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Article V gives power to the people

Posted: December 26, 2013 8:52 a.m.
Updated: December 27, 2013 5:00 a.m.

It’s no secret that folks aren’t happy with Washington, D.C., career politicians -- both Democrats and Republicans -- have ignored the best interests of our country, allowed the debt to spiral out of control, and stripped the states of their rightful power.

Fortunately, the Founders gave us a tool to stop the runaway government in Washington. They knew the federal government might one day become too large and too powerful, and they knew the federal government would never limit its own power.

The writers of the Constitution included two ways to amend the supreme law of the land. The first is through Congress. But this method will not work to curb their abuses and limit Washington’s power. They will not pass an amendment to balance the budget or put term limits on themselves. They will never properly interpret the General Welfare Clause or give the states their rightful Constitutional authority.

Using the second method of amending the Constitution, the states can force Washington to limit its power. As Article V of the Constitution explains, if two-thirds of the states submit an application to Congress, Congress must call a Convention of States for the purpose of proposing amendments to the Constitution.

When the framers agreed to add a provision in Article V for the states to amend the Constitution without Congress, they in effect were telegraphing a lifeline to us in 2013 to show us the way back inside the fence of the Constitution, a way back to what Thomas Jefferson called the “chains of the Constitution.”

South Carolina takes the lead

Using the Article V provision, I pre-filed legislation (H.4372) in the South Carolina House of Representatives calling for an Article V Convention of States. Instead of calling a Convention for a particular amendment, it calls a convention for a particular subject. In this way, the Convention will be able to propose a complete package of federal-government-limiting amendments. A balanced budget amendment, though a good idea, is not enough by itself. We must also pass tax reform amendments if we want to force Washington to control the spending and debt, as well as other amendments to limit federal power, including term limits on Congress.

Easing concerns

This strategy also limits the Convention to a single subject, easing the fears of those who adhere to the “runaway convention” objection. Only amendment proposals that limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government can be passed. All other amendment proposals would be considered out of order.

A Convention of States can only propose amendments. By itself, it cannot change one word of the Constitution. Each amendment proposal must be sent to the states for ratification, which requires the agreement of three-fourths of the states (38). A Convention of States cannot amend the Constitution. It can only propose amendments, which must be ratified in the proper way.

We are not alone

I gathered with nearly 100 legislators from 32 states for the historic Mt. Vernon Assembly recently. We began writing the rules for an Article V Convention of States so there is a legal and restrained process. It was a serious and deliberative meeting with a sense of urgency.

Virginia and Florida have filed identical legislation and many other states will be filing legislation. These include both red states and blue states. This must be a bi-partisan issue; it’s not about red and blue, it’s about red, white and blue. This is an American issue that all can rally around because it is the only legitimate means to solve our mutual problem -- Washington D.C.

Citizens are coming together to show strong grassroots support and guarantee the success of the Convention of States (COS) initiative (http://conventionofstates.com). The COS group welcomes those who are willing to work to restrain an out of control federal government. Bob Menges is the COS S.C. grassroots director and can be contacted via email at: cos.sd.sc@bellsouth.net.

To the naysayers

To those who feel hopeless about America’s trajectory or believe the Article V initiative is dangerous, I say pessimism and cynicism isn’t a solution. Americans have a “can do” attitude. Most of us are overwhelmingly ready to throttle back the federal government. Since filing this legislation, I have been speaking on talk radio stations around the country educating audiences. There is a phenomenal outpouring of heartfelt support from across South Carolina and America.

Our founders gave us this Article V option just for a time like this when the federal government needs course correcting. I have little doubt that they probably wonder why it took so long to use what they gave us. I ask: if not now, when? If not this, what?

Join us. Make history. Save Liberty.

(State Rep. Bill Taylor, a Republican, is from Aiken County. This op-ed was provided to the C-I by the S.C. News Exchange.)

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