United States Constitution

 

Article V - Amendment

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, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.

 

 

Broken down, the basic state-led amendment process is as follows:

 

1) Two-thirds (34 states) of the state Legislatures apply to congress for a “Convention for proposing Amendments” to the U.S. Constitution (“...on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States”).

 

2) Once 34 states call for the convention, Congress MUST call a “Convention for proposing Amendments” to the U.S. Constitution (“[The Congress] shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments”).

 

3) Hold the “Convention for proposing Amendments” and propose an amendment.  The “Convention for proposing Amendments” would consist of state officials.  Congress would not control the “Convention for proposing Amendments.”

 

4) After the “Convention for proposing Amendments,” three-quarters (38) state legislatures approve the amendment (“which ... shall be valid ... when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States”).

 

Simply put, the state-led amendment process is the same process that was used to produce the previous amendments to the Constitution except that the states propose the amendment instead of Congress.

 

A “Convention for proposing Amendments” to the U.S. Constitution as a result of applications of the state legislatures has never occurred, so there are many questions that would have to be answered.  Most importantly, what would be the timeline for the process?  The “Convention for proposing Amendments” could be held within months and state legislatures could ratify a proposed amendment just as quickly.

 

It is also critical to note that even getting close to the 34 states needed to call a “Convention for proposing Amendments” would put tremendous pressure on the US Congress to act.  In fact, in at least two instances, the states getting close to the threshold for a “Convention for proposing Amendments” led to action by Congress: a balanced budget act in the early 80’s and the presentation to the states of what would become the 17th Amendment.

 

See the Colorado House Resolution applying to Congress for a Convention for proposing Amendments here.  The Resolution was passed on January 19, 2012.

 

See proposed Applications to Congress here.

 

See the whole U.S. Constitution here.