Senate President Pro Tempore David Long chats with then-Senate Minority Leader Vi Simpson on the floor of the Indiana Senate. Long has joined legislators from four other states in calling for a convention of state legislators to address an "imbalance of power" between the states and federal government, (HPI Photo by Brian A. Howey)
By BRIAN A. HOWEY
NASHVILLE, Ind. - Senate President Pro Tempore David Long has joined legislators from four other states calling for a bipartisan "Mount Vernon Assembly" to address the "imbalance of power" between the states and federal government.
Long joined Wisconsin State Rep. Chris Kapenga, Ohio Speaker Pro Tem Matt Huffman, Oklahoma State Rep. Gary Banz and Kansas State Sen. Caryn Tyson in calling for the summit at the birthplace of President George Washington on Dec. 7.
"Article V of the U.S. Constitution gives states equal standing with Congress to propose constitutional amendments," Long and the other legislators wrote. "The framers of the Constitution included the state option to address issues of abuse or inaction by the federal government. In light of the federal government’s struggle to effectively execute the will of the people combined with the imbalance of power that currently exists between the federal and state governments, we respectfully request your state’s participation in a bipartisan gathering of state legislators to be known as the Mount Vernon Assembly. It is our hope that all 50 states will be represented at this meeting."
Long, R-Fort Wayne, authored Senate Joint Resolution 18 which makes an application to Congress to call a Constitutional Convention during the 2013 session. He pulled the legislation before it came up for a vote. He introduced two companion measures, S.B. 224 and 225, which outlined how to appoint delegates and their duties.
The call for the Mount Vernon Assembly included outlining the intentions. "The purpose of the Assembly is to (1) convene in a politically pure environment comprised only of currently serving state legislators, free from the influence of outside organizations; and (2) discuss and draft an agenda for a Convention of the States for the sole purpose of writing the rules that would govern future meetings of that legislative body, including any Article V Conventions for Proposing Amendments."
The legislators added: The purpose of the Assembly is not to promote any Article V subject matter. We believe establishing rules for future Conventions of the States will (1) cultivate the communication and interaction of state governments, fostering a rebalance of power under our federalist system; and (2) ensure that a prudent and cautious process is put in place to govern all future deliberations of the body; and (3) eliminate the distraction around the process of an Article V Convention, thus allowing any Article V application to be analyzed solely on the merits of its subject matter."
The legislators are requesting a bipartisan delegation from every state of no more than three legislators. To ensure there is no undue influence by third parties, each state legislature and legislator will be responsible for their own expenses.
Last March, Long told The Indiana Lawyer's Marilyn Odendahl, "“The founders gave us that ability” for the states to convene a convention "without congressional interference."
“It’s tougher now than when there were only 13 states," Long said. "but they gave us that ability expecting us to utilize it as a key tool to limit federal overreach … .”
Long has seen the Affordable Care Act as an example of a growing imbalance of power. His move also comes as polling has showed approval of Congress as low as 5% in the wake of the embarrassing federal government shutdown and a flirtation with default.
In addition to Obamacare, Long and other Indiana legislators are frustrated by the lack of immigration reform, believing Congress is shucking its duty to protect borders.
"The Mount Vernon Assembly plans to discuss how we, as states, can write the rules around such a convention and ensure we are being proper stewards of our constitutional responsibilities," Long and the other legislators wrote. "This would allow each legislature to focus on the merits of an application’s subject matter instead of being tied up in debate on process. The states have never been successful at actually convening an Article V Convention because the focus has always been on subject matter, instead of the details of the process."