INDIANAPOLIS | Legislative leaders in all 50 states have been asked to send delegates to Indianapolis for a second discussion on the state-led process for crafting amendments to the U.S. Constitution, and to begin shaping the rules and procedures a Convention of the States that would follow.
Senate President David Long, R-Fort Wayne, is among the organizers of the June 12-13 meeting of The Mount Vernon Assembly that will convene in the Indiana Statehouse.
He said delegates won't be proposing amendments to the U.S. Constitution this time. Instead, the goal is "to put a structure and a foundation in place for a Convention of the States, so that we can have consensus on how this thing is going to be run."
"That way, we can go into it with confidence that it will be run properly, it will remain in control of the states and it will not be a runaway convention," Long said.
There are two authorized methods for changing the nation's fundamental governing document. The only one that has been used is when two-thirds of Congress proposes an amendment and three-fourths of the states (38 states) ratify it.
However, the Constitution also permits what has come to be known as an "Article V convention," named for its placement in the fifth section of the Constitution.
Under that scenario, two-thirds of state legislatures (34 states) ask Congress to call a Convention of the States for proposing constitutional amendments. If the convention approves an amendment, it then can be ratified by three-fourths of the states and added to the Constitution without congressional approval.
Because an Article V convention has never been called, there are no clear procedures on how it would begin, what rules the convention would follow or whether it could be limited in scope.
Nevertheless, the Article V idea is increasingly popular among conservatives with a variety of grievances against the federal government.
Some pundits even have demanded states convene an Article V convention immediately to begin making constitutional changes they believe are necessary to save America.
Long said he's heard the calls for fast action on an Article V convention, but is confident the careful, thoughtful approach being taken by The Mount Vernon Assembly is the best way to ensure Congress authorizes a Convention of the States and that any proposed constitutional amendments are seen as legitimate.
"This is the one group that is moving forward, with state legislators, putting a process in place so whatever ideas ultimately win out and get to a convention, we will have everything ready to go and the process will work effectively," Long said. "Without this structure, it won't work."
A bipartisan group of lawmakers from 33 states initially met in December at George Washington's Mount Vernon estate in Virginia to see if there was sufficient support to move forward with planning for a Convention of the States.
Long said he expects The Mount Vernon Assembly will meet a third time later this year to tweak and finalize the decisions it makes at the Indianapolis session. Then state legislatures in 2015 can begin sending identical resolutions to Congress requesting a Convention of the States.
He said the topic of the first proposed amendment likely will be a requirement for a balanced federal budget or some other plan to rein in the national debt.
"We need something to change and this is, I think, the only way it's going to happen — the states are going to have to take charge," Long said.