Proposed Legislation to Implement the Convention Method of Amending the Constitution

Article V of the Constitution of the United States provides that constitutional amendments may be proposed in either of two ways–by two-thirds of both houses of the Congress or by a convention called by the Congress in response to the applications of two-thirds of the state legislatures. Although the framers of the Constitution evidently contemplated that the two methods of initiating amendments would operate as parallel procedures, neither superior to the other, this has not been the case historically. Each of the twenty-five constitutional amendments ratified to date was proposed by the Congress under the first alternative. As a result, although the mechanics and limitations of congressional power under the first alternative are generally understood, very little exists in the way of precedent or learning relating to the unused alternative method in article V. This became distressingly clear recently, following the disclosure that thirty-two state legislatures had, in one form or another, petitioned the Congress to call a convention to propose a constitutional amendment permitting states to apportion their legislatures on the basis of some standard other than the Supreme Court’s “one man-one vote” requirement. The scant information and considerable misinformation and even outright ignorance displayed on the subject of constitutional amendment, both within the Congress and outside of it-and particularly the dangerous precedents threatened by acceptance of some of the constitutional misconceptions put forth -prompted me to introduce in the Senate a legislative proposal designed to implement the convention amendment provision in article V. This article will discuss that provision of the Constitution,the major questions involved in its implementation, and the answers to those questions supplied by the provisions of the bill, Senate Bill No. 2307.