However, experts say the changes could complicate Convention of States movements already in progress.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced on Jan. 29 that the state legislature will be certifying four constitutional changes calling for new amendments to be added to the U.S. Constitution.
His hitting points are Congressional term limits, a balanced budget, line-item veto power, and ensuring members of Congress cannot exempt themselves from any laws they pass.
However, constitutional experts told The Epoch Times that these changes to Article V, while proactive, spark confusion and risk complicating the Convention of States project already years in the making.
“I’m a little bit confused about what the governor is talking about right now,” said President of Convention of States Action, Mark Meckler.
“And also [it is] important to note, Ron DeSantis is an endorser of our project. He was an early endorser. And so he’s been with us for a long time.
“So why restart [and] kind of reinvent the wheel? We have over 5 million people involved nationally.
“We’ve got folks in every single state legislative district in the United States of America. We’re pending in all these legislatures.
“Our folks are out there lobbying, and all these legislatures and—and they’re honestly a bit confused about what’s coming out of Florida right now. It doesn’t really make much sense to us.”
Two out of the four resolutions are already moving through the Florida State Legislature.
According to the House website, it applies to the Congress of United States to call a convention for the sole purpose of proposing amendments to the Constitution of the United States to set a limit on the number of terms to which a person may be elected as a member of United States House of Representatives and to set a limit on the number of terms to which person may be elected as a member of the United States Senate.
It also passed the House 80–33 on Jan. 9 and was received by the Senate on Jan. 11.
“The good thing about all those reforms is … it’s not Republican, Democrat, [or] Independent,” Mr. DeSantis said.
“I mean … if you ask people, should there be term limits for Congress? You get support across the board: Republican, Democrat, Independent male, female, black, white, it doesn’t matter.
“People believe that you should have term limits. If they say, ‘Should they have to balance the budget like Florida and other states,’ most people are going to say ‘yes.’
“Should they be able to exempt themselves from laws? ‘No, of course not.’”
“Our Founding Fathers envisioned elected service as a short-term sacrifice, not a means of personal enrichment in which elected officials can pick and choose which laws to follow,” said Florida’s Senate President Kathleen Passidomo.
“The American people are fed up. With these initiatives, Florida is sending a strong message that the federal government must be accountable to the people.”
Amendments With or Without Washington
Under Article V of the U.S. Constitution, there are two ways an amendment can be ratified.
It can be proposed by Congress, passed by a two-thirds supermajority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, and then sent to all 50 state legislatures.
If the amendment gets a simple majority vote in both houses of 38 legislatures, it is ratified and added to the Constitution.
This process is how the past 17 of the 27 amendments have been individually ratified, with the other 10 being the Bill of Rights, which was ratified all at once on Dec. 15, 1791.
But Article V also allows for another way outside of Washington’s leadership: a Convention of States.
A Convention of States is called by Congress once a simple majority of both houses in 34 state legislatures pass resolutions agreeing to meet to resolve specific issues, such as the need to enact term limits on Congress.
Once that hurdle is cleared, all 50 states are invited to send delegates to the convention to formulate constitutional amendments.
No state is required to send delegates to the convention. Only 26 state delegations have to reach an agreement for proposed amendments to be submitted to every state for ratification.
Congress is also able to determine if the states get to ratify the amendments via a simple majority of both houses of the legislature or through individual conventions within themselves.
“What they’re talking about, I believe, is simply saying, ‘This is the amendment we would like to see proposed at the convention.’ So it’s a way to get pre-approval,” Rick Green, founder of Patriot Academy, told The Epoch Times of the certified reforms.
But while “there’s no reason not to do it,” he said it is not a substitute for a convention, meaning that whatever resolution Florida brings forward will be subject to change by other delegates, and whatever amendment emerges would have to go back to Tallahassee for ratification.
An ongoing Convention of State resolution spearheaded by Mr. Meckler’s advocacy group has been passed by 19 states since April 2014, including Florida, and Mr. Meckler told The Epoch Times that he anticipates more will be added by the end of this year’s legislative sessions.
Active legislation to pass the resolution is reported in another 15 states.
If 34 states pass the resolution, Mr. Meckler said that this convention would be limited to crafting suggested amendments based on three declared topics: calling for a convention to discuss term limits, imposing fiscal restraints, and limiting the federal government’s scope, power, and jurisdiction.
And there is concern about the language of Mr. DeSantis’s reforms being too limiting and different to be grouped in with this resolution, forcing him to essentially start from square one.
“The historical practice has always been to group calls for a convention that are identical or nearly identical,” John Malcolm, Vice President of Constitutional Government, told The Epoch Times.
“And, so, Florida has already signed on to the convention of the states. All of a sudden, they start saying: ‘Well, we want to add a presidential line-item veto,’ which is not part of the original Convention of States. ‘And we want to add something that says that all laws have to apply equally to members of Congress,’ which is not part of the original Convention of States.”
Mr. Meckler pointed out that the governor’s term limits change does not address the problems of “the deep state” by leaving out limits for staffers and bureaucrats and said of the line-item veto amendment that rather than limiting power, “it balances the power within the federal government is the Congress over the legislative branch,” and doubted if it would fit under their current convention application.
He also said that several other amendments could come out of a convention under the original three topics, such as officially capping the number of Supreme Court Justices at nine and granting states jurisdiction over their borders.
Mr. DeSantis’s office redirected The Epoch Times’ request for comment to Mr. Renner’s office, and his office did not return The Epoch Times’ multiple requests for comment.
Convention of States
A Convention of States has never been successfully called in the United States, but more than 400 attempts have been made—including the ongoing push started by Mr. Meckler and Mike Farris.
Their advocacy group consists of more than 5 million people. If any convention comes to fruition, this group will have no active role in the actual dealings.
This potential of a convention has been met with concern, as skeptics view it as a dangerous loophole to overrule the government and risk opening Pandora’s box of a “runaway convention” that could result in negative changes.
A convention might be called to add term limits for Congress and fiscal accountability but end up producing amendments for gun control and abortion.
“The Article Five convention was precisely put in place because Congress might have a temptation—the president, too, and, to some degree, the courts—[to] keep adding to their own power and very little incentive to limit their own power,” Mr. Malcolm said.
“This was a vehicle for the people [to] correctly say, ‘enough is enough’ and fix that.”
He said there was “an ever-present risk” of a possible “runaway convention” because it is “still an open question” whether or not a Convention of States can be called on the limited subject matter.
Mr. Malcolm pointed out that states are making an effort to pass laws punishing any delegate who “attempts to deviate, to consider amendments from subject areas that are outside those areas that have been approved.”
“There have been over 400 applications for [a] convention in the history of the country,” said Mr. Meckler. “And this started, literally, immediately after the Constitution was ratified.
Even if a “runaway convention” happened, it would produce nothing more than suggestions that only need a simple majority “no” from 13 states.
“People need to know this: A convention is nothing more than a suggestion convention,” said Rick Green, founder of Patriot Academy.
“It’s just proposing amendments. It’s literally the states getting together [to] talk about and think about and propose an amendment, and then it goes back to the 50 states, and they really deliberate on whether or not to ratify that.”
Mr. Malcolm also suggested that a convention may not be necessary, referring to when Congress passed the 17th Amendment for ratification, right as the number of states calling for a convention came close to 34.
“A lot of times, Congress will resist reining in its own power until it sees the handwriting on the wall and realizes that this is overwhelmingly popular, then finally look like they’re out in front of things they will all of a sudden propose a constitutional amendment that has happened before is that Congress quote unquote, gets its act together [when it] looks like the states are going to do it anyway,” he said.
“And they don’t want to be perceived as fighting the states.”