Saturday, August 25, 2012

DAY TWO: September 16, 2012

It appearing that a Quorum of 36 states is participating, and the date and time noticed for the convening of DAY TWO of Convention USA having arrived, the convention will come to order.   

The session will be conducted by means of posting comments on this blog. Delegates wishing to be recognized should post a comment specifying the reason they wish the floor. No motion will be published unless otherwise in order and accompanied by a second from another State.

The agenda will consist of:

1) Report on the Election of Permanent Chairman.

2) Report re: Appointment of Credentials Committee

2) Interim Report of the Rules Committee

3) Such other matters as may properly be brought to the floor.

Thursday, August 16, 2012


I urge each delegate to consider every proposed constitutional amendment in light of five analytical tests:

1. The Suitability Test: Is the proposal suitable for inclusion in the Constitution?
This test is not about the substance or merits of a proposed constitutional amendment, but whether it raises the broader concern of James Madison in Federalist No. 49 that frequent constitutional changes would “deprive the government of that veneration which time bestows on everything, and without which perhaps the wisest and freest government would not possess the requisite stability.” 
For Madison, the amendment process was best reserved for “certain great and extraordinary occasions.” Determining when a “great and extraordinary occasion” has arisen requires us to ask (1) whether the problem will remain important to future generations rather than of immediate concern to the generation seeking its adoption; (2) whether the proposal seeks to achieve a particular policy or partisan result instead of (i) addressing a systemic or structural problem or (ii) expanding individual political or civil rights; and (3) whether the problem can, as a practical or legal matter, be addressed by statutory, executive, or other (non-constitutional) means. The paradigm example of a constitutional amendment that failed the suitability test is the 18th Amendment, which sought to impose alcohol prohibition on a nation caught up in the fervor of “progressive” reform. (Although to be fair, the advocates of alcohol prohibition at least recognized that such prohibition required a constitutional amendment, unlike the drug prohibitionists of today.) 

2. The Policy Test: Is the proposal good policy?

This test is about the proposal’s substance or merits. The suitability test will eliminate most proposed amendments, but assuming that the problem being addressed is serious enough to quality as a “great and extraordinary occasion”, is the proposal itself the best solution for actually solving (or at least diminishing) the problem? Answering this question requires us to ask searchingly what result we are trying to achieve and whether this result is consonant with the moral and political values that we want to see prevail. It is also a matter of judgment as to the costs of success, for we must never forget the law of unintended consequences should we actually achieve the result we are seeking. Again the 18th Amendment is a cautionary tale. Attempts to restrict the rights of our fellow citizens are almost always misguided, but when they lead so directly to massive crime and corruption, no benefit from such a proposed amendment can justify its ratification. 

3. The Enforcement Test: Is the proposal self-executing or otherwise enforceable?

This is the test that is most often overlooked or intentionally ignored. Some amendments are indeed self-executing, such as the 22nd (presidential term limits), or readily enforceable by the courts, such as the 24th (no poll taxes). But Members of Congress often propose or co-sponsor amendments for their symbolic value to buttress their political standing or insulate them from political pressure, knowing full well that the amendment cannot or will not be enforced if ever ratified. Here the paradigm is the so-called Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA) that has been periodically approved by the House of Representatives and which in March 1995 failed by a single vote in the Senate. For decades I have been waiting for BBA supporters to explain how it would be enforced, but the only responses that they have ever given are (1) “fidelity to the Constitution” (i.e. Members of Congress will only pass balanced budgets because they swear an oath to the Constitution) and (2) super-majority voting to raise the debt ceiling. Leaving aside the various loopholes in the BBA for war, national security, and 3/5th majorities, fidelity to a constitutional oath is not self-executing. The more likely scenario is that lawmakers will claim to have honored their oaths by voting against spending which they personally oppose, yet fail to reach an overall consensus on legislation that actually balances the budget. As for using the debt ceiling to enforce fiscal discipline, we were reminded how vacuous this idea was last summer when Congress raised the debt ceiling for the 75th time since March 1962 (Congressional Research Service Report RL31967, April 5, 2011).

4. The Drafting Test: Has the proposal been properly drafted to achieve its policy goals?

This is perhaps the trickiest test to apply and meet because it not only has a practical component but an aesthetic one as well. A constitutional amendment must accomplish the intended goal in language that is as clear, simple, and direct as possible, but without opening the door to judicial reinterpretations that twist the original meaning so as to gut the amendment in whole or in part. We have still not recovered from the 1873 Slaughterhouse Cases that effectively rewrote the Privileges or Immunities Clause to make it a dead letter in all but a few uncontroversial instances of federal or national citizenship. Drafters can seek to protect themselves from subsequent “judicial amendments” with detailed provisions, but this can result in wording akin to the prolixity of the tax code. Even then there is no guarantee that the original meaning will be honored. The framers of the P&I Clause could never list all of our “privileges or immunities”, any more than the framers of the 9th Amendment could list all of our unenumerated rights. There is also the problem of language changing or simply being forgotten over time. This concern can sometimes be addressed by adding specifically defined terms to an amendment, but if a court is determined to achieve a certain result, there is very little that can be done, at least in the short term. Just ask Chief Justice Roberts what a “tax” (or “direct tax”) is for constitutional purposes. 

