constitution reads in part, “…on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, This means that even if Congress fails to move Constitutional Amendments through the normal legislative process,  under the prescribed conditions state legislatures can call a constitutional convention. This remedy has not been used before.

Opponents are concerned that calling for such a convention could open the entire document to revision – a very valid concern!  Proponents claim, however, that valid restrictions can, and will, be applied, restricting the convention to specific parts of the Constitution that are to be amended.  In the end, the Supreme Court would probably need to rule on whether the imposition of such restrictions is valid. 

Thirty-four states legislatures are needed to call for such a convention, twenty-seven have already done so. Thirteen other legislatures – ten of which are Republican controlled -- are considered prime targets to gain the remaining seven states needed to convene a Constitutional Convention. 

At the heart of the push to convene a Constitutional Convention is the desire to force the government to have a balanced budget – where expenditures on programs and debt service do not exceed the revenues collected. Proponents of holding such a convention see the ability to rein in spending and to restrict the government’s borrowing, as a method to force the government to properly allocate taxpayer-resources while placing limits on government’s ability to infringe on the civil liberties of U.S. citizens.

Other supporters of holding the convention want to see the 16th amendment repealed.  They look at the abuses of the Internal Revenue Service – targeting of groups that don’t agree with the political positions of the Administration and the decisions by the Department of Justice to not prosecute such abuses – and want to abolish the IRS.  They contend that by repealing the authority to levy taxes on incomes (e.g., by repealing the 16th Amendment) and moving to a consumption tax that is applied equally at the point of sale, that the government could be adequately funded while saving taxpayers money and stopping the IRS’s abuse of power. 

The three of us support convening a Constitutional Convention provided the scope of such a convention can be limited to creating a balanced budget amendment and repealing the authority to tax incomes under the 16th Amendment while moving us closer to a consumption-based taxation system. 

Mark Mansius, John Gay, and Bill Sargent

Additional References: March 17, 2014: