State Rep. Jason Spencer on the Mount Vernon Assembly


State Rep. Jason Spencer on the Mount Vernon Assembly

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Rep. Spencer’s Report from the Mount Vernon Assembly

Many have asked about the recent Mount Vernon Assembly that I and nine other Georgia legislators attended on Saturday, December 7, 2013 at George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate.

The meeting was held inside the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington, which is across from the Mount Vernon Estate.

At our own expense, 97 legislators from 32 states gathered on that Saturday to discuss how to begin the process of establishing an Article V Convention for the purposes of amending the U.S. Constitution.

As you may be aware, there are two methods of amending the U.S. Constitution. One way is for Congress to propose amendments and send them to each state for ratification. The other way, which has never been done before in our nation’s history, is for the states to call a convention for proposing amendments for state ratification.

This process can be found in Article V of the U.S. Constitution, hence the reason it is called an Article V Convention.

However, opponents of Article V conventions use terms such as “Constitutional Convention” or “Con-Con.” I think those terms make it seem as if legislators want to completely rewrite the Constitution, or set up a haphazard meeting where things could get out of control. The legislators who were present are very mindful of the concern; therefore, the main purpose of this meeting was to develop a process to prevent such a careless approach to an Article V Convention.

An Article V Convention does not need congressional input to amend the U.S. Constitution. The states are therefore empowered under Article V to bypass Congress and amend the document. Founder George Mason argued that the people, through their respective states legislature, are able to amend the Constitution should Congress “…abuse their power, and refuse their consent on that very account”…and that…”no amendments of the proper kind would ever be obtained by the people, if the [federal] Government should become oppressive.”

The Constitution set a high bar for amendments, thus for any amendment to pass it must have strong support from the American people and their state elected officials. The states must act before the Mt. Vernon Assembly can do anything. Elected state officials must be involved in the process from appointing representatives to participate in the planning; to calling for amendments to be considered and to ratify any amendment which receives the necessary support.

The goal of the Mount Vernon Assembly was to begin the discussion of writing rules for an Article V Convention of States so that a restrained and legal process can be developed in order to control any potential wayward delegates. No constitutional amendments were discussed, but rather a thoughtful and deliberative process ensued on the organization and construction of the Convention process.

The meeting was very serious and much discussion surrounded the topics of selecting delegates from each state, writing of the rules and discussing when the next meeting would take place. A sense of urgency for moving forward was a very palpable feeling in the room. Also, an emphasis on bipartisanship to move the process forward was one of the major themes of our discussion since it requires 34 states to call a convention and 38 states to ratify any amendment.

Another main focus was keeping the Article V Convention transparent for the public.

Among the discussion was whether or not an Article V Convention can be successful, but it was accepted that it would not be if bipartisan support was not achievable.

Also, there are many hurdles to overcome to launch an Article V Convention. These hurdles range from constructing a convention process, to defining committees and financing of such an operation.

Among items of agreement among the delegates was that this process should be driven by the legislative branches of their respective states and not the executive. Also, each state should set their qualifications for delegate selection and no input from Congress should be or need be sought, since this is a state led initiative. After all, no one actually believes Washington will “fix” itself. That necessary fix will take leadership from the states. It is expected that the planning of the convention would take about one year prior to the actual call from the states.

Finally, there was a consensus that doing nothing and allowing Congress to continue to operate in the manner in which they are accustom is no longer acceptable; therefore, the states needed to exert their responsibility to rein in the federal government.

However, the question remains whether this Article V Convention can be legitimately achieved if the states continue to accept federal dollars. Coercive actions such as accepting federal dollars to operate state budgets only relegates states to administrative subunits rather than act as sovereign states whom have delegated limited powers to Washington. Restoring the Republic is now the mission and purpose of the Article V Convention.

The next chapter in the Mount Vernon Assembly’s progress to move closer to an Article V Convention will take place in a meeting sometime in 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. That date is yet to be determined, but rest assure that delegates to the Mount Vernon Assembly left Alexandria, Virginia with a sense of urgency to move forward with setting a time and date for the first plenary session of the Article V Convention.

“Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair; the rest is in the hands of God.”—George Washington.

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