Local Matters

Highlights from Harrisburg Hearing on Article V Convention

The number one takeaway from the Wednesday, October 17th hearing in Harrisburg to discuss Pennsylvania’s calls for an Article V Convention was that all parties harbor a sincere concern for the direction of the country and the menacing size and scope of the federal government. 

Senator Mike Folmer presided over a hearing, poorly attended by Senators, with enthusiasm, professionalism and fairness.  He advanced relevant, targeted questions spurring comparatively deep responses from both proponents and opposition. 

The hearing included testimony from:

-A video presentation from former US Senator Jim DeMint (advocate of the convention)

-Remarks from Sponsors of SR133, SR134

-Mark Meckler, President and C0-Founder of the Convention of States Project (advocate)

-Kim Stolfer, President of Firearms Owners Against Crime (opponent)

-Andy Schlafly,  Pennsylvania Eagle Forum (opponent)

-Ron Eichenlaub, Pennsylvania United to Amend (proponent)

-Nick Valeriano, Pennsylvania United to Amend (proponent)

Topics for proposed Amendments to the the US Constitution:

-Creating and drafting amendments to impose fiscal restraints on the federal government (such as a Balanced Budget Amendment)

-Limiting the power and jurisdiction of the federal government over states’ rights

-Limiting terms of office for officials

-Campaign finance reform (repeal of Citizens United)

On the question of how to avoid a “runaway convention,” proponents remind that no amendment may advance without support from 3/4 of the states.  This is a high threshold yet opponents ask if the rules can be altered once the convention convenes?  Does this threshold change if one or two states left the conference?

Delegates: There was no clarity as to who would be chosen as the two delegates from each state but the question was posed how they would be held accountable to adhering to the agenda? What is the enforcement mechanism?  One response was that the individual could be recalled (presumably by the state legislature).  A matter addressed in more depth was transparency of the event.  Proponents suggest full transparency and media coverage would allow citizens to remain engaged and informed in the process throughout the convention while opponents raise concerns that media coverage would  result in popular manipulation potentially adding outside pressure on the convention via public opinion.  

All parties agree the federal government spends too much and its spending power must be harnessed, thus the suggestion of a Balanced Budget Amendment.  Proponents explain that the matter would “go under discussion” at the convention itself where delegates would hopefully craft an Amendment that could pass.  Opponents ask what if the Amendment excludes certain expenditures (such as welfare or military spending).  Opponents point out that if the simple requirement is to balance the budget, with no other perimeters, the federal government could continue its spending patterns, raising taxes to cover the costs.

Clearly discussion must continue. Mr. Meckler suggested that Pennsylvania should be leading the charge in calling for an Article V Convention given its historical significance.  However, yesterday’s hearing suggests all of the skeptics’ questions have not yet been fully considered but proponents ask “how long are you willing to wait” to do something?