Other Views: Convention could open a Pandora's box
The Assembly approved a resolution this week calling for an Article V constitutional convention. This is a request that Congress call a national convention to propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Wisconsin would be the 30th state to do so, inching the country closer to the 34 states required to open this Pandora’s box.
In our country’s 240-year history, we have never had an Article V convention, meaning we have no experience or road map to guide us. Other than the Bill of Rights, our constitution has been amended only 17 times. However, Congress proposed each amendment, not a convention.
Besides being untested, a convention would be unpredictable and uncontrollable. After requesting a convention, states have no way to control what is discussed, debated or passed. Our normal system of checks and balances wouldn’t apply.
Conventions could also be undemocratic. There is no requirement that our state’s voters would have any say over who represents Wisconsin at a convention. Wisconsin Republicans want to send a lopsided delegation of seven Republicans and two Democrats.
Additionally, although some states have proposed limitations on a convention, nothing in the Constitution requires those limitations are followed.
Why is that a problem? Many of the resolutions requesting a convention propose specific amendments to be considered (in Wisconsin’s case an amendment to require a balanced budget). But nothing guarantees all of them are considered, and nothing requires any of them to be considered. A “runaway convention” could consider all, some, none or make up new ones whenever it wanted!
For example, here are some of the amendments, spanning the political spectrum, proposed so far:
--A ban on abortion.
--Limitations on rights to free association.
--A ban on corporate spending in campaigns.
--Requiring a balanced budget.
--Requiring the USA to join a world federal government.
--Drastically limit the federal government’s power.
Both with presidents of the opposite party and of the same party, the Republican majority in Congress seems hopelessly bogged down and unable to solve our most pressing problems. Understandably, Americans are frustrated with the lack of action and are looking for a way to get things done.
With careful consideration of Congress, our Constitution has been amended before. However, a constitutional convention is unpredictable, uncontrollable and undemocratic. This is clearly not the way we should approach amending the bedrock document that forms our country and guarantees our rights.
Rep. Mark Spreitzer of Beloit represents the 45th Assembly District.