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Article V constitutional conventions gaining popularity

ConstitutionBlair Henry is a regular guy with big dreams: He wants to amend the U.S. Constitution.

Henry is the founder of The People’s Convention, a nonpartisan group advocating changes to the U.S. Constitution by using the convention process outlined in Article V.

He’s not pushing a specific proposal, he is careful to note, but is advocating for change in general, via the powers allotted to citizens and legislatures in the constitutional amendment process.

“The idea is to bring the American people together and sort this thing out. What are the proposals that appeal to the left and the right? Let’s start to pull together,” he told a group of Republicans in Cottonwood recently, while stumping for The People’s Convention’s next mock constitutional convention workshop in Sedona on Dec. 4 and 5.

Article V outlines the different paths to proposing and ratifying amendments to the Constitution.

Most commonly, the process begins when Congress proposes a change and passes the proposal out of both chambers with a two-thirds vote. The amendment process can also commence if two-thirds of state legislatures call for a convention for proposing amendments. The former has been the method used in every successful constitutional amendment, while the latter, which Henry is advocating, has never been used.

No matter how the changes are proposed, in order to become constitutional amendments, they must be ratified. Ratification can also happen in two different ways — via an affirmative vote from three-fourths of state legislatures, or by conventions in three-fourths of the states.

Though the convention process has never been used to propose a constitutional amendment, and has only been used once to ratify an amendment — in 1933, states held conventions to ratify the 21st Amendment, which repealed prohibition — Henry said that doesn’t mean it can’t happen.

To prove that point, The People’s Convention is hosting a series of mock constitutional conventions to explain the process and show that people can come to agreement on complex issues, such as constitutional amendments.

Because a constitutional amendment must win approval of 75 percent of the states, the ideas have to have broad support and cannot be ideologically driven by either side, Henry said.

In their last workshop, Henry said the participants developed three of their own amendments covering a balanced budget, campaign finance and policymaker ethics.

All three had support from more than

75 percent of the participants, who came from across the political spectrum, Henry said.

Henry said the process is like a trial by jury — none of the jurors know anything about the case, the law or the people involved at the onset of the trial. But when put in a room with the same set of facts, background and evidence, “99 times out of 100, the juries pull it out just like that,” he said.

Though the process has never been fully explored, and there are still remaining questions about how exactly a convention works, Henry said the concept is gaining traction due to a book called, “The Liberty Amendments” by conservative author Mark Levin.

In Arizona, several lawmakers, including Republican Rep. Brenda Barton of Payson, are advocating for a constitutional convention, and Barton said she plans to sponsor legislation to kick off a convention.

Henry said most people don’t realize the Constitution has been amended five times in the past 50 years — and even fewer can name what the amendments were.

“It’s not an earth-shattering deal. We can’t even remember what (the amendments) were,” Henry said.

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