States May Check Federal Government with Constitutional Amendments

Louisiana’s Noble Ellington endorses Amendment seeking to “restore balance of state and federal power”

NEW ORLEANS, La. – Heightened concern with a lack of federal accountability may lead to the first state-initiated constitutional convention since the original ratification. In their efforts to shift the balance of power, a variety of organizations are building momentum to bypass federal approval and amend the constitution directly.

State leaders have the authority (from Article V of the Constitution) to hold a convention and, upon ratification by three fourths of the states, amend the Constitution. However, uncertainty surrounding such a convention and the two-thirds threshold for initiation have prevented such a convention from being called. All 27 amendments to the Constitution have gone through Congress before ratification.

Momentum is building for that precedent to end. The Goldwater Institute, an independent, Arizona-based policy institute, has been publishing substantive research into how the constitutional convention process would proceed. And newly proposed amendments have received endorsements from numerous coalitions of state leaders, including the American Legislative Exchange Council, the Council of State Governments, the National Conference of State Legislators, and the National Association of Secretaries of State.

James Booth, cofounder of and a promoter the National Debt Relief Amendment, asserts that bipartisan support makes this a unique and opportune time for a convention. His amendment would place a check on federal deficits, and he anticipates that at least five states will pass supporting resolutions in their next legislative sessions.

“We’ve met with groups of Democrats. We’ve met with groups of Republicans… Both sides dislike the [federal] debt, but there’s a lack of discipline in Washington, D.C… Americans, and even our state legislators, realize that Congress is probably unable to address this. They’re addicted to debt.”

The proposed amendment reads:

“An increase in the federal debt requires approval from a majority of the legislatures of the separate States.”

Click here to read the full article (with explanations of two further proposed amendments and a  video overview of the National Debt Relief Amendment).

Fergus Hodgson is the capitol bureau reporter with the Pelican Institute for Public Policy. He can be contacted at, and one can follow him on twitter.



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