Article V: A Handbook for State Lawmakers

by Rob Natelson

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First published in 2011, the Handbook is an invaluable guide for state lawmakers who recognize that the states have the power and the duty to rein in a federal government that is unable and unwilling to reform itself. Much has been accomplished since this Handbook first ap­peared, and it has been wonderful to witness this progress. The idea of states serving as the catalyst to restore func­tionality to Washington continues to gain traction. Article V initiatives that got their start before the Handbook’s orig­inal release are closing in on the 34-state threshold to call an amendments convention, and new Article V initiatives have launched. However, there is a lot more work to be done, so the Handbook’s update could not have come at a better time!

Americans of all political persuasions can generally agree on one thing – dysfunction in Washington puts our nation’s future at risk. A recent Gallup poll found that Congress’s ap­proval rating has plunged to 11 percent, which comes as no surprise to Americans living beyond the Beltway. National priorities around which lawmakers on both sides of the aisle once united are characterized by partisan bickering, and congressional legislative activity has dropped to record low levels as Members of Congress devote more time to fundraising than legislating. Meanwhile, America’s problems grow. The national debt spirals upward on a course to bankrupt subsequent generations and even poses a nation­al security threat. Leadership to reduce the debt must take place soon to prevent Social Security’s insolvency in fewer than 20 years. And the debt is only one example of failed governance at the federal level.

The Standard & Poor’s credit downgrade of the U.S. that occurred the year the Article V Handbook first appeared, resulted not just from America’s fiscal crisis but from the rating firm’s lack of confidence in, “the effectiveness, stability, and predictability of American policymaking and political institutions” to correct the problem. The United States’ political landscape has become even more frac­tured since 2011 leading to the rise of “outsider” populist candidates on both sides of the political spectrum pledging to fix a broken Washington.

Fortunately, our Founding Fathers foresaw the possibility that Congress would be the problem rather than a source of solutions to the country’s problems and included with­in Article V of the U.S. Constitution a method for states to propose constitutional amendments bypassing Congress. Americans realize that the nation is on the wrong path and that Congress lacks the political courage to address our challenges. Therefore, the time is right for the states to exert the constitutional authority provided to them by the Constitution’s framers and to propose amendments that could set us on the right path again. For there is far more to fear from state inaction against a dysfunctional and overreaching federal government than there is to fear from states banding together to address some of America’s most pressing problems. This Handbook can serve as your guide to correcting America’s course.

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