The Convention of States, a project founded by Citizens for Self Governance, is sponsoring a college scholarship contest for creative teenagers and young adults. Students can showcase their videos, writing, photography, graphic design, and sketching skills for a chance to win a $7,500 scholarship in April. If the student opts to enroll at the Patrick Henry College, the grand prize increases to $10,000.
Students between the ages of 12 and 22 can begin submitting their works on January 1, and the entry deadline is January 31 for the first monthly round. The monthly winners will receive $250 and move onto the final round for the grand prize in April. The entries must show why or how the Convention of States (COS) helps to protect Constitutional rights by “keeping the federal government from overstepping its bounds,” be a call to action for the Convention of States Project, or include the COS website.
The Convention of States movement appears to be gaining momentum. Approximately 100 legislators from a total of 32 states recently converged upon Mount Vernon, Virginia to debate the possibility of enacting Constitutional amendment via a convention of states format. Article V of the US Constitution details the process state lawmakers could utilize in order to vote on amendment additions to the living document drafted by our Founding Fathers.
No Constitutional amendment has ever been added via a convention of states – yet. The possibility of such an endeavor has both fervent supporters and opponents. According to Article V, two-thirds (34) of state legislatures much approve an application for a convention to occur before the gathering has any official power. Once such approval is garnered, each state would then send delegates to the convention with each state granted a single vote on any proposed amendment. The Virginia gathering was organized by Wisconsin State Representative Chris Kapenga and Indiana State Senator David Long.
Article V also requires that a single letter must be sent to every lawmaker, state senate president, and house speaker. Shortly after the letter entitled “The Mount Vernon Assembly” was mailed, a waiting list had to be established for the convention of states due to capacity limits. The elected representatives all reportedly traveled on their own dime and were not serving as authorized delegates from their respective state legislatures.
An amendment would have to receive approval from three-fourths of state legislatures (38) in order to be added to the Constitution and become law. Some of the topics discussed at the Mount Vernon Convention of States included placing specific limits on federal taxation and term limits on elected officials. During the lengthy meeting, multiple state legislators referenced a recent poll which appeared to indicate that bipartisan support for such amendments was evident. The poll indicated that 74 percent of likely voters who responded to the survey support the installation of a balanced budget amendment and 75 percent also approve of a Constitutional amendment creating term limits for lawmakers.
Wisconsin Representative Kapenga had this to say about the Convention of States:
“States are not used to working toward a common goal. With the focus solely on defining how a convention of states, including an Article V Convention for Proposing Amendments would function, we are learning how to work together. It is clear the Founders left this responsibility to the states by not specifying it in the Constitution. As you know, those powers not enumerated are left to the states under the Tenth Amendment.”
The Foundry, a division of the Heritage Network, is among those watching and studying the Article V happenings very closely. A report about the Mount Vernon convention of states gathering cautioned Americans to remember that there is no “silver bullet” or simple fix to all of the problems facing the United States today.
An excerpt from The Foundary report reads:
“A perennial question in American history, it seems on its face to be a simple suggestion to deploy a forgotten option to bring about the changes we seek. In the course of our work advising state and federal lawmakers and conservative allies across the country, we have been giving this issue close attention and study. Stemming from that analysis, and taking into consideration the circumstances under which we are now operating, we have come to the conclusion that an Article V convention is not the answer to our problems. The lack of precedent, extensive unknowns, and considerable risks of an Article V amendments convention should bring sober pause to advocates of legitimate constitutional reform contemplating this avenue.”
Those who organized and attended the event designed the gathering to increase the ability of states to be able to “influence Congress and the direction of the country.” The United States of America was founded on states’ rights, a concept which many feel has diminished over the past several decades. The Convention of States was hosted a Mount Vernon because it was the home of President George Washington, who played a key role during the Philadelphia Convention of 1787.
Despite criticism over the convention of states approach by some, both South Carolina and Virginia have “pre-filed” the required application to hold more conventions. The mere act of filling out the necessary forms at least indicates that the Mount Vernon meeting was not a fluke or involved only fringe elements from a single political party. If more states follow suit, the conventions will surely be taken more seriously by supporters and detractors alike.
When preparing for the writing of the Constitution, Thomas Jefferson labored deeply over the role the founding principles should play, not just for the fledgling nation, but for future generations as well. Jefferson noted that as the Revolutionary War subsided and the focus of the delegates turned towards their next monumental task, he had grown to believe that the Constitution and the country “belonged to the living.” The Founding Father explained that he did not believe that one generation had any more right to rule the next than one nation had the right to govern another sovereign land.
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