GRASSROOTS ACTIVISTS DERAIL OHIO CON-CON RESOLUTION
news writer Sarah Foster
Posted 1:00 AM Eastern
December 15, 2008
COLUMBUS, Ohio — An attempt by GOP lawmakers to sneak a resolution through the state legislature last week calling for a constitutional convention – or “con con” -- was halted, at least until next year, by a hastily assembled coalition of grassroots activists who lobbied representatives at the state capitol and testified against the controversial measure during its committee hearing Wednesday.
“I believe it was God’s blessing that we found out about it and were able to organize quickly and put a stop to it being voted on today by the committee and the House. It was moving very quickly,” activist Teri Owens told NewsWithViews that evening.
“We seem to have put a kink in their plans because this had been introduced very quietly and we almost missed it,” she said. “We had no idea this was coming down the pike.”
Rep. Matt Huffman, a Republican first-term member of the House of Representatives, the General Assembly’s lower chamber, waited until Dec. 3 to introduce House Joint Resolution 8, which if passed by both houses would make Ohio the 33rd state to petition Congress to call a constitutional convention. Under Article V of the U.S. Constitution, when the legislatures of two-thirds (34) of the states have passed a petitioning resolution, Congress is mandated to convene a convention.
Fourteen Republican legislators signed on as cosponsors but no Democrats.
with similar resolutions introduced over the years in Ohio and other
states, HJR 8 and SJR 9 limit discussion and consideration to one amendment
(in this instance, a Balanced Budget Amendment) to the Constitution,
and Ohio delegates would be bound not to address or vote on any other
issue that might be introduced.
“Russian Roulette with the Constitution”
Calling a constitutional convention has been a hot-button issue for over three decades. Although it is one of two methods Article V of the Constitution provides for amendment, it has never been used. The danger in holding a con con, according to most legal scholars, is that once the delegates are assembled there is no way to limit debate to one topic, and it is possible that an entirely new Constitution could be introduced and ratified.
As former Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger wrote in 1983, in an oft-quoted letter to Phyllis Schafly, president of Eagle Forum:
“I have also repeatedly given my opinion that there is no effective way to limit or muzzle the actions of a Constitutional Convention. The convention could make its own rules and set its own agenda. Congress might try to limit the convention to one amendment or to one issue, but there is no way to assure that the convention would obey. After a convention is convened, it will be too late to stop the convention if we don't like its agenda. The meeting in 1787 ignored the limit placed by the confederation Congress ‘for the sole and express purpose.’ …
“A new convention could plunge our Nation into constitutional confusion and confrontation at every turn, with no assurance that focus would be on the subjects needing attention.”
Which is why Schafly characterized a con con as “playing Russian roulette with the Constitution.”
And it is why national organizations across the political spectrum have opposed calling one. These include the John Birch Society, Gun Owners of America, the National Rifle Association, Daughters of the American Revolution, the AFL-CIO, the American Civil Liberties Union and People for the American Way.
They’ve been largely successful. Following an initial spate of approvals during the 1970s, during which some 30 states passed con-con resolutions, no state has followed their lead since 1983, though numerous attempts have been made. Several states have rescinded their resolutions, but it is questionable that Congress will acknowledge these rescissions.
HJR 8 brings the con-con issue back into public debate.
A Slam-Dunk Passage
The plan apparently was for the committee to hear the bill (with no adverse testimony allowed), vote in its favor, and send it straight to the floor of the House for a slam-dunk passage. They had good reason for confidence. HJR 8’s introduction this late in the session meant that likely opponents wouldn’t be aware of it until it was signed into law. Moreover, the measure was assigned to the 11-member Judiciary Committee, comprised of five Democrats and six Republicans, four of whom were cosponsors.
Although Democrats took the House in the Nov. 4 election, it remains under Republican control until Jan. 3, essentially guaranteeing HJR 8’s passage if it was waved through committee. The GOP still holds the Senate by a commanding majority.
To top it off, the Judiciary Committee is chaired by Rep. Louis Blessing, a Republican who’s been with the Ohio Legislature – either in the Senate or House – for 25 years. Though not a cosponsor of HJR 8, back in 1987 Blessing had cosponsored a similar resolution, which was defeated.
a 20-year champion for getting a con-con through,” Teri Owens
Wednesday’s scenario didn’t happen as planned, but only because the Institute for Principled Policy, an Ohio-based think tank, learned of it the Friday before the scheduled hearing – wrote up an incisive analysis with what-to-do instructions and posted these on the Internet. In its analysis the IPP warned:
“Kiss the second amendment goodbye, in favor of a ‘collective’ right to self-defense, meaning no private ownership of firearms or other weapons. Only police and armed forces (not to mention criminals) will have guns. Kiss the much battered and abused 4th and 5th amendments goodbye. Watch for the 1st Amendment to be ‘revised’ into a meaningless jumble of verbiage which any court can feel free to misconstrue at will. The same for the rest of the Bill of Rights.
