State lawmakers look to shift power away from Washington

A movement is afoot from state lawmakers who believe the federal government has amassed far too much power, to the detriment of state authority and autonomy.

They’re embarking on a massive undertaking — crafting a set of guidelines for considering amendments to the U.S. Constitution in order to shift more power back to the states.

State lawmakers
WATCHING WASHINGTON: State lawmakers from Florida to Alaska gathered this week to hash out ideas for considering amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Photo by Kathryn Watson

Just blocks from the White House, U.S. Supreme Court and U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., state lawmakers representing different political stripes and 28 states from Alaska to Florida this week brainstormed suggestions for going about an Article V convention to propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

Their specific causes are many, ranging from campaign finance reform after the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, to EPA regulation overreach, to the need for a balanced federal budget amendment. Those differences will need refining eventually. Still, lawmakers rallied around one thing at a gathering of the Assembly of State Legislatures in Washington, D.C. — the need to reign in Washington.

“I want to make sure that my grandchildren have a vibrant Constitution that protects their freedom,” said Scott Lingamfelter, a Republican delegate from Virginia who is pushing a resolution for a convention in that state.

Article V provides two routes for changing the U.S. Constitution. One involves votes from Congress. The Founding Fathers, realizing Congress wouldn’t want to check its own power, made for another way. If two-thirds of the states petition Congress for a convention of the states, Congress is required to call one. Anything proposed at a convention, then, must be ratified by three-quarters of the states.

“We’ve got the jurisdiction to amend the Constitution,” Wisconsin Republican Assemblyman Chris Kapenga told his fellow lawmakers. “… History shows that there’s this centralization of power, and it doesn’t matter what civilization, this is a trend that you can look back on. There’s a centralization of power which always ends up leading to abuse.”

Jason Holsman, a Democratic Missouri state senator and co-president of ASL, said 36 states have already made requests to Congress, more than the 34-state threshold. But Congress isn’t exactly tracking that.

“Congress isn’t doing their job of counting their calls,” Holsman told

States’ requests for an Article V convention differ, Holsman said, and Congress has every incentive not to grant those requests.


By Kathryn Watson |, Virginia Bureau


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