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ALEC’s constitutional convention resolution awaits approval of full House

Wednesday, Apr 26, 2017

* From HJR 32’s synopsis

Makes application to Congress under the provisions of Article V of the Constitution of the United States for the calling of a convention of the states limited to proposing amendments to the Constitution of the United States that impose fiscal restraints on the federal government and limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government.

The measure’s chief sponsor is Rep. Bob Martwick (D-Chicago), but it has several GOP co-sponsors. The proposal was unanimously approved by the House Executive Committee on March 30th.

* Common Cause is not a fan…

While Illinois citizens remain transfixed by the daily news of events in Springfield and Washington, D.C., a serious threat to our democracy has been quietly gathering steam. Through House Joint Resolution 32, a bipartisan group of State Representatives have issued a call for the State of Illinois to request a convention to amend the Constitution of the United States. This proposal is part of a well-funded highly-coordinated national effort by conservative advocacy groups who are seeking to bypass the Congress and use the vague language in Article V of the Constitution to fundamentally alter the nature of our democracy.

“Every Illinois citizen should be terribly concerned about the reckless calls in this state for a constitutional convention,” warned Brian Gladstein, Executive Director of Common Cause Illinois. “There simply aren’t any rules to limit the nature or scope of what could put on the table once a convention is called and provide megadonors the opportunity to restrict or completely take away some of our most fundamental rights. We just can’t risk it.”

Back in 2015, Common Cause issued a report entitled The Dangerous Path: Big Money’s Plan to Shred the Constitution, that laid out its concerns about calls for a constitutional convention, including:

    THREAT OF A RUNAWAY CONVENTION: There is no language appearing in the United States Constitution that would prevent a constitutional convention from being expanded in scope to issues not raised in convention calls passed by the state legislatures, and therefore could lead to a runaway convention.

    INFLUENCE OF SPECIAL INTERESTS: An Article V convention would open the Constitution to revisions at a time of extreme gerrymandering and polarization amid unlimited political spending. It could allow special interests and the wealthiest among us to re-write the rules governing our system of government.

    LACK OF CONVENTION RULES: There are no rules governing constitutional conventions. A convention would be an unpredictable Pandora’s Box; the last one, in 1787, resulted in a brand new Constitution. Indeed, the group that is advocating for HJR 32 openly discusses the possibility of using the process to undo hard-won civil rights and civil liberties advances and undermine basic rights extended throughout history as our nation strove to deliver on the promise of a democracy that works for everyone.

    UNCERTAIN RATIFICATION PROCESS: A convention could re-define the ratification process (which currently requires 38 states to approve any new amendments) to make it easier to pass new amendments, including those considered at the convention. This happened in 1787, when the convention changed the threshold necessary for ratification.

    THREAT OF LEGAL DISPUTES: No judicial, legislative, or executive body has been given a clear authority to settle disputes about a convention, opening the process to chaos and protracted legal battles that would threaten the functioning of our democracy and economy.

    APPLICATION PROCESS UNCERTAINTY: There is no clear process on how Congress or
    any other governmental body would count and add up Article V applications, or if Congress and the states could restrain the convention’s mandate based on those applications. Notably, a separate call for a constitutional convention seeking a federal balanced budget amendment that is being funded by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a corporate juggernaut masquerading as a charity, insists that it is just six states shy of meeting the threshold, even though 16 of those state resolutions came from a failed attempt to call a convention decades ago.

    POSSIBILITY OF UNEQUAL REPRESENTATION: It is unclear how states would choose delegates to a convention, how states and citizens would be represented in a convention, and who would ultimately get to vote on items raised in a convention.

The language in HJR 32 appears to have been pulled directly from ALEC’s model bill library, and perfectly illustrates the threat of a runaway convention. The measure generally calls for amendments imposing term limits for members of Congress and the judiciary, “fiscal restraints on the federal government,” and limits on the power of the federal government. The vague language in this measure was first introduced in 37 different state legislatures in 2015, and it has already been passed in nine states.

