The vast majority of our 7,382 State Legislators are local politicians, concerned and responsible for local and State problems. They’re parochial. They care about their communities, their constituents, and their States. They follow what goes on in Washington, but don’t feel they have much say in what goes on there. They take money from the federal government, with a lot of strings attached. They love the money and resent the strings, but don’t feel as though they have any control over what happens in D.C. Most of them have never heard of Article V. They don’t understand the power it gives them. They don’t realize that because they have this power, they bear the responsibility to exercise it.
That’s changing, and when enough of these good men and women “get it”, the use of Article V by the States will be routine. Just as everyone realizes that Congress can propose Constitutional Amendments, they’ll appreciate the fact that the States have that power in equal measure. Article V will be just another feature of the Constitution, like judicial review, or the President’s veto power.
I was in the Alaska Legislature from 1983 to 1991. I didn’t know one State Legislator from another State. Very few of my friends in the Alaska Legislature had any contact whatsoever with politicians outside. I went to one ALEC meeting in 1989, but I didn’t make any contacts there. I’m not a very sociable guy; not all politicians are. When I took my first trip to lobby for the BBA, to Utah in 2014, I quickly found out that my experience in Alaska was typical. These Utah legislators, by and large, had no idea of what was going on in the other 49 State Legislatures, and really didn’t care. The Chairman of the Committee I testified before summed up his feelings just before the Committee vote. He said, “I trust our Utah legislators [with Article V power], I just don’t trust these people from the other States.” That was a common reaction to the very idea of using Article V.
So these people need to get to know and trust each other. Once that happens, our troubles are over. People won’t be afraid of Article V. They’ll be itching to use it. And that’s where the Nashville Convention of States of 2017 comes in. I expect 40 States to send delegations, maybe more. There may be as many as 300 State Legislators in attendance. These will be the leaders of the State Legislatures, the Speakers, and Senate Presidents, and Minority Leaders. They can speak with authority on behalf of their Legislature. If one of them says, “We could pass an Article V Term Limits Amendment in a heart beat”, he or she will be believed. What if 34 of them all said the same thing, and decided to go ahead and do it? It would get done.
Nashville will probably last three days. There will be some welcoming social event the evening before the opening session. I imagine the Nashville Convention and Visitors Association will be on top of it. And each night of the session there will be social opportunities for delegates to get acquainted with one another. There will be a competition for their attendance. Cocktails may be consumed, and friendships made. I’m hoping the Tennessee Legislature assigns one of its members to be a host for each State delegation. I’ll try to get Rep. Dennis Powers to host my friends from Alaska. They’ll all want to get him and his family up to Alaska to see the sights, and catch some fish. Dennis would like that.
The relationships that will form in Nashville will be the most important and significant accomplishment of the whole Convention. A community, a political community, will be formed. It may even take upon itself a formal organization, such as the Federal Assembly. With instant nation wide communication, such an organization could function in cyberspace, so to speak. It could meet whenever five members organize themselves and request one. Anything’s possible.
Nashville’s going to change everything.