Newsletter Edition 2 February 20, 2014
Georgia Legislature Approves Major Step Toward a State Initiated U.S. Balanced Budget Amendment
February 21, 2014
LEESBURG, Va., February 20, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Georgia General Assembly today approved SR 371, a resolution under the authority of Article V of the U. S. Constitution, calling for a convention of states to propose a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Georgia has now joined 20 other states that want to stop the federal government's unsustainable deficit spending. The U.S. Constitution, in Article V, empowers 34 states to convene a U.S. Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA) drafting conference (Convention). Of the 13 more states required to activate an Article V convention to propose amendments, three: Wisconsin, Michigan and South Carolina, have approved a BBA resolution in one chamber. Another 8 states are expected to vote on a similar resolution this spring.
Senate Sponsor of SR 371, Bill Cowsert (District 46) stated, "I am proud that the Georgia General Assembly has taken this step toward constitutionally stopping an out of control federal government that has doubled our nation's debt every 5 years from $1 trillion in 1982 to $17 trillion today." House Sponsor, Rich Golick (District 40) added, "Georgia's legislators listened to the 74% of Georgia and U.S. Citizens (CNN) who not only support a U.S. Balanced Budget Amendment but also consider the debt to be the second biggest problem facing our country after jobs (WSJ)."
The total U.S. debt has increased every year since 1957 (U.S. Treasury Department). Now only 10 countries out of world's 193 have a higher total debt to G.D.P. ratio than does the U.S. (107%). That list includes: Greece - 159%, Jamaica-147%, Italy-127% & Portugal-123%. (Source: I.M.F.) The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office recently estimated that under current law the federal government will be $27.2 trillion in debt by 2024 for an average increase in total debt of $1 trillion per year.
Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Navy Admiral Mike Mullen stated, "I've said many times that I believe the single, biggest threat to our national security is our debt."
BBATF Executive Director Scott Rogers stated, "I am proud the Georgia General Assembly has recognized its responsibility under Article V of the U.S. Constitution by passing this Resolution."
Bill Fruth, Co-founder of the BBATF stated, "Special thanks to 'I Am American.org' led by Lou Marin and Loren Enns who were the major players behind the scenes by giving 'key testimony' during the Georgia committee hearings and getting the grassroots active in Georgia that directly impacted the passing of our Article V Balance Budget Amendment Application. Without a doubt they were the key ingredient to our success and made the difference."
The Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force is a nonprofit, nonpartisan coalition whose mission is to educate state legislators on their Constitutional power to propose and ratify a Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Tennessee voices: A new plan to combat the federal deficit
|Sen. Mark Green|
For as long as I can remember, Washington has been mired in partisan gridlock as federal deficit spending has spiraled out of control. While politicians argue, our accumulated federal debt - now $17 trillion - threatens to strangle economic growth for generations to come.
In the absence of leadership from Washington, it is time for the states to act. Tennessee can now help blaze the path.
For decades, responsible voices have advanced a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would impose the same limits on Washington that are already in place in a majority of the states, including Tennessee.
It is the same common-sense restriction that already applies to every American household and business: Once ratified, Washington would be required to restrict spending to match revenues. Government could no longer spend more money than it takes in.
Yet even as the nation drowns in a sea of red ink, every effort to approve a balanced budget amendment has been stymied by Congress itself.
Various forms of a balanced budget amendment have been presented to Congress over the last two decades, most recently in 2011, when proponents in the House of Representatives were unable to muster the required two-thirds vote.
With hyper-partisanship making it difficult for Congress these days to pass even routine legislation, prospects for success in Congress are bleak - at least in the current political climate.
Our nation's founders could never have envisioned future generations allowing spending to spiral so far out of control, but they did set forth a mechanism whereby the states could peacefully rein in an out-of-control federal government.
Under Article V of the U.S. Constitution, two-thirds of the state legislatures can force a constitutional convention that, in turn, could approve and submit a proposed balanced budget amendment to the states for ratification.
With Congress unable or unwilling to exercise spending restraint, the Tennessee legislature may soon take the lead and petition for a constitutional convention to address the balanced budget amendment.
Concerns exist that a "runaway" convention could, theoretically, alter other parts of the Constitution. Fortunately, constitutional scholars believe that the states could, in their petition, impose binding restrictions on each state's delegation.
Simply put, delegates to the convention would be authorized to take up only one item of business: the balanced budget amendment itself. Delegates would not be authorized to consider additional matters and could face stiff legal sanctions if they tried to do so.
Already, 20 states have petitioned for a constitutional convention to pass the balanced budget amendment, but 34 states must do so for Congress to convene it. Once the convention approved the balanced budget amendment, it would need ratification by 38 of the state legislatures to take effect.
Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell and state Rep. Dennis Powers have introduced House Joint Resolution 548, which would make Tennessee the 21st state to call for a convention. Already, their proposal has 50 co-sponsors in the Tennessee House, and I am proud to be a co-sponsor of the Senate version, SJR 493.
Our proposal would put Tennessee at the forefront of states demanding that the nation at long last get federal deficit spending under control.
