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Gov. Abbott calls for constitutional convention

By   /   January 8, 2016  /   News  /   No Comments

Gov. Greg Abbott said Friday he will push to have Texas join other states in a national convention to “fix the cracks in our Constitution.”

Gov. Greg Abbott is calling for Texas to join in a Constitutional convention of states.

Gov. Greg Abbott is calling for Texas to join in a Constitutional convention of states.

The states of the union have never before convened to change the Constitution, although Article V allows for a petition from 34 states to convene and the approval of 38 states to add to or eliminate any of the 27 amendments in the Bill of Rights.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio wrote in an opinion piece for USA Today earlier this week that if elected president he would support a constitutional convention to limit the reach of federal power.

Contempt for the Constitution by the president and Congress, abetted by the Supreme Court, have forced states and their citizens to action, Abbott told attendees at a policy orientation sponsored by the Texas Public Policy Foundation in Austin.

President Barack Obama has repeatedly abused executive authority on issues like health care and the environment,
Abbott said, and Congress rarely bothers to square its lawmaking with the Constitution. He also asserted that the document is often unrecognizable as the Supreme Court seeks to interpret and in some cases rewrite the laws Congress passes.

“These increasingly frequent departures from constitutional principles are destroying the Rule of Law foundation on which this country was built,” Abbott said. “We are succumbing the caprice of man that our founders fought to escape.”

Abbott made specific recommendations for nine amendments to be considered at a convention, something he called the Texas Plan. The amendments are:

1. Prohibit Congress from regulating activity that occurs wholly within one State.

2. Require Congress to balance its budget.

3. Prohibit administrative agencies—and the unelected bureaucrats that staff them—from creating federal law.

4. Prohibit administrative agencies—and the unelected bureaucrats that staff them—from preempting state law.

5. Allow a two-thirds majority of the States to override a U.S. Supreme Court decision.

6. Require a seven-justice super-majority vote for U.S. Supreme Court decisions that invalidate a democratically enacted law.

7. Restore the balance of power between the federal and state governments by limiting the former to the powers expressly delegated to it in the Constitution.

8. Give state officials the power to sue in federal court when federal officials overstep their bounds.

9. Allow a two-thirds majority of the States to override a federal law or regulation.

“Until we fix that foundation by restoring the rule of law,” Abbott said, “all the repairs we seek through the policies you propose will never lead to lasting solutions. The Texas Plan fixes this government run amok.”

The Texas Plan is one step in what would be an unprecedented use of Article V. Since the ratification of the original 10 amendments in the Bill of Rights in 1791, another 17 amendments have been added by passage in Congress and approval by the legislatures of three-quarters of the states.

There have, over the past two decades, been calls for constitutional conventions, the most potent over the single issue of a balanced federal budget. According to the Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force 27 states — seven states short — have petitioned Congress for a convention to consider a balanced budget.

Of those states, only Alabama, Alaska, Florida and Georgia have petitioned for a convention to consider more constitutional change. With legislative approval, Texas would become the fifth.

Rubio, representing one of those states, wrote that the men who framed the Constitution were all too aware of the potential for an overbearing federal government when they devised the convention guidelines

“This method of amending our Constitution,” Rubio wrote, “has become necessary today because of Washington’s refusal to place restrictions on itself.”

“That Constitutional foundation is now so often ignored that the Founders would hardly recognize it,” Abbott told the orientation gathering today. “The cure to these problems will not come from Washington, D.C. Instead, the states must lead the way.”

Abbott said the Texas Plan is careful in its specificity, to allay persistent fears that such a convention of states could be used to significantly alter or destroy the Constitution. But according to the rules, the Texas Legislature may stipulate what the state will or won’t agree to by participating in a convention.

“It is true that Article V does not expressly authorize States to limit conventions to particular issues,” Abbott wrote in a detailed white paper provided in advance to Watchdog.” Article V also does not require general and open-ended conventions. Indeed, that is by design.

“Some nonetheless argue that the Constitution does not allow state legislatures to limit the scope of a convention,” he wrote. “The critics seize on this argument to raise the specter of a ‘runaway convention,’ in which the States propose a convention to debate limited amendments, but in which the delegates end up throwing the entire Constitution in the trashcan. Even if that happened, none of the delegates’ efforts would become law without approval from three-fourths of the States. But even on its own terms, the criticism lacks merit.”

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Mark Lisheron is the deputy editor. He first served as a national Watchdog reporter and then became the bureau chief for Texas Watchdog. He spent almost 30 years in newspapers, 14 of those years for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and a decade with the Austin American-Statesman. Mark can be reached on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.