Fla. state senators push for constitutional convention to rein in ‘runaway’ federal government

Two Florida senators are pushing for a constitutional convention to rein in a “runaway” federal government.

State Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, has filed a measure, known as a “memorial,” for the state Legislature to ask Congress to convene a convention to consider constitutional amendments to impose restraints on federal spending, set term limits for members of Congress, and put greater limits on federal powers over the states.

conconv1209Meanwhile, state Sen. Greg Evers, R-Baker, has filed a bill authorizing the Legislature to establish a Commission on Federalism that would evaluate federal laws to determine whether laws passed in Congress are within the framework of the U.S. Constitution “or if the federal government has overstepped their bounds.”

“It will bring Washington back to their senses,” Evers said Monday. “Hopefully, they’ll stop handing down this stuff.”

Under Evers’ proposal, SB 480, the commission would be made up of seven members, including the Senate president and House speaker; the minority leaders of the House and Senate; one senator appointed by the Senate president and two House members appointed by the speaker.

The commission’s primary purpose would be analyzing federal laws, but it would also act as a “committee of correspondence” with other similar commissions in other states.

Evers said the ultimate goal, would be to get the support of two-thirds of state legislatures to convent a constitutional convention – as provided for in Article 5 of the Constitution – if Congress doesn’t act.

While he lacks a House sponsor for the bill, Evers said he’s confident he’ll find support.

“I can’t see anybody who has a passion for liberty and self-government voting against it,” he said. “It would be like voting against someone named ‘America.’”

Naturally, not everyone agrees, not in conservative circles. Writing for the Heritage Foundation in 2011, constitutional scholar Matthew Spalding warned that even such a method of approving amendments is provided for in the Constitution, it contains too much risk that a gathering to control a “runaway” government could turn into a “runaway” convention.

“The vagueness of this method led Madison to oppose the proposal at the Constitutional Convention …” Spalding wrote in a column titled “Don’t be fooled by Article 5 conventions.”

“Combine that with the fact that no such amending convention has ever occurred, and too many serious questions are left open and unanswered.

Over the weekend, Hays was among 97 lawmakers from throughout the country who gathered in Mount Vernon, Va., to discuss organizing such a convention.

In a news release on his Senate website explaining the memorial, SM 476, Hays said concerns about the federal government’s powers are widespread.

“Everywhere I go, people ask me what can be done to reform Washington, D.C.,” Hays said in the release. “This petition to Congress to convene the Article V convention is the first step toward that reform.  This ‘runaway’ federal government is of great concern to Americans of all political parties and of all the states.

“Our goal is to have 34 state legislatures pass the petition in the years 2014 and 2015 then hold the convention in late 2015 or early 2016.”

Evers said the commission his bill would establish would put the Sunshine State in the thick of the action.

“Setting up this commission advances Florida to the forefront or at least the higher echelon” of states committed to a constitutional convention, Evers said. “It will move Florida a lot further than where we are today.”

Evers declined to speculate on when a constitutional convention among the states could become a reality, but said the point now is to lay the foundation.

“It may take two years, it may take three years, it may take five years,” he said. “But at least the ball has started rolling.”

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About Joe Saunders

Joe Saunders, a 25-year newspaper veteran, is a staff writer and editor for BizPac Review who lives in Tallahassee and covers capital and Florida politics. Email Joe at jpjsaunders@gmail.com.

  • Susan

    I can only hope it won’t take quite so long to accomplish this COS project, but at least there is support among state legislators to get this moving. It’s the only way the American people can bring the Feds back to the framework of their responsibilities and stop passing laws to the states that are out of their jurisdiction.

  • Doug

    As Matthew Spalding opines be careful what you wish for you just might get it.

  • dennam

    I trust the states far more to do the right thing. It certainly can’t be worse than what we have now. Congress with never vote for term limits or spending limits.

  • aznative

    Time is now and demand closure of Dhs and let our military handle homeland security. And exile of all Muslims now please.

  • aznative

    Convention of states emergency meeting please.

  • Jeff Roland

    Very good Idea,but our first and foremost plan of attack is the GOP to regain control in 2014 to at least STOP this present ruling party.

    • gregzimmerman007

      But, this article 5 means things can be done sooner, so we may be able to breathe a sigh of relief that we will be fighting Islamobama every step of the way from now till the November 2014 elections.

  • FlLady

    Nullification of bad laws can happen now at the state level. Why wait, if you really want to do something? Don’t just talk; take action now to nullify unConstitutional laws and actions. I want to see my legislators stand up and say ~ NOT IN MY STATE!!!!

  • nan_perez

    How about just refusing to enact their unconstitutional laws locally. As individuals we pay federal income tax we’ve done our part. Get them out of our education system, tell the EPA to take a hike. Any law they have created that does not fall under their limited powers set up by the Constitution are null and void and fall to the states and the individual. And stop taking federal dollars, they get money for commerce between states and the military that’s it.

    • gregzimmerman007

      nan, if it were only that simple. as u know, the current administration has been trampling all over the Constitution and now states are doing the same as well. although plenty of the recent mandates (laws) enacted are null & void because they are unconstitutional, u don’t see anyone challenging these in the courts where the judicial system should concur with the Constitution which is the document which supercedes all laws. But, since this hasn’t happened, then it’s imperative we try another angle and get a start on things ASAP to overturn the ridiculous, and that’s for what article 5 is designed.

  • Luke_JSL

    If they can lay the proper groundwork, this will be a great thing. I believe that issues such as caps on federal taxation, balanced budget amendments, and term limits will gain broad support from both sides of the aisle. However, attempts to reign in illegal immigration, same sex marriage, etc….via constitutional amendments, will not.
    Hopefully, these legislators will not take on hot-topic social issues such as abortion, health care, illegal immigration, and same-sex marriage. These are social issues that have no place in such a convention. It cannot be used to push partisan issues. And since federal usurpation of power is (atleast theoretically) not a partisan issue, it should remain the focus.
    The question, however, will not be how DC responds to such changes. It will be how they are dealt with when they refuse to comply. Their life-blood is power, and they will fight like rabid wolves to retain it. Hopefully, a robust mechanism for constitutional abuse/non-adherence will also be included.

    • gregzimmerman007

      nice.

  • barchen36

    I can see obummer’s troops sweeping down on these terrorist right now! Charging them with treason, inciting public demonstrations, disturbing the peace, having banned weapons on them (pens and pencils), having too many occupants in a room, assaulting authorized government employees, obstructing justice AND not obeying Caesar’s law of no dissension!

    • gregzimmerman007

      barch, better to erase this and not give them any ideas with which to work. they do monitor FB u know.