Opinion: The States Convention is gaining ground
A group of Mississippians are trying to do something that has never been done in the history of our country: get 34 state legislatures (two-thirds) to hold a state convention to propose amendments to the US Constitution.
Article Five of the United States Constitution permits amendments to our constitution. Indeed, our constitution has been amended 27 times. But each time, the amendment process was initiated by Congress.
But Article Five also provides a process for states to initiate amendments. If 34 state legislatures vote to do so, the states can hold a “states convention” and propose their own amendments, which must then be approved by three-fourths of the states.
What is interesting and different about this process is that Congress has no role. It starts in the states and is ratified by the states.
The Convention of the States movement (conventionofstates.com) proposes three main amendments: to balance the budget, to restrict federal power and to ask for limits on the term of Congress.
The first two are not starters. Thirty-seven states will never approve these amendments. Too many blue states. But the third, congressional term limits, could eventually happen. It turns out that both red and blue voters favor term limits in Congress.
A recent poll claimed that 87% of Republicans, 74% of Democrats and 80% of independents support term limits in Congress.
So far, 20 of the 34 states needed have voted to hold a state convention, including the Mississippi State Legislature in 2019. But the Mississippi Legislature has only approved the balanced budget and restriction of federal power issues. The legislature did not approve term limits.
This means that if a state convention is held, the Mississippi delegate could not vote on amending term limits.
The Mississippi chapter of the states convention is trying to change that and get the state legislature to add term limits to its approval of the states convention. So far it has been difficult.
One reason: Some of the top dogs in the state legislature hope to one day advance to a place in Congress. If that happens, term limits would spoil their lifetime appointments.
If you recall, in 1995, Mississippi held a statewide referendum on term limits for statewide offices. He failed 54 to 46 percent.
It failed for several reasons: First, in many rural areas, there simply aren’t many qualified people for small offices. Second, there was the idea that if someone did a bad job, the ballot boxes were the way to remove them, not term limits.
There is, however, a crucial distinction between statewide term limits and congressional term limits. Congressional offices involve much larger districts, with many more voters. Challenging a congressional incumbent requires far more resources than challenging a state legislator.
Second, congressional positions have enormous advantages for the incumbent. They get a whole team of dozens with big budgets. They obtain free publicity and communications on behalf of the constituent services.
Such an advantage, when trying to gain name recognition in a constituency with hundreds of thousands of voters, is almost impossible to overcome. It shows in the statistics. A total of 98% of all congressional incumbents are re-elected. It doesn’t seem right.
Of course, don’t expect a constitutional amendment to limit congressional terms to start in Congress. It will not arrive. This is why the States Convention movement is so interesting. It would be the first time in history that the states would circle Congress. And what better topic to make such a final run than congressional term limits? This would certainly restore the balance of power between the federal and the states.
Look at President Biden. He was first elected to Congress in 1972. He has been there for 50 years! I don’t think that’s what our founding fathers envisioned. Such longevity makes Congress more of a club than a representative body. There’s a reason we limit our president to two terms. This same reasoning applies to Congress.
I don’t know what a reasonable number of years would be. Maybe 10 years? Maybe 30 years old? But it shouldn’t be for life, which is pretty much how it works. It undermines democracy and makes Congress less responsive to the will of the people.
Unlike smaller state offices, there is no shortage of potential qualified congressmen and the huge congressional teams will ensure that the job is done competently.
Grant Nooe has been my friend for 40 years. He was at our wedding. He was enthusiastic about this movement. “I have been a small entrepreneur in the restaurant business for years. Now I’ve finally gotten to the point where I have the ability to get involved. And I see the need for it. »
Grant was watching a congressional hearing on television. At the end, the Republican senator winked at the Democratic senator. “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. They clearly had a hidden agenda. It’s a club,” Grant told me.
Grant invited me to a meeting with State Senator Josh Harkins in the state capitol to try to add term limits to the Mississippi states convention resolution. John Breeland from Clinton and Steve Morris from Ridgeland were there. Good men who dedicate their time to making the country better.
Josh was very responsive, polite and knowledgeable. (I was very impressed with his prominent corner desk. He must be a big shot.) Anyway, that’s cool, right? Only ordinary citizens can enter the state capitol and meet with their representatives like this, especially to discuss term limits. It would never happen in China, Russia, Venezuela, Cuba or dozens of other countries. We are lucky to live in a free and democratic country.