5. The Political Test: Is the proposal politically viable?

Lastly, it is important to remember that proposed amendments must achieve deep and widespread political support to run the proposal and ratification gauntlet under Article V of the Constitution. The proposal must therefore have the potential for political viability, which in turn means that it must eventually gain bipartisan support. To be sure, many of our greatest constitutional provisions were not seen as politically viable when first proposed. The Civil War Amendments (13th, 14th, and 15th) required, well, a civil war, and the 19th Amendment required decades of political activism to achieve women’s suffrage. Still, most of us have limited time and energy, so it is best to focus on proposals that are serious and significant, yet do not favor any political party or which are so ideologically motivated as to ensure failure. One of my favorite proposals would change Tax Day from April 15 to the first Monday in November, but I am not going to make this the focus of my Article V efforts given the enormity of our fiscal problems and the need to make spending restraint by the federal government our first priority.

Andy Hawks

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

DAY TWO: August 18, 2012

A quorum of delegates from 34 states not having been found, DAY TWO was adjourned pendng the call of the Chair.

The Chairman has now issued a call for DAY TWO to be convened on Saturday, August 18, 2012 at 3PM Eastern time.

Delegates are requested to respond to the Quorum Call by logging on to, opening the page entitled "Floor Motions," and voting YES on the Quorum Call. A "NO" vote is not necessary and cannot be changed.

Delegates who log in on Saturday, August 18, 2012 will be directed to the page where the session will be held.  

At the conclusion of the session, minutes thereof will be posted here for public inspection.

Monday, February 27, 2012

DAY ONE: February 27, 2012

It appearing that delegates have registered at the web site known as representing the following thirty-four States:Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin;

And the Constitution of the United States providing in Article V that upon the petition of two thirds of the States, a convention for proposing amendments shall be called;

Now therefore, as acting Chairman of the Committee of Organization, I, Thomas E. Brennan, a registered voter in the State of Florida, do hereby call Convention USA to order, and I recognize Delegate Charles Irvin of Michigan for the purpose of posting the Inaugural Invocation.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


A new delegate - the first from Vermont - sent along some thoughts on the American flag as a comment to the blog entitle THE CHAIR. Because I want to keep THE CHAIR open for convention business, I deleted Tim Price's comment.

Still, it's worth the reading, so I am publishing it here as a separate blog:

The Citizenship of the United States of America requires the adherence to a code of conduct. It is a self-imposed ethical behavior essential to the protection of a free society. To intentionally defile this code of behavior is a violation of the premise upon which the Constitution rests.

The First Amendment, protecting freedom of Speech, does not allow for intentional deception. Essential to a democratic system among free people is collective trust among all, as was required to be represented in the Flag of the United States of America, with the ratification of the Constitution, its new Bill of Rights, and the flag.

Our Flag
Created in 1789
After the Constitutional Convention of 1787 had produced the Constitution for ratification by the thirteen colonies, two years went by without enough states ratifying it to make it law. They had to add the first 10 amendments and also adopt a code of conduct which would be a voluntary oath for all citizens to uphold.
It was their belief that for a nation to be free, it had to have trust, and to have trust, people had to uphold honor.
Without honor there is no freedom. To the degree that there is honor, there is untrammeled freedom. Honorable behavior created the atmosphere in which freedom can thrive.
If any individual acts dishonorably, they are traitors to the dream of a free society and cannot be tolerated.

White: The background banner representing purity and innocence, lack of guile.
Red: The stripes applied to the white banner: Cheer, Hardiness and Valor (worthiness)
Blue: Honor, Vigilance, Perseverance, & Justice
13 Stripes: 13 colonies
(7 red, 6 white)
A blue field with one white star for each state.
As in the Declaration of Independence: "We pledge our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor".

Old Glory
Timothy K. Price

Let me tell you a story,
About our flag, old glory,
The stars and stripes of red, white, and blue;
And of its creation,
This symbol for our nation,
And what it mean to folks like me and you.

They took the purity of white,
The brightly shining light
All the colors in the spirit of our souls
For our banner of trust,
Our pledge of good intention,
For all who live beneath her to uphold.

They emblazoned her with red,
Stripes which clearly said
With a boisterous, cheering humor, “Have no fear”.
We are hardy souls of valor,
Worthy our intent,
To do good is the reason we are here.

We are many joined as one,
Honest folk, and fair,
For honor is the air that we breathe;
So to represent our nation,
Took a patch of blue sky
And placed on it a starry constellation.

With a star for every state
Each joining in its fate,
A union which no one will leave,
Finding happiness in freedom,
This flag is our dream
That none who live among us shall deceive.

Our flag is made from scraps,
For frugal is our way.
Simple living lets others simply live.
We will shame you for your riches,
Scorn your vanity,
If greed should get the better of your soul.

There’s salvation in compassion,
Poverty in greed,
So what we have we share with loving care.
We understand hard work,
Have no tolerance for cheats,
Politician in their office should beware.

When we pledge our allegiance,
We pledge a way of life,
To be true to the meaning of our flag.
We pledge a life of honor,
To be truthful and fair,
This is our way... here in the USA.

So this is my story,
About our flag, old glory,
The stars and strips of red, white, and blue.
And of its creation,
This symbol of our nation,
and what it means to folks like me and you

I believe that this issue must be raised to the highest level of awareness. It should be taught in schools, and upheld in the courts when deciding specific cases.