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Article V

Article V of the Constitution provides a way to propose and enact amendments to the Constitution of the United States.

The Issue

Article V of the Constitution provides a mechanism whereby Congress and state legislatures can amend the Constitution. Once dismissed as too impractical or too risky, constitutional reform under Article V has emerged as a valid and even indispensable tool for the kind of changes to public policy that are needed.

Six states passed a total of seven Article V resolutions or bills in 2015, and all 50 states either saw bills introduced or recently adopted Article V resolutions. The Constitution requires Congress to call a convention if 34 states submit applications, and 38 states would have to ratify the proposed amendment for it to become part of the Constitution.

Alaska, Georgia, Mississippi, and North Dakota have passed the Compact for a Balanced Budget. The measure, spearheaded by Compact for America, calls for an Article V convention to vote on a proposed amendment requiring a balanced federal budget, through an interstate compact agreement that simplifies the procedures for calling a convention. Lawmakers in Alabama, Michigan, Missouri, and North Carolina say they will consider the legislation in 2016.

Twenty-seven states also have passed single-subject applications for an Article V convention calling for a balanced federal budget. Oklahoma, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin will consider such legislation in 2016.

Alabama, Alaska, Florida, and Georgia have passed a multiple-subject resolution sponsored by Convention of States calling for an Article V convention. The proposal includes term limits for Members of Congress and reducing federal regulations in addition to a balanced budget amendment. Thirty-five states introduced this resolution during the 2015-2016 legislative session.

Additionally, some states are forming a compact commission to suspend the regulations of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare. Legislatures in Georgia, Indiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah have enacted measures to join the compact.

A new social movement is arising across the nation in support of constitutional reform. Legitimate and increasingly successful groups that exist solely for the purpose of pursuing constitutional reform include the Assembly of State Legislatures, Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force, Compact for America, Convention of States, Friends of Article V Convention, and State Legislators Article V Caucus.

Constitutional reform is on the front burner in countries other than the United States. Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada has advocated for the elimination of the country's sentate. Mexico is considering constitutional changes to stem corruption in its national government. The United Kingdom is planning to write its first formal constitution in the nation's 300-year history.

In the United States, constitutional reform should be used to impose fiscal discipline on the national government, restore the role of the states in our system of federalism, and end the practice of burdening future generations with the debt that results from today's reckless spending.


Policy Takeaways

  • An interstate compact agreement is one way to simplify the procedures for calling an Article V convention to consider a constitutional amendment to require a balanced federal budget.
  • A single-subject application for an Article V convention should be used by states to call for a balanced federal budget.
  • States should form a compact commission to suspend the regulations of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.