With the nation $17 trillion in debt and our government wasting billions of dollars of hard-earned tax dollars on everything from reckless investments in speculative "green energy" schemes to $3 million walnut promotional advertisements featuring the squirrel "Super Twiggy," it is long overdue.
State Sen. Mark Green, R-Clarksville, represents Stewart, Houston and Montgomery counties.
Article V Education
Was the Constitutional Convention a "Runaway?"
There's an old accusation leveled against the delegates to the 1787 Constitutional Convention. The Convention was a very long time ago, so the accusation shouldn't matter any more. But it does matter, because some keep repeating it for political purposes even today.
The accusation goes like this: "When the Confederation Congress called the convention, it did so 'for the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation.' But the delegates ignored their instructions. Instead of merely proposing amendments to the Articles of Confederation, they trashed the Articles and wrote a whole new Constitution instead."
Of course, it is true that they wrote a new Constitution. But did they really exceed their authority? Actually, as to all but a few delegates, the true verdict of history is: NOT GUILTY!
Historians point out that the Framers only recommended a government; they did not impose one. They also point out that everything turned out for the best, and they plead the "revolutionary" nature of the times.
But there is another and better defense: It is simply not true that most of the delegates exceeded their power. On the contrary, the overwhelming majority had full authority to do what they did. And most who didn't have authority, never signed. Those who accuse the convention of being a "runaway" are ignorant of the law and language of the time, and of what actually happened in the lead-up to the convention.
Here are the facts:
On September 14, 1786 the Annapolis Convention recommended to the states (not to Congress) a new gathering "to take into consideration the situation of the United States, to devise such further provisions as shall appear to them necessary to render the constitution of the Federal Government adequate to the exigencies of the Union." As you can see, that proposal was not limited to merely changing the Articles.
The Confederation Congress appointed a committee, but took no other action. Over the next few months, seven of the 13 states authorized appointment of delegates. None of those states limited their delegates to proposing amendments to the Articles. On the contrary, the authorization was very broad. Typical was Georgia, which empowered its delegates to discuss, "all such Alterations and farther Provisions as may be necessary to render the Federal Constitution adequate to the exigencies of the Union." All eighteenth-century dictionaries make it clear that, in the discourse of the time, the term "constitution" usually meant the entire political system, not merely the Articles or any particular document. (Just as we speak today of Britain's "constitution.") In other words, the delegates were given full power to suggest changes in the entire political system.
In February, 1787, a congressional committee report suggested that Congress lend moral support to the convention idea, also urging that delegates receive very broad authority. However, the congressmen from New York (then a notoriously Anti-Federalist state) objected. So Congress toned down the recommendation to suggest the convention be limited only to amending the Articles.
But Congress's resolution was a legal irrelevancy. The resolution itself said that it was merely a statement of opinion. Under the Articles, Congress had no power to call a convention, and certainly no power to limit it. Under the law of the time, only the states empowered their delegates and set the limits. The states did so in formal documents called "credentials" or "commissions."
Those who charge a "runaway" assume that Congress's resolution was legally binding, but everyone at the time realized it was a suggestion only.
In the ensuing weeks, the six remaining states made their decisions. South Carolina, Maryland, and Connecticut disregarded Congress's suggested limits and gave their delegates enough power to consider the entire political system. Rhode Island elected not to participate. Two states-Massachusetts and New York-sent delegates, but accepted the restriction in Congress's resolution.
So twelve states attended the convention, and all but two had given their delegates authority to recommend scrapping the Articles. Delaware had insisted that its delegates not vote for any measure that abandoned the "one state, one vote" rule in the unicameral Confederation Congress. But you could make a good argument that this didn't apply to an entirely new Congress with a bicameral legislature in which the Senate represented all states equally.
At the convention, it soon became clear that the overwhelming majority of delegates and delegations wanted to scrap the Articles and had authority to do so. This put the three New York representatives and the four Massachusetts representatives in a quandary. What should they do?
One Massachusetts delegate, Caleb Strong, had to return home to a sick wife, so he was spared a decision. Another Massachusetts delegate (Elbridge Gerry - pronounced "Gherry") refused to sign. The other two did sign.
Of the three New Yorkers, two concluded the convention had gone beyond the scope of their personal authority, so they properly returned home. The other New York delegate was Alexander Hamilton-a brilliant, but not entirely scrupulous personality-who did participate and sign. However, he did so only as an individual, not as a representative of his state, since when the majority of the New York delegation left, his authority vanished.
Bottom line: Of the 55 delegates, 48 had authority to go beyond amending the Articles. Of the seven who did not, only three opted to sign the Constitution-and only two did so in an official capacity.
Hardly a "runaway."
