Testimony in support of H.P. 804

submitted by Mark A. Kilburn

Good afternoon Chairman Whittemore and Chairman Martin and distinguished members of the Committee on State and Local Government. My name is Mark Kilburn and I am a resident of Portland.

I have come today to speak to you in support of an Article V Convention of the States. I have two children, one 24 year-old graduate student and one 17 year-old high school junior and I am concerned about the current level of Federal government overreach and its impact on their lives.  I believe that common sense changes need to be made to the United States Constitution via well thought out amendments.

Change, as I am sure we all agree is hard and a little daunting.  It is stated in the Declaration of Independence “…all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”  I say this not because I believe anything needs to be abolished, but to demonstrate how reluctant people are to make any changes.  This reluctance often gives way to fear and misinformation.

Many critics of the Article V process have been using fear and misinformation by raising the specter of a “runaway” convention that will disregard its original charge and turn the Convention of the States into an unlimited convention, thereby exposing the constitution to complete revision.

This criticism is unfounded.  There is a process in Article V.  It confers the power to the states to force Congress to call for a convention on the application of two-thirds or 33 state legislatures to propose amendments.  That will require a tremendous amount of effort and debate throughout the country by informed citizens.  In addition, the state legislatures will be involved in selecting delegates to attend such a convention.  None of this will be done lightly, but is there another safeguard to prevent a runaway convention?

Yes. Article V also provides one.  The proposed amendments “…shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three-fourths of the several states or by Convention in three-fourths thereof…”  This again will require vigorous debate which, when done at local levels, will allow the electorate the opportunity to join-in and contribute.

In addition to these constitutional limits, there is the state legislatures influence over the entire process.  The states’ applications will define the scope of the convention.  The states will instruct the delegates.  The states will have the power to recall a delegate.   There will be a need to garner a majority of state committees at the convention.  A super-majority of state committees and legislative bodies will be needed to pass the proposed amendments if legislatures are chosen by Congress to ratify which is the likely method.

This does not even contemplate legal challenges that would backstop any inappropriate or unconstitutional amendment in the unlikely event that the above safeguards miss.

I believe government by the people and for the people works and is one of the great strengths of our system.  A Convention of the States under Article V is a constitutional method for us to restore our governmental system.

In my view, our constitution is being “amended” almost daily by actions being taken in Washington without these safeguards.  Why shouldn’t the state Legislatures be allowed, at least to attempt, to use a constitutional method to correct the current disregard for our constitution?

I respectfully ask you to support H.P. 804 and vote to pass it.