January 23, 2020
by Matthew Rothschild, Executive Director
On Thursday morning the Assembly Committee on Federalism and Interstate Relations met in executive session to discuss a joint resolution (AJR 77) calling for a convention of the states to amend the U.S. Constitution to limit federal spending and limit the power and the authority of the federal government.
Rep. Chris Taylor and Rep. LaKeshia Myers ripped into this proposal.
Rep. Taylor said this proposal came straight from the rightwing group ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council), and she held up an ALEC booklet that had the proposal in it, word for word. “The people of the State of Wisconsin did not come up with this idea,” she said. “It came from out-of-state billionaires.”
Those billionaires, she said, aren’t interested in the federal government protecting our civil liberties, or our civil rights, or the environment. They want to take power away from the federal government so they can make more profits.
Taylor also said that the proposed amendment is so broad that “any power of the federal government could be changed. It opens up the entire Constitution.” She noted that even Justice Antonin Scalia, one of the most conservative justices to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court in the last 100 years, thought this was a horrible idea.
Before he recognized Rep. Myers, Committee Chair Tyler Vorpagel actually didn’t recognize her and called her Rep. Stubbs, the name of the only other black woman in the Assembly.
Once that embarrassing moment passed and Rep. Myers told him what her name really was, Myers got into the substance, as well.
“This sounds like states’ rights to me,” Myers said, “and that’s a political dog whistle.” She explained that “states’ rights” to her meant “separate water fountains” and “sitting in the back of the bus.” She said this convention of the states could be “detrimental for women and detrimental for people of color.” She added: “I’m not willing to take a chance on rolling back any of the protections for our people.”
The proposal for a convention of the states is often called an Article V proposal, after the article in the Constitution that establishes two ways for amending the Constitution: one is the usual way, where two-thirds of the House and two-thirds of the Senate approve the amendment and then three-quarters of the states ratify it. The other way is for two- thirds of the states to call for a constitutional convention and then have three-quarters of the states approve what the convention proposes. It is this latter way that goes by the Article V name these days.
Republican Rep. Michael Schraa doubted there would be a runaway convention and accused Taylor of not doing her homework, an accusation she disputed.
Republican Rep. Samantha Kerkman spoke inanely about how she’s happy to be from Wisconsin rather than Illinois, even though she lives five miles from Illinois, and said she was supporting the amendment.
Chair Vorpagel said he was tired of states being treated by the federal government as a “red-headed stepchild.”
The five Republicans on the committee voted in favor of the proposal. Taylor and Myers opposed it.