JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Last year, Missouri lawmakers came very close to passing its own language calling for an Article V “Convention of States” and in 2016, they’ll likely be hearing from former U.S. Senator Tom Coburn about why they need to get it across the finish line.
Coburn formally registered last week as a lobbyist for Convention of States Action, an organization founded by Citizens for Self Governance that hopes to rally two-thirds of the states in the country to formally call for an Article V convention which, according to the constitution, empowers states to meet and pass amendments to the U.S. Constitution without needing congressional approval.
For years, both liberal and conservative groups have worked to take advantage of the rarely-used constitutional provision designed by the founders to allow states to gather outside of congressional process to pass sweeping reforms. On the left, activists hope to amend the constitution to pass strict campaign finance laws and undo the “Citizens United” ruling, while activists on the right typically focus their efforts on a convention that will pass a balanced budget amendment.
Convention of States Action has more broad message. Their goal is to call a convention with the goal of “limiting the power and jurisdiction of the federal government.” Robert Kelly, chief counsel for COS, said the broad theme was deliberate in the hopes of attracting a wide range of political support.
“It’s a high bar,” Kelly said, noting that the last interstate convention was in 1922, and was not an Article V convention, but a seven-state meeting about the Colorado River. “The founders didn’t want this process to be used lightly. At the same time, there are a lot of people for different reasons who are fed up with the federal government, whether it’s the budget, term limits, or the commerce clause.”
Last year, Senate Concurrent Resolution 21 passed through the senate with bipartisan support and was one vote away from full approval in the House. SCR 21 submitted an application to Congress for calling an Article V convention to “propose certain amendments to the U.S. Constitution which place limits on the federal government.” COS hopes to get Missouri and 33 other states to ultimately submit such an application. Four states have already submitted their language: Georgia, Alaska, Alabama, and Florida. In 2016, COS hopes to add a dozen more states to that list, and Missouri is “very high” among their targets, Kelly said.
“We literally just ran out of time before the end of the session [in Missouri],” Kelly said. “A lot of the states in the Midwest are on our list of targets, Missouri is certainly very high on that list.”
COS will dispatch Coburn and other lobbyists, some who have yet to officially register, to keep Missouri lawmakers behind their Article V language. Coburn, who served three terms in the House of Representatives before serving two terms of the Senate, will be leading lobby efforts in Missouri and other states after joining last fall as a Senior Advisor to COS.
Collin Reischman was the Managing Editor for The Missouri Times, and a graduate of Webster University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.