It should also be noted that it is not only conservative groups that are pressing for a constitutional convention. In fact, in 2014, the General Assembly issued another resolution seeking a constitutional amendment to overturn the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United. That effort was primarily being lead by the left-leaning group known as Wolf PAC. Although Common Cause Illinois is committed to fighting against the corrosive presence of big money in our political system, it believed then as it does now that the risks associated with this plan are simply too great.

“We will continue to fight against any demand for an Article V convention, no matter who is leading the charge,” said Gladstein. “We are committed to safeguarding our democratic principles, and we hope that our elected officials in Springfield will join us in this fight.”

They make a good point about this being a copy of ALEC’s model bill. Click here for the Illinois resolution. Click here for the ALEC model.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Dan Johnson - Wednesday, Apr 26, 17 @ 11:35 am:

    Our constitution could use some improvements. The more opportunities for people to debate improvements and consider how we can make our government more effective and modern, the better.

    Hope over fear! (Despite this originating as a conservative initiative, I’m for it. I’d like a far more small-d democratic federal government (abolishing or limiting the powers of the US Senate and the derivative anti-democratic impacts from the Electoral College, fixed terms for judges instead of lifetime appointments, and a much stronger emoluments clause are a few things I’d like to debate).

  2. - Sir Reel - Wednesday, Apr 26, 17 @ 11:37 am:

    Wait a minute.

    Are these the same conservatives who are always talking about “strict contructionists,” who decried Obama’s executive orders as “unconstitutional,” and on and on?

    It’s great for judicial limitations, reigning in the President, etc. But now it’s not?

    Never satisfied.

  3. - JTF - Wednesday, Apr 26, 17 @ 11:42 am:

    This would be a gold mine for the wealthy and special interests and a sucker’s bet for everyone else. People who are for this because they want to generally “shake things up” are similar to the Trump voters who wanted to “drain the swamp” and wanted a wildcard as President. They also play video games by pressing the reset button a lot. Not sure that works as well in real life…

  4. - cdog - Wednesday, Apr 26, 17 @ 11:43 am:

    Glad to see this. I was not aware this was happening. Need to catch up, now!

  5. - Scamp640 - Wednesday, Apr 26, 17 @ 11:43 am:

    This is why Rauner wants to redraw electoral district boundaries and why Democrats must resist. Separation of Church and State, the value of public versus private goods, and the very foundation of American democracy is at risk if the ALEC folks have their way. Just look at what has happened in recent Iowa state elections to get taste of what could happen. This is not some overwrought snowflake rant. ALEC policies are anti-democratic policies at their core.

  6. - anon2 - Wednesday, Apr 26, 17 @ 11:45 am:

    While I agree with Dan, I also recognize that almost every interest group on both sides of the political spectrum has opposed a State Con-Con. The State Con-Con referendum gets clobbered every two decades. I can’t imagine those same groups supporting a federal Con-Con. In short, a federal Con-Con isn’t in the cards, even though the U.S. Constitution could use some updating, just as state constitutions have gotten.

  7. - Nick Name - Wednesday, Apr 26, 17 @ 11:48 am:

    In a significant departure from the ALEC model, HJR 32 specifically instructs, “That the convention delegates from Illinois are hereby instructed not to support any amendment proposals regarding term limits for federal officials or for members of Congress…”

    So that’s good. In fact it could be the only reason why the House Dems are taking up ALEC’s far right wing agenda: to attempt to thwart it.

  8. - Chicago 20 - Wednesday, Apr 26, 17 @ 12:04 pm:

    Once a constitutional convention starts there is no telling where it will head.

    With unlimited monies pouring in for lobbying and influence our republic will be under siege.

    Rule of thumb is if ALEC is involved it won’t be good for the 99%.

  9. - Honeybear - Wednesday, Apr 26, 17 @ 12:09 pm:

    I’ve always thought that Rauners plan of perfidy was created by ALEC.

    Corporate Coup

  10. - anon2 - Wednesday, Apr 26, 17 @ 12:15 pm:

    While Americans revere the Framers of the Constitution, they also fear a repeat of what the Framers did in writing a whole new document. What was a good idea is now to be feared, even though the revered Framers put a Con-Con option in the Constitution.

