Late Thursday night and early Friday morning, March 3-4, 2011, the new Select Committee on State Sovereignty met for the first time, under the direction of Chairman Brandon Creighton (R-16, Conroe, Montgomery County), and Vice Chairman Drew Darby (R- 72, San Angelo). Of the four Bills on the revised agenda, two, HJR 34 and HJR 100, call for what those of us in attendance learned are properly called “Article V Conventions.” These Conventions are very loosely described in Article V of the US Constitution, and are commonly called “Constitutional Conventions” or “Con-Cons.” In fact, the meeting was a real-life laboratory experiment, demonstrating the pitfalls that can arise out of any political meeting in modern United States society and an example as to why our State of Texas should not call for or support an “Article V Convention.”
Having participated in such State Legislative Committee meetings since 2003 – both as an invited expert and a public witness – I was appalled by the conduct of the Chair and Chairman. They imposed novel rules that weren’t applied evenly and not only allowed questionable ordering of witnesses; they attempted to control the content of witnesses’ testimony to an extent that I’ve not seen before.
As I’ve written before, (See my “Primer for Political Junkies”), Texas has a wonderful system of video recordings which allows us to watch the proceedings of the sessions of the State House of Representatives and Senate and the various Committees of each, both as live-streaming broadcasts as they happen, and indefinitely in the archives. You can watch this particular Committee meeting here, and draw your own conclusions.
Consider the comical – and totally unprecedented, in my experience - moment (move the cursor to 1:56, one hour and 56 minutes, into the video) when I was called to the podium by the Chair for signing the form, a fairly standardized written statement, to the effect that I am against HJR 34, by Raymond and for checking the box stating that I did not intend to testify. I would prefer to chalk this gaff up to the Chair’s inexperience, and applaud him for being one of the few Moderators who pronounced my name correctly. (I couldn’t even pronounce “testify” at that midnight hour.) I sympathize with him about what must have been an embarrassing moment with Speaker Straus in attendance.
Since I’m on record, several times now, as opposing a Resolution demanding a Federal Balanced Budget, I think I need to explain that while I believe in a balanced budget at all levels of government, I object to any blank check which history has proven cannot be limited. HJR 34 demonstrates the possibility that well-meaning, kernel-of-truth legislation may carry the very real potential for doing exactly the opposite of what we intend, as it calls for " a balanced federal budget as proposed by House Joint Resolution No. ______ or Senate Joint ...Resolution No. ______ of the _____th Congress of the United States." Having seen many examples of "amendments in the form of a substitution," and all sorts of hijacked Bills that contain language that have nothing to do with the original Title, caption, or apparent intent, I would never support this HJR, even if it did not invoke Article V of the US Constitution.
Video of the actions that caught my attention include (Video marks are as accessed today):
- Vice Chair Darby interrupted the witness at 2:22 (two hours and 22 minutes), directing her to give her "thoughts."
- At 2:10, the witness called forward states that he was under the impression that he would testify last! And Vice Chair Darby allows it!
- Note the witness' patronizing comments about those of us who oppose an "Article V Convention" beginning at about 2:11 in the video. The re-naming of what we used to call a “Con-Con” is followed by redirection of later witnesses -- evidently when the latter disagree with the acting-chair. We are told that opponents (of what we used to call) a "Con-Con" are conspiracy nuts, somehow connected to McCarthyism and the battle of William F. Buckley against the John Birch Society. (It is true that one of the witnesses against HJR 100 testified that he is a member of the John Birch Society.) The witness specifically ridiculed the Eagle Forum and the rest of us who were present.
- At about 2:27 (two hours and 27 minutes) in, the witness is stopped for mentioning the current President, although other people have mentioned various politicians, including several past and current Presidents. I admire Sonja for her poise and changing to "men who profess to be Constitutional lawyers!" She agreed to follow the rules specific to her and then took the Committee to school. Note the information about the 1974 Texas Constitutional Convention that cost billions of dollars, with no results.
- Pat Carlson, Texas Eagle Forum, speaks at 2:48 about the very real risks that any Convention could write its own rules and ratification, as was done at the first Continental Convention and in the rules for ratification of the 21st Amendment.
As an example of the problems of supporting fill-in-the-blank legislation, please note that many of the very well-informed Texans who attended the Committee meeting confused two pieces of legislation authored and introduced by Chairman Creighton: HJR 50, which called for a Constitution Convention, and Resolution that was actually on the agenda, HCR 50, which is a pretty straight forward affirmation of State sovereignty and the 10th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
This Committee meeting is the perfect example of my reason to believe that any “Con-Con,” regardless of what it’s called, would be run by strong personalities - the "squeaky wheels" in our society - and essentially would be lawless and Constitutionally limitless.