On Jan. 14, Sen. Steve Halloran of Hastings introduced Legislative Resolution 7, meaning Nebraska will once again debate whether it should join other states who have called for an Article V Constitutional Convention. For the unfamiliar, Article V of the U.S. Constitution lists two methods for making amendments to the supreme law of the land. The lesser-known, never-used-before method — and the subject of this bill — allows state legislatures to apply with Congress for them to call a convention to propose amendments to the Constitution.
Once two-thirds of the states have submitted an application, Congress is authorized to convene such a convention. This convention will have the authority to propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution that then must be ratified by three-fourths of states, either by their state legislatures or by an individual state convention.
So far, 12 out of the required 34 states have passed legislation similar to LR7.
Proponents of this procedure say it is necessary to rein in federal spending or to address campaign finance issues. While we can sympathize with anyone who wants to make our government and elections better, an Article V convention leaves too many important questions unanswered about its procedure. It also opens up the door for special interests groups, and other nefarious actors, to have a direct service line where they can make wholesale changes to our nation’s founding document.
Since Civic Nebraska began working on this issue, we’ve been told that our concerns with this process amount to fear-mongering. We disagree.
Our thoughts on this issue are rational, well-documented, and meticulously detailed. Perhaps even more important, so are the thoughts of our Founding Fathers and premier legal minds, who all agree: This process is not as safe as proponents make it out to be.
In 2016, Convention of States Action, the organization leading the support for calling a convention, held a simulated convention of states at Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. Supporters hailed the proceeding as a realistic look at what changes an actual convention could propose. The simulation proposed amendments such as:
Giving states the power to rescind federal laws and regulation with three-fifths ratification;
Allowing Congress to repeal any federal regulation unless a majority of both houses vote to affirm or adopt the regulation; and,
Eliminating all taxes on income, gifts, and estates.
This simulation proved that even the most limited convention of states that stays neatly within its proposed boundaries could not only devastate Nebraska’s state budget, but also weaken crucial federal protections of our voting rights by subjecting federal law to the will of 24 percent of the population, or to a slight majority in one chamber of Congress.
It is for these reasons, among others, that we cannot support Nebraska’s petition to join an Article V Convention of States.
Please look through and share our issue summary for a further breakdown on this topic and our specific concerns. And be sure to also share these details about how federal money would be at risk.
John Cartier, J.D.
Director of Voting Rights