Time for Texas to take the lead in amending the U.S. Constitution
Friday, January 22nd, 2016 @ 12:41PM
This piece originally appeared in TribTalk, a publication of the Texas Tribune.
I applaud Gov. Greg Abbott’s recently announced initiative for the states to take the lead in amending the U.S. Constitution. The truth is, we have become a nation with a powerful, centralized government, which was never our founders’ intent.
Some believe our Constitution is a “living” document, the meaning of which has naturally evolved over the course of 227 years to adapt to the politics and laws of the times. This is a false interpretation of the Constitution. The foundational document of our republic must be interpreted according to its plain language and original meaning.
The Constitution clearly establishes the federal government as an agent of the several sovereign states. Certain limited rights were granted to the national government to maintain the welfare of the nation as a whole. The states were intended to be the drivers of policy, which is why the 10th Amendment clearly articulates that any powers not granted to the federal government are left to the states or the people. The governor’s plan addresses the critical problems facing our nation today and lays the foundation for the states to reassert their sovereign authority.
All three branches of our federal government have been complicit in the erosion of the states’ ability to control their own destinies. Nearly every president since our founding has sought to incrementally increase their own authority, setting the stage for today’s executive branch, whose assumed powers far surpass anything granted in the Constitution. Congress has compounded this problem by passing laws granting more power to the federal government at the expense of the rights of the states. Led by the U.S. Supreme Court, the judiciary has been all too willing to side with our nation’s political leaders instead of the plain text of the Constitution — and has even taken to writing law itself. It is clear that our nation cannot survive on our current path. Rampant federal regulations choke the entrepreneurial spirit of our citizens, and our overwhelming debt is a powder keg waiting to explode.
The good news is that the Constitution itself holds the key to righting our ship. Article V of our Constitution provides the framework for amending our founding document. Most of us know that Congress can, with two-thirds support, send proposed amendments to the states for ratification. This is how each of our 27 amendments has been adopted. However, a lesser-known clause in Article V states that Congress, “on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments.” In either case, proposed amendments must be ratified by three-fourths of the states before they are adopted.
It is this clause in which the restoration of our nation lies. With Abbott’s leadership, it is my hope that Texas will inspire other states to leverage this provision of the Constitution. Although such a convention (commonly referred to as a convention of states) has never been assembled, numerous attempts have been made in the past. Texas, for example, has several outstanding applications for a convention of states dating back to 1899. In fact, every state except Hawaii has made at least one formal application for such a convention.
As vice chairman of the State & Federal Power & Responsibility Committee in the Texas House, I pushed last session for a resolution applying to Congress for a convention of states to propose a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The resolution passed in the House with an overwhelming two-thirds support.
The governor’s plan calls for using the Article V convention of states process to propose nine new amendments to our Constitution, one of which is a balanced budget amendment. The remaining amendments Abbott is proposing will “put teeth” in the 10th Amendment and return sovereignty to the states. Next session, I will once again work with my colleagues to pass a resolution that will give Texas and the other states the opportunity to use Article V of the Constitution to wrest control over our ever expanding, overreaching federal government.
I have committed my full support to the governor in making sure Texas takes the lead in restoring the rights of the states and putting our country back on track. Now is the time for a convention of states.