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In the News: Is the Convention of States an idea whose time has come?

The following is an excerpt from an editorial by Elliot Simon of the Spirit of Jefferson.

As most readers of this column are aware, I believe that the federal government is broken. One tell-tale sign is our national debt. In 2000 it was $5.674 trillion; it stands at over $18 trillion today – and that doesn’t include unfunded liabilities. Over the last 15 years it has more than tripled – adding more than twice as much debt in that time span as had accrued throughout the entire prior history of our nation – a span of 224 years.

Apparently I’m not alone. According to a Gallup poll, the approval rating of Congress for 2014 among likely voters was a lowly 15 percent — up 1 percentage point from its record low in 2013. Says Gallup, “Yearly averages haven’t exceeded 20 percent in the past five years.” Quite a dismal record.

According to a recent “Right Direction or Wrong Track” poll by Rasmussen, a weekly poll that measures likely voters’ sentiment regarding our nation, “The number of voters who think the country is heading in the right direction was below 30 percent most weeks for the past year.” The percentages for “wrong track” were roughly double that. Also according to Rasmussen, “Most voters have said in surveys for years that cutting spending rather than raising it is the best thing the government can do for the economy.”

Clearly the president and Congress aren’t listening. So, what to do? There are concerned citizens that have banded together in organizations supporting various initiatives. One such initiative – and an interesting one at that — is the Convention of States Project.

A Convention of States is provided for in Article V of the Constitution that deals with the amendment process. Article V is only one paragraph and here is an excerpt: “The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof…”

Wanting to know more, I recently had a conversation with Jefferson County resident Peter Onoszko who serves as a district captain for the project. Onoszko is a former candidate for the County Commission and is a retired Army officer. Here is what he had to say, “The federal government is not the instrument to be used for its own reform. That just simply isn’t going to happen.”

He further asserts that a Convention of States is not a Constitutional Convention (also referred to as a “ConCon”) – the difference being that a ConCon is open ended, whereas a COS pertains to a specific application to be ratified by the states beforehand. “It is not a rewrite of the Constitution, it is for proposing amendments to it, by its own authority. Once the amendment(s) are hammered out, they are referred back to the state legislatures for ratification. It takes 34 states to call a COS and 38 states to ratify the results,” Onoszko said. “If 13 states don’t approve, it does not become law.”

Click here to read more from the Spirit of Jefferson.