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Sen. Steve Halloran

Sen. Steve Halloran

District 33

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Since I selected Legislative Resolution 6 as my priority bill, my office has been receiving quite a bit of constituent correspondence both in support and opposition. One thing I have noticed is that there is some confusion and miscommunication about what a Convention of States represents.

Over the next several weeks, I will be sharing information regarding the history of what our Constitution provides for containing a run-away federal government….namely, Article V. Article V of the U.S. Constitution grants Congress the power to propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution, and we’re all familiar with that process. It’s happened successfully 27 times in our nation’s history, and it’s how we’ve accomplished some important things, like ending slavery and guaranteeing women’s right to vote. But Article V also grants the same power to the states to propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution. That power has not been exercised in American history — yet.

The reason this provision was added to the Constitution was because just two days before the close of the 1787 convention, there was concern raised by George Mason. In keeping with the checks and balances of the Framers, Mason believed that no branch of government should have the power to determine the extent of its own power. He predicted that someday the federal government would abuse the carefully enumerated powers bestowed in the text of the Constitution. When that day arrived, structural amendments would be needed to curtail federal over-reach, but if Congress alone had the power to propose amendments, no corrections would ever be forthcoming. Based on this clear-headed observation, the Framers unanimously added the option for the states to propose amendments through a convention of states.

The U.S. Constitution grants specific, limited powers to the federal government to fulfill its duty to preserve and protect individual rights and promote the “general welfare.”   But the Founders recognized that the federal government might overstep and abuse those powers, and that it was highly unlikely Congress would then act to restrain itself.   So the Founders also gave the states the power to convene together and propose amendments to the Constitution to restrain federal abuses, in what Article V calls a “convention” of the states.

Article V reads: “The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, 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 . . .”

In other words, two-thirds (34) of the states pass an application for a convention to propose amendments, then the states choose their delegates, and whatever amendments are passed at that convention by the states still need to be ratified by the same process as any congressional amendment.    Over the years, the states have enacted over 400 applications for a convention, but none has ever been called, because two-thirds of the states have never agreed on the subject matter for such a convention.   Several states have already called for a convention to impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and impose term limits on federal officials.

Importantly, the Convention does not have power (just as Congress does not have power) under Article V to rewrite or completely overhaul the U.S. Constitution, or propose amendments beyond the scope of the application passed through each state legislature.   Two of the nation’s foremost constitutional attorneys have written extensively on the procedural safeguards of a convention of states, and this simulation showed exactly how and why it will work as a check on the federal government, exactly as intended.   This is the Founders’ solution to Washington’s hunger for power and institutional corruption, and the states are rallying.   Going into the 2017 legislative sessions, eight states have passed the convention of states application.   Arizona just this past week became the ninth state.  Another 30 states have pending legislation.

Sen. Steve Halloran

District 33
Room #1306
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2712
Email: shalloran@leg.ne.gov
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