On Dec. 7, Florida Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, and Rep. Larry Metz, R-Yalaha, attended the Mt. Vernon Assembly in Mt. Vernon, Va., where 100 lawmakers from 32 different states gathered in Mount Vernon, Virginia, to discuss organizing an Article V convention. Since then, 15 states including Florida have filed legislation calling for this convention.
Article V provides a method by which the States may propose and ratify amendments to the Constitution without approval by the Congress, the President or the Supreme Court. When thirty-four States first agree to a proposed amendment, and subsequently, thirty-eight of the States authorize the amendment, according to Article V, the modification becomes a part of the Constitution
The Santa Rosa Tea Party Patriots, made up of conservatives, libertarians and Tea Party supporters, discussed the Mt. Vernon Assembly and proposed commission on federalism at their March 22 Constitution and Coffee meeting. The Tea Party Patriots support a state-sponsored commission on federalism and a Constitutional convention to amend the Constitution.
“This is what we should have been doing,” said Carl Hudgens, who began a weekly Constitution and Coffee meeting two years ago.
A federalism commission, Hudgens said, would aid in calling for a convention to amend the United States Constitution, a power delegated to the states under Article V of the Constitution.
“Article V is the vertical separation between the federal government and the states,” said Sam Mullins, co-founder of the Santa Rosa Tea Party Patriots.
Hudgens said the focus of this convention would be narrow and cover three things: setting fiscal restraints on the federal government, setting term limits on Congress and stopping federal encroachment on and usurpation of state powers by clearly defining items in the Constitution like the “welfare clause.”
“It may take 18 months to three years to reach the 38 states required to pass the convention, and around nine months to 18 months to call the convention,” Mullins said.
Upon returning from Mt. Vernon, Hays and Metz introduced sisters bills (SM 476 and HM 381) petitioning Congress to call an Article V Convention of States for the limited purpose of proposing amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Florida’s version of legislation for a commission on federalism, SB 480, filed by Sen. Greg Evers, R-Pensacola, is pending in committee.
But Mullins said another option is to let existing committees take up the responsibilities of said commission. He said the first role of a commission on federalism would be to watch how the federal government encroaches on state rights. The second role would be to serve a committee of correspondence, a committee to contact other states for support on federalism.
Mullins gave two examples of federal usurpation of power: Montana’s fight with the federal government about freeway speed limits and Louisiana’s bout with the government about the drinking age. Mullins said the federal government can blackmail states to change local laws by removing federal funding.
“June 12 and 13 will be the next Mt. Vernon Assembly,” Mullins said.