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(OPINION) Letter: Legislator has unwarranted fear about a convention of states

"This fear is based on a rewrite of history in which opponents, intent on subverting this constitutional check on the federal government, claim the 1787 constitutional convention ran away," Julie Baker writes.

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Dear Gillette,

In a recent article, four Campbell County legislators outlined why they voted “no” on the Convention of States resolution SJ11. One would hope that legislators would do their due diligence before voting for or against any bill or resolution. We know this doesn’t occur in D.C. and, sadly, all of the arguments used to justify a “no” vote show it doesn’t happen in Wyoming either. The arguments made, while they might be someone’s opinion or feeling, have no historical, legal or constitutional basis.

Well before this legislative session started and during the legislative session, all the candidates and subsequently elected legislators were given, at a minimum, six opportunities, either via Zoom or in person, to meet with National Convention of States leaders and constitutional scholars to ask questions and have concerns addressed. Leaders and constitutional scholars included:

  • Michael Farris, founding president of the Home School Legal Defense Association, founder of Patrick Henry College, recent CEO and General Council for Alliance Defending Freedom and co-founder of Convention of States Action
  • Mark Meckler, co-founder of Tea Party Patriots and Convention of States Action
  • Sen. Rick Santorum, senior adviser for Convention of States Action
  • Professor Rob Natelson, constitutional law professor and leading authority on the Article V process.

Only one of the four legislators registered to take advantage of the opportunity to learn more about this constitutional process, and it isn’t evident that legislator attended.

One of the most common objections to an Article V convention for proposing amendments is that the convention might “runaway” and an example was given that “…in fact the only convention of states that we have had…” ran away. Where did the runaway theory originate given none of the at least 42 conventions of states in our history has ever run away?

This fear is based on a rewrite of history in which opponents, intent on subverting this constitutional check on the federal government, claim the 1787 constitutional convention ran away. The assertion is that the honorable, wise, divinely inspired men who wrote the Constitution were traitorous because they ignored the commissions given to them by the states resulting in an illegally adopted constitution. In effect, some “constitutional conservatives” believe the Constitution is fraudulent. This is historically inaccurate and it only takes a simple reading of the commissions to discover the truth.

All but two states gave their commissioners the authority to do whatever was necessary to form a government that would preserve the union. The commissioners from states that didn’t have that general language either didn’t vote or sought clarification from their legislatures. They all did exactly what what was expected of them.

Lack of knowledge around how the commissioners to the convention will be chosen similarly shows an unwillingness to investigate Wyoming’s own statutes. Wyoming already has a selection process outlined in bill HB50 passed in 2017. This selection process, if undesirable, can be changed by the very legislators who have issue with the process. To put the restoration of Federalism in the too hard basket because one doesn’t like the selection process indicates a lack of concern and urgency regarding the current state our country is in. This isn’t a major hurdle and is certainly no reason to dismiss the responsibility and duty the state legislature has to restrain the federal government and put it back in its constitutional box.

The Article V convention for proposing amendments requires consensus on the topics for discussion prior to the convention being called. Every convention of states in our history started with an agreement on the purpose for the convention. An Article V convention for proposing amendments cannot be called before consensus has been reached by 2/3 of the states on the topic/topics for discussion. The idea that the Bill of Rights, itself the result of the threat of an Article V convention, can be altered when the agreed upon topics don’t include that, shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the process.

A convention of states is a meeting of people from the states who get together and hash out an issue, as we have been doing for more than 250 years. Why some legislators are afraid of a meeting where people might come up with suggestions/proposals to fix some problems in our country is a mystery. The Article V convention for proposing amendments that will be called as a result of the Convention of States resolution/application is limited to reducing the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, imposing fiscal restraints on the federal government and imposing term limits on Congress and bureaucrats.

There was mention of nationally known conservatives who were opposed to using the state initiated amendment proposal process, and examples given were Rush Limbaugh, Antonin Scalia and Glenn Beck. I will concede Glenn Beck did withdraw support, but then walked that back a few days later. As for Limbaugh and Scalia, again a simple search on YouTube will reveal the truth.

Rush Limbaugh was supportive of using Article V and spoke at length when he was reviewing Mark Levin’s book “The Liberty Amendments” – a book about the amendments that could be proposed to restrain the federal government. Antonin Scalia was also in favor of using the Article V convention process as a way to restrain the Supreme Court. Later he commented that he was opposed to a Constitutional Convention – well of course, we all are. This is where the slight of hand occurs. An Article V convention for proposing amendments is not a constitutional convention.

They are both conventions of states, but one is called by the states, the other by Congress. One can only amend the existing Constitution, the other can rewrite or create a new Constitution. One has to be ratified by all states to be bound by it as a whole document, amendments are ratified singly by three quarters of the states.

There are other differences but suffice it to say to conflate the two is being intentionally deceptive. An Article V convention for proposing amendments cannot turn into a constitutional convention. The Constitution cannot be “re-written” at an Article V convention for proposing amendments. There is no process in the Constitution for calling a constitutional convention.

Stated was that “extensive research had been done showing Soros funds Convention of States.” Really? Common Cause, an actual Soros funded organization, was fundraising in Wyoming during this legislative session sending emails to Common Cause supporters telling them that SJ11 had passed the Senate, to fear an Article V convention and to send Common Cause money so they could stop it.

There are some very serious issues that our state legislators have to grapple with. Reigning in the federal government, which is strangling Wyoming’s key industries and threatening to close them down all together, I would hope would be of concern. It is unfortunate that some of our legislators, especially those claiming to be constitutional conservatives, would rather maintain the status quo in D.C. than use this powerful, peaceful, legal, constitutional method of restoring Federalism.

Wyoming legislators should join Gov. Ron DeSantis, Mark Levin, David Barton, Rick Green, Ben Shapiro, Rep. Chip Roy, Lt. Col. Allen West, James O’Keefe, Charlie Kirk, Rep. Louie Gohmert, the late greats Rush Limbaugh and Antonin Scalia and many others in supporting Convention of States.

Wyoming should join Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia, Indiana, Wisconsin, Alaska, Arizona, Utah, Nebraska and North Dakota in calling for a Convention of States.

Anyone who would like more information can go to conventionofstates.com or call me directly 307-487-0224.

Julie Baker

Wyoming State Director – COS Action