Here are two essays from the May Article V Caucus Newsletter editor Vickie Deppe.

Method Matters

by Vickie Deppe – May, 2022

In the last three days of its regular session, the Illinois General Assembly rammed through a stealth rescission of its Article V applications. Notice-of-hearing rules were suspended in both chambers, creating a significant obstacle for constituents to weigh in on or even find out about the measure. Interestingly, the sponsor of SJR 54, Representative Kambium Buckner, is a former aide to United States Senator Dick Durbin, Majority Whip and Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Appointed to fill a vacancy during the prior General Assembly, Buckner was made a member of the powerful House Executive Committee before having served for even a single complete term.

The resolution rescinded all Article V applications passed in Illinois, including the Wolf-PAC application passed in 2014, and two applications for a general convention passed in 1861 and 1903. In a noteworthy twist, every legislator who voted for the Wolf-PAC application in 2014 voted to rescind it, and those who voted against it when it was originally passed voted to preserve it.

This is a good example of why ratification method matters. Whether an amendment is proposed by Congress or the states, it does not become part of our Constitution until it has been ratified by ¾ of the states. Article V stipulates that ratification can occur by votes in the state legislatures or through special ratification conventions. The only ratifications that were accomplished via convention are those of our original Constitution, and the 21st Amendment, which repealed Prohibition.

Ratification by state legislature is exactly what it sounds like: the legislature votes on whether or not to ratify an amendment. In some states, this requires a supermajority. The convention method, on the other hand, provides We the People with the opportunity to weigh in directly and exclusively on a constitutional amendment, either through a referendum or by voting for delegates who pledge—and are legally obligated—to vote on the proposed amendment in a certain way (much like electors in a presidential election).

A chief advantage of the convention method is not just the direct participation of voters: it’s the single-issue nature of the matter at hand. Though in most cases state legislators are also elected by the direct participation of voters, after the election is over, constituent opinion is just one of many factors that drive the votes they cast in the legislature. If they choose to cross party leadership, for example, they may find themselves facing a well-financed primary opponent with influential endorsements, or lose a key committee assignment that hobbles their ability to advocate for their constituents. Local officials, donors, and lobbying entities (in this case, Common Cause) also exert significant influence on legislators. Such dynamics occur in both red and blue states.

Article V News

Convention of States Project 

S 133 passed in the South Carolina Senate and awaits action in the House Judiciary Committee. In Colorado, HJR 22-1021 was introduced by Representative Ron Hanks and was assigned to the State, Civic, Military, and Veterans Affairs Committee. The resolution has 11 additional Republican sponsors.

Term Limits

In Tennessee HJR 8 passed in the House and awaits action by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Delegate Selection and Oversight: 

Mississippi’s SC 511 and HC 9 died in committee. In Missouri, SB 1040 and HB 2169 have been placed on the Bills for Perfection Calendar in their respective chambers. New Hampshire’s HB 1170 was tabled in the House, but has nonetheless been assigned to the Senate Election Law and Municipal Affairs Committee. In Oklahoma, HJR 1056, providing for the selection of delegates to attend both interstate planning and Article V Conventions, received a do-pass vote in the Senate Rules Committee.