Texas

Thanks to Rep. Phil King, who we’ve never heard of, The Texas House passed an updated version of the BBA on Friday on a 100-40 vote.  It turns out King is also the incoming Chair of ALEC, which is sweet.  ALEC’s always been big on the BBA, but now we may really see some action.

We didn’t need Texas.  We got it around 40 years ago.  The Convention of States (CoS) really did need Texas.  They put on a full court press, with 20,000 volunteers, a big citizen’s lobbying effort, testimony from over 40 witnesses, and firm commitments from the House leadership.  They did everything right.  They won’t even get a floor vote.

We sent Mike Stern down to testify, period.

CoS is dead.  They’ve spent millions of dollars, and, in some states, ran excellent campaigns.  They’ll finish 2015 where they started, with three states.  It’s over.

Our legal counsel, Dave Guldenschuh, is a fugitive from CoS, and has stories to tell about dysfunction at the highest levels.  But their real problem was quite simple.  They had bad dog food.  The dogs wouldn’t eat it.

They made a fundamental political miscalculation.  Lawyer and radio host Mark Levin, author of “The Liberty Amendments”, is partly to blame.  He encouraged them to go whole hog, try to get a wide open convention which would alter the basic structure of the federal system.  It was a hell of an idea.  I supported it, and testified in favor of it before the Montana Senate Judiciary Committee.  But it was a bridge too far.  It scared people.  Article V is kind of scary to begin with.  To emphasize the radical nature of possible change, as CoS did, makes it just too scary.  When it comes to the Constitution, the American people are conservative.

Plus, they had term limits.  A deal killer, for a lot of legislators.  They don’t believe in term limits.  I’m beginning to see why.  In one sense, term limits are a way to punish the people in office right now.  Rather than throw them out, instead, let’s take their power away.

Like the power to tax.  If we add tax reform to land transfers and regulatory reform, and make the Reagan Initiative three legged, will it cost us votes, or get us votes?  I don’t know.  And I don’t need to know, not yet.  I’m guessing the Amendment Convention will convene in August of 2016, sixteen months from now.  Nobody needs to make a decision until then.  When the delegates, Republican and Democrat, from all 50 states, start their deliberations they will, collectively, make a political calculation, to wit:  How much can we get away with?  What will the purple states ratify?

That will depend, in part, on the public’s perception of the entire Amendment process.  Was it done in an orderly, calm, and reasonable way?  Were all sides listened to, and all view points seriously considered?  Was their bipartisanship?

The last question may be the big one.  If we can’t get some Democrats on board this will be tough to ratify.  I know some reasonable Democrats in Alaska, like former Speaker Sam Cotten, a Navy vet.  He’s now the Commissioner of Fish and Game.  In Alaska, that’s an important job.  And Senator Lyman Hoffman of Bethel, an Eskimo, who I served with.  I’ll talk to them, down the road.

Sam did me a favor 30 years ago.  It was in the middle of the subsistence fight.  The Natives, backed by Ted Stevens, wanted special rights in the Constitution.  It was a very hot fight, and I was leading the opposition.  Sam pulled me aside one day and told me some of the Native leaders thought I was prejudiced against them.  This was serious.  My Uncle Fritz instilled in me, in no uncertain terms, that the Native people of Alaska were owed great respect, and I feel that way very strongly.  So I pulled in my horns and made sure all the Natives knew I had nothing but respect for them.

So I owe Sam one.

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