Some lawmakers in West Virginia are, like many other state legislators across the country, fighting against the dangerous call their state has made for an Article V constitutional convention.
This call for a constitutional convention, or Convention of States, is a well-funded campaign led by Tea Party Patriots co-founder Mark Meckler, Texas mega donor Tim Dunn, and former U.S. Senators Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Jim DeMint (R-SC).
Mark Meckler has been very open about his ideas for what an Article V convention could do. Constitutional amendments according to their vision would radically change our system of federalism, and not in a good way.
Article V of the Constitution states that when called for by two-thirds of state legislatures – or 34 states – a convention must be called to amend the Constitution.
However, there are no ground rules in the Constitution that lays out how the convention would be run if one were to be called. It does not state who the delegates would be, how they would be chosen, or how the rules would be made. Not only does it exclude how the rules would be made, but it also does not state what the rules should be.
This leaves many unanswered questions for the delegates to figure out and a lot of responsibility for them to get it right –which is not something that can be guaranteed with no previous standards.
In West Virginia, lawmakers know the risks and what is at stake if a constitutional convention were to be called.
In a recent interview with a reporter for The Register-Herald, legal scholars and lawmakers alike shared concerns over what could happen if West Virginia became a state to make a call for a convention and raise the number of states to close the gap toward a convention.
“We’re playing with fire here and risking our entire Constitution,” said Sen. Mike Romano, D-Harrison. He argued that nothing would stop delegates to the convention from changing the rest of the convention.
“Here’s the question you have to ask yourself,” he said. “Are term limits, are the balanced budget amendment or any other amendment we propose worth the risk of having our entire Constitution changed or any part of it that’s important to you, whether it’s the First Amendment or Second Amendment or Social Security or anything else that could be changed by constitutional convention?”
Bob Bastress, a constitutional law professor at West Virginia University’s College of Law, noted that the last time such a convention was held, to amend the Articles of Confederation in 1787, “they ended up drafting a whole new Constitution which was drastically different from the articles.”
Even though lawmakers supporting the amendment say it would be held to enact congressional term limits, Bastress said there would be nothing to limit the delegates from exploring other topics other than “the politics of the moment.”
We cannot let a convention be a quick fix for the politics of the moment, the fundamentals on which our current political parties stand are at risk with an Article V convention – the rights that every American holds dear, regardless of political affiliation – will be at risk.