  11. - Puddintaine - Wednesday, Apr 26, 17 @ 12:15 pm:

    Soooo, now Power to the Peoples is bad?

  12. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Apr 26, 17 @ 12:28 pm:

    If you think “the people’s” interests are driving this constitutional convention crap, you’re either gullible or part of ALEC.

  13. - Nick Name - Wednesday, Apr 26, 17 @ 12:31 pm:

    “Soooo, now Power to the Peoples is bad?”

    What Anonymous @12;28 said. If it’s driven by ALEC, it is anything but power to the people.

  14. - Texas Red - Wednesday, Apr 26, 17 @ 12:43 pm:

    These things are tricky and they certainly have consequences, we are sinking in debt and stuck in an untenable situation due to the the 1970 Illinois constitutional convention …
    “The benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired.

  15. - Jimmy H - Wednesday, Apr 26, 17 @ 1:00 pm:

    - Honeybear - Wednesday, Apr 26, 17 @ 12:09 pm:


  16. - Dee - Wednesday, Apr 26, 17 @ 1:02 pm:

    The push for a convention has been going on for awhile, funded by Koch brothers and other billionaires. Last I checked 28 states had initially passed resolutions calling for a Con-Con, a handful of states have rescinded their resolutions. 34 states need to submit an application for a Con-Con to be called (the count had peaked at 32 I believe). NY Times ran an article in Summer 2016 here, there’s lots of other good coverage out there on why this is a terrible idea, who is bankrolling the effort and why:

  17. - Norseman - Wednesday, Apr 26, 17 @ 1:04 pm:

    This is a disaster waiting to happen. Rather than improve our democracy, it will lead further away. As we’ve seen played out in the presidential election we have a majority of states controlled by a minority of the population. They will further institutionalize that disparity.

  18. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Apr 26, 17 @ 1:30 pm:

    I trust the original founding fathers more than any group we could assemble today. We have a Constitution that can be, and has been, amended piecemeal when needed.

  19. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Apr 26, 17 @ 1:45 pm:

    - Scamp640 - Wednesday, Apr 26, 17 @ 11:43 am:

    There is NO separation of Church and State in the Constitution

  20. - Dan Johnson - Wednesday, Apr 26, 17 @ 3:03 pm:

    anon2 is right - almost every established organization opposed the state con-con, but I go back to Abraham Lincoln on whether people would accept any proposed changes to our constitution:

    “Why should there not be a patient confidence in the ultimate justice of the people? Is there any better, or equal, hope in the world?”

  21. - Last Bull Moose - Wednesday, Apr 26, 17 @ 3:53 pm:

    Anonymous at 1:30 was me.

  22. - Rhino - Wednesday, Apr 26, 17 @ 5:11 pm:

    I think that Dan Johnson is quoting Lincoln out of context. When Lincoln said that didn’t he mean “Northern people” or people who thought like him?

    I’m happy to have a convention composed of people like me but not people who are influenced by ALEC. So, the answer is NO.

  23. - Rhino - Wednesday, Apr 26, 17 @ 5:15 pm:

    Oh, I forgot to add, the language about term limits does not bind anyone. It looks to me like a trap for the unwary.

  24. - Beauwillie - Wednesday, Apr 26, 17 @ 8:29 pm:

    The prospects of an Article V amending convention are very real and truly frightening. All it would take is to compromise a super majority of our State legislatures (75%), suborn their lackeys, and enlist a cadre of manipulators to pull the strings. Estimates have been made that it would only take around 20,000 co-conspirators and $10 billion dollars to pull this off, chump change for those like George Soros and the Koch brothers. Of course, this would have to be kept secret until it’s a done deal which should not be difficult considering the makeup of this group. Much of this may already be in place and must be rooted out and neutralized by groups like Common Cause.

  25. - Bill Walker/Bill - Friday, Apr 28, 17 @ 8:35 am:

    One thing not mentioned in this article is the fact Congress is currently counting the applications and already arrived at its first set meaning a convention call is mandated. In fact, 11 convention calls in total are mandated. See: for details.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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