The first and only national Convention of States since this country was founded was called by Virginia, and held at Willard’s Hotel in Washington D. C. 131 Commissioners from 21 of the 34 states attended. Former President John Tyler presided, while at the same time his granddaughter was ceremoniously hoisting the flag at the Secession Convention in Montgomery. The seven seceding deep South states, along with Arkansas, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and the distant and recently admitted California and Oregon did not send Commissioners to Washington.
A national Convention of States is defined as one which has a national, as opposed to a regional, agenda, and is attended by duly authorized Commissioners from a majority of the states of the Union. The topic of the Phoenix Convention is Article V, and how an Article V Convention will conduct itself. And we are virtually assured of a quorum of 26 states. So the Balanced Budget Amendment Planning Convention in Phoenix will be the second national Convention of States in American history. I don’t think we’re going to have to wait that long for the next one.
While the planning committee of the Arizona legislature hasn’t made a formal decision for the Convention’s location, it did approve sending the formal invitation to the House Speakers and Senate leaders in the other 49 states. The invitation calls for the Commissioners to meet at the State Capitol at noon on September 12th, 2017. This means the actual Convention will be held in the House Chambers.
There are 60 members of the Arizona House, and if you click on the link above you’ll see that the Chamber can easily be reconfigured to hold 200 Commissioners, which is the most that are expected. No state is expected to send more than seven, and some states as few as two, so 200 looks like the most that will attend. If it’s too crowded, a rule could be adopted limiting each state to five Commissioners at a time on the floor.
The Convention will look exactly like a state legislature, and will conduct itself in the same manner. Most states use Mason’s Manual of Legislative Procedure, and that will be the way business is conducted in Phoenix. If you’ve ever seen a state legislative floor session, you know exactly what to expect.
And it will be conducted almost exclusively by state legislators, who will be the members of their state’s delegation. Everyone knows the drill. These people have been doing the exact same thing at their own State Capitols for years, or decades. Everything will be regular order, with strict protocol, proper legislative procedure, and adherence to the rules.
Arizona Senate President Yarbrough an Speaker Mesnard will call the Convention to order, and the first order of business will be the election of a permanent Chair. Nominations will be made, a vote taken, and the Chair of the Convention will take the gavel and the podium.
This will no doubt be a respected and experienced state legislative leader, one who is known and liked by many of his peers. It is a high honor, and I trust it will be given to a man or woman who will be worthy of it. This person will have experience as the presiding officer of their legislature, and they know how to run a meeting.
I hope there is a proper tally screen, where the votes of the states will be shown. All 50 states should be on the board, regardless of who attends, and who doesn’t. Every state should send a commissioner, and those that don’t should be recognized in their absence.