"State sovereignty as guaranteed in the 9th and 10th Amendments and Article IV of the Constitution? An archaic idea whose time has passed in a modern world. It will be chucked in favor of wording which would allow easy melding of the United States of America with its northern and southern neighbors into a United States of North and South America as part of a regional world governance scheme under the UN.”
The news was picked up by the umbrella group Ohio Freedom Alliance and handed along to activists in Ohio and nationwide in a cyberspace tag-team effort.
When NWVs columnist Tom DeWeese, who heads the American Policy Center in Virginia, learned about the hearing -- and the possibility that a vote in both the committee and on the floor could be taken that very day -- he sent out a Sledgehammer Action Alert to tens of thousands of activists across the country urging them to "TAKE IMMEDIATE ACTION" by contacting the chairman of the committee where HJR 8 was to be heard and other lawmakers, insisting that they vote it down.
"This is the most important action alert the American Policy Center has ever issued!" DeWeese stated. "If Ohio calls for a Con Con only one more state need do so and Congress will have no choice but to convene a Convention, throwing our U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights up for grabs"
"It does not matter where you live," he declared. "Ohio's vote today endangers everyone in every state in the Union, so we must pressure Ohio lawmakers to discard this disastrous legislative effort."
Critics faced a major hurdle: no testimony would be allowed at the hearing. Ohioans and constitutionalists from around the country flooded the offices of committee members and other lawmakers with a phone calls and e-mails. It was apparently this massive outpouring of state and national indignation that persuaded Blessing to change his mind, though he has not admitted this. Whatever the reason, the chairman agreed to permit testimony.
Teri Owens shared details of the hearing with NewsWithViews.com.
On Wednesday, a total of 10 speakers representing the Institute for Principled Policy, the Ohio Freedom Alliance, the Libertarian Party of Ohio, the Constitution Party of Ohio, the John Birch Society, Campaign for Liberty, and We Are Change Ohio were able to address the issue and answer questions. Of those 10, perhaps one had ever testified before a committee.
“Most of us were frightened, but we knew we didn’t have a choice,” said Owens. “It was something we had to do.”
Rep. Huffman, who authored HJR 8, presented the only testimony in its favor. Owens said that during his remarks he turned to face their group, telling them that he “knew” that those in opposition were there “out of fear” – that opponents of the con-con are “just fearful of what’s going to happen.”
“So we impressed on the committee that it was not about fear, but about wisdom,” Owens said. “We laid out every objection that there is to a con-con.”
NOTE: Their testimony is transcribed and posted – with some videos -- on the Institute for Principled Policy’s website and the website for PeaceChicken.com.
Their work paid off. The committee did not take a vote on Wednesday and the latest word is that it will not do so at this time. Its companion SJR9 will not be heard in committee. So it appears the con con is dead for this session – but it will definitely be reintroduced next year. Moreover, a staff member in Blessing’s office told NewsWithViews that the chairman can call the committee for an emergency session at any time – and a vote could then be taken.
Barry Sheets of IPP warns, “Anything can happen until the General Assembly adjourns sine die [indefinitely], which may be held off until the very end of the year given the instability of the state’s budget. They may, or the governor could, call an emergency session to deal with issues, so we need to stay on guard until that last gavel drops on the 127th General Assembly.”
A Con Con to Kill the Constitution
In February, NWV columnist Jon Ryter posed the question Could the 2008 Election Bring the End of America as We Know It?, and stated that the new president, whoever that would be, had been tasked with abolishing the economic sovereignty of the United States.
“Hemispheric government -- through the merging of Canada and Mexico with the United States, followed by the inclusion of Central and then South America into what will be called the American Union with the absolute loss of national sovereignty—is just around the corner,” Ryter predicted.
Ryter further predicted that citizen groups will push for a constitutional convention in an attempt to head this off, with the argument advanced that this is the only way to thwart the Council on Foreign Relation’s plan to formalize the North American Union.
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“With globalist McCain, Clinton or Obama in the White House, the argument will appear to contain enough truth that it will draw supporters like metal shaving to a magnet,” Ryter declared. “In addition, proponents of the Convention will argue that only a constitutional amendment will force the federal government to deport all illegal aliens. Again, it will sound logical.”
1. Jon Christian Ryter: Could the 2008 Election Bring the End of America as We Know It? Feb. 2, 2008
Institute for Principled Policy: Sowing the Wind -- Part
1, Part 2,
Part 3, Part
4, Part 5
2. For Updates: www.peacechicken.com and American Policy Center
3. Phyllis Schlafly: Playing Russian Roulette with the Constitution, Dec. 1984
4. Phyllis Schlafly: Combating Chicanery about the Constitution, Sept. 1987
5. Phyllis Schafly: Is a Con Con Hidden in Term Limits? May 1996
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