State lawmakers discussed and debated new constitutional amendments that shed light on conservative aspirations for government change during a mock Article V conference in Williamsburg, Virginia. Proposals to reduce the number of Supreme Court justices to nine and to impose term limits on members of Congress were on the table at the convention. These proposals attempt to reduce the federal government’s influence and increase that of individual states. No binding force or genuine power rests with the changes voted on Friday, but they represent fundamental objectives.
Legislators put aside their partisan differences and worked together to craft legislation that addresses issues they all agree on and believe the American people would support.
On Thursday, three committees drafted recommendations that the whole legislature put to a vote on Friday. Senator Tom McGillvray, a Republican from Montana, said the proposed changes are necessary to fix the federal government’s fiscal mismanagement and give states more control over their budgets.
In a simulated convention, time limits meant lengthy arguments over minor points were often cut short. Legislators would have more time to carefully craft amendment language and solicit the advice of constitutional academics, lawyers, economists, and others in a true convention. John Block, a Republican from New Mexico’s state legislature, said the forum provided a platform for “voices you might not hear in your region.” This group’s members are state lawmakers striving to advance their states’ priorities outside of Congress.
The lawmakers also adopted other changes on Friday that would prevent federal control of state property and mineral rights, invalidate acts of Congress, the President, and administrative agencies, and reinterpret the commerce clause. COS President Mark Meckler has shown significant support for adopting an amendment that returns the Commerce Clause to its original interpretation.
Legislators from several states said polling shows that most public backs term limits and a balanced budget amendment. Since 38 states are required to approve any amendment, Meckler acknowledged that it would be difficult for more radical proposals to prevail if a true convention were called in the future. Amending the Constitution does not change American values; instead, it culminates those values.
Achieving the goal of holding a legitimate convention requires convincing the legislatures of at least 34 states to enact pro-convention resolutions. The model Convention of States resolution, which asks for a convention to propose amendments imposing budgetary restrictions on the federal government, limiting its authority and jurisdiction, and restricting terms of office for officials and members of Congress, has already been approved by 19 states.