Balanced Budget Amendment Article V Convention Resolution State Legislators' Frequently Asked Questions
|1. Did the Constitutional Convention of 1787 "runaway"? Answer - NO |
James Madison in Federalist 41 concluded, "...the charge against the convention of exceeding their powers (in drafting our Constitution)...has no foundation to support it." Constitutional Law Professor (ret.) Rob Natelson's research concluded, "Of the 55 delegates, therefore, only Nathaniel Gorham and Rufus King of Massachusetts arguably exceeded their authority by signing (U.S. Constitution)"
2. Can an Amendment Convention be limited to just the subject of balancing the budget? Answer-YES
James Madison, Federalist 43 - "It (Article V), moreover, equally enables the general and the State governments to originate the amendment of errors, as they may be pointed out by the experience on one side, or on the other." Alexander Hamilton, Federalist 85 - "And consequently, whenever nine (2/3), or rather ten (3/4) States, were united in the desire of a particular amendment, that amendment must infallibly take place." Professor Natelson's research into interstate conventions found: "As was true of earlier interstate gatherings, the convention for proposing amendments is called to propose solutions to discrete, pre-assigned problems. There is no record of any federal convention significantly exceeding its pre-assigned mandate -- not even the Constitutional Convention, despite erroneous claims to the contrary."
3. Wouldn't a Balanced Budget Amendment Convention be as unpredictable as a political party convention? Answer - NO
A Balanced Budget Amendment Convention would be nothing like a political party convention because: 1. Voting would be by state so no single delegate could propose an unrelated amendment to the Convention 2. Delegates would be given instructions by the legislature limiting them to drafting a balanced budget amendment 3. Faithless delegates, like faithless presidential electors who attempt to "runaway", could have their vote voided, be immediately recalled/replaced and face civil or even criminal charges for violating their oath of office (See:Indiana's Faithfull Delegate Act). Political party convention delegates are not bound by state law to limit the scope of their debates or their occasional antics.
4. What will the rules be for the Balanced Budget Amendment Convention? Answer - Undetermined
The rules for the Convention will be determined by a majority of states represented. However, a bipartisan task force of state legislators from over 30 states, called the Mt Vernon Assembly, is holding two meetings this year for the purpose of developing proposed Amendment Convention rules.
5. Can Congress dictate to state legislatures or the Article V Convention anything beyond the time and place to convene the multi-state drafting conference? Answer: NO
Our Founders, in Article V, granted the sovereign States and Congress equal authority to propose an amendment. Alexander Hamilton, Federalist 85 - "Concluding Remarks" stated, "The Congress "shall call a convention." Nothing in this particular is left to the discretion of that body...alterations in it (our Constitution) may at any time be effected by nine (two-thirds) States... But every amendment to the Constitution would be a single proposition, and might be brought forward singly"
Professor Rob Natelson's research confirms our Founders intended that Congress's roll be limited to setting the Convention's time and place, "...founders affirmed that the States could amend the Constitution in any way they desired...the states "run the show"... Congress has almost nothing to say about it beyond fixing the time and place of the call and identifying the subject matter specified by the States in their applications."
Alexander Hamilton, Federalist 85 - "We may safely rely on the disposition of the State legislatures to erect barriers against the encroachments of the national authority."
TOP TEN REASONS TO VOTE FOR
U.S.BALANCED BUDGET AMENDMENT RESOLUTIONS
1. The U.S. is $17 trillion in debt... or $150,000 per income taxpayer.
2. Only 10 countries out of world's 193 have a higher debt to G.D.P. ratio than does the U.S. (107%). That list includes: Greece - 159%, Jamaica-147%, Italy-127% & Portugal-123%. (Source: I.M.F.)
3. The total U.S. debt has increased every year but 5 since 1930 (1947-1948, 1951, & 1956-1957). The total debt paid off in those 5 budget surplus years was... $22 billion. (Source: U.S. Department of the Treasury)
4. The U.S., under current law, is projected by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (C.B.O.) to borrow an average of $2.7 trillion more per year until we are bankrupt.
5. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Navy Admiral Mike Mullen stated, "I've said many times that I believe the single, biggest threat to our national security is our debt"
6. A strong Balanced Budget Amendment could, according to the C.B.O., in four generations: Pay off the national debt, quadruple family incomes, and cut taxes 30%.
7. Passing 34 B.B.A. Resolutions will lead to the use of our Founders' constitutional safety valve that empowers the states and the people to fix national problems, like potential bankruptcy... a risk that that the federal government is creating and refuses to address.
8. Join with 20 states of the 34 required to hold a state B.B.A. drafting conference with confidence that, like all previous interstate conventions including 1787, delegates will not be allowed by state law to propose amendments unrelated to balancing the federal budget. (Ohio S.J.R. 5 BBA Application)
9. Take the first step to placing a U.S. Balanced Budget Amendment on the November 1, 2016 ballot where the citizens, 74% of whom favor a Balanced Budget Amendment, would likely decide that the U.S. Government should be constitutionally prohibited from bankrupting our Country and killing the American Dream.
10. Heed the advice of our Founders:
"To preserve our independence, we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. I wish it were possible to obtain a single amendment to our Constitution ... an additional article, taking from the federal government the power of borrowing," Thomas Jefferson.
In a letter from George Washington to John Armstrong, our first president wrote "It should be remembered that a constitutional door is open for such amendments as shall be thought necessary by nine (2/3) States"
We have active BBA Application legislation in the following states: Arizona, Michigan, South Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Florida. Please click on the link below to take action. Just click on the state, input your name, input your e-mail, and click send. It takes less than 10 seconds a state! TAKE ACTION
BBA Campaign Map