The Constitution is not a con job
The U.S. Constitution under glass. Of the 33 amendments to it proposed by Congress, 27 have become part of the document.
By Lisa B. Nelson – January 17, 2024
For half a century, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has shared trusted policy solutions grounded in principles of limited government, free markets and federalism. As the nation’s largest nonpartisan, voluntary membership organization of state legislators, our members represent more than 60 million Americans and focus on policies that reduce taxes, cut bureaucratic red tape, and restore fiscal sanity in state capitals and Washington, D.C.
As attendees at ALEC’s 50th Annual Meeting in Orlando last summer can attest, ALEC is a catalyst for positive change, fostering collaboration among lawmakers in the exchange of ideas and the adoption of best practices. Through our public/private partnership, legislators gain insight into the real-world implications of their bills, avoiding oversights commonly found in the haste of the legislative process.
Members of ALEC, including many Florida legislators, understand that the states created the federal government — not the other way around. Thanks to our Founding Fathers’ commitment to liberty and their belief that, without strong safeguards, power would inevitably migrate to the national government while eroding individual rights and state sovereignty, federalism was woven into the U.S. Constitution to prevent federal overreach.
One of the clearest examples of those safeguards is the inclusion of Article V in the U.S. Constitution, through which amendments can be proposed. To date, 27 of the 33 constitutional amendments passed by Congress have been ratified by the states — from the abolition of slavery to women’s suffrage.
Article V is also clear in articulating how states may call for a convention to propose amendments. Our Founders had the foresight to create this avenue for states to rein in an overreaching federal government should Congress fail to do so. With our current national debt exceeding $34 trillion, the idea of proposing amendments to balance the federal budget and curb runaway inflation is reasonably and desperately needed.
But Article V’s state-initiated amendment process is no small task. At least 34 states must send Congress an application requesting the convention. Next, Congress would set the time and place, and states would select and send delegates. If a majority of states present agreed on an amendment, it would still need to meet the 38-state ratification threshold.
The framers of our Constitution envisioned a time when Congress might reach its current state of dysfunction. With this in mind, ALEC members have adopted a number of model policies that could be advanced by an Article V convention — from a fiscal responsibility amendment to another that would keep the number of Supreme Court justices at nine. Additionally, our No Runaway Article V Conventions Act aims to prevent a “runaway convention.”
These are just a few of more than 1,000 publicly available ALEC model policies.
Florida lawmakers examining this constitutional process are far from “radical and sinister,” as the Sun Sentinel Editorial Board wrote. Rather, it demonstrates their continued commitment to their constituents. From universal educational opportunity and pro-growth tax policy to pushing back on politicized investment practices and enhancing worker freedom, Florida has followed countless ALEC policy recommendations to become an example for other states to follow. As Americans vote with their feet in search of freedom and opportunity, it’s no surprise the Sunshine State netted 365,000 new residents in 2023, second only to Texas.
Though the details and history of Article V may prove confusing for some, it is still important to understand the process before railing against the possible outcomes. That’s especially true when relying upon wild accusations about ALEC from far-left radicals who refer to President Joe Biden as “Genocide Joe.” The simple truth is that ALEC is an educational membership organization that provides trusted policy solutions for legislators focused on enhancing the lives of all Americans.
Lisa B. Nelson, of Arlington, Va., is the chief executive officer of the American Legislative Exchange Council.