Maryland Legislature Rescinds Call for Dangerous Constitutional Convention in the Face of Nationwide Special Interests Push

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  • damon effingham, david vance

Today the Maryland legislature voted to protect every Americans’ constitutional rights by rescinding its calls for a dangerous Article V constitutional convention. State lawmakers cited the threat of a “runaway convention,” which could result in major changes to the U.S. Constitution and its protections in a process bankrolled by special interests.

“The legislature took an important step in helping stop an effort that could put everyone’s rights up for grabs,” said Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, executive director of Common Cause Maryland. “Maryland’s rescission is a big step back for the special interests group that are leading a nationwide push to call for a dangerous Article V convention. Common Cause Maryland thanks the legislative leaders, including Del. Bill Frick and Sen. Rich Madaleno, and our organizational partners who recognized this threat and took action to protect all Marylanders’ and Americans’ constitutional and civil rights.”

For the last two years, Common Cause Maryland was one of several groups leading the push for the legislature to rescind its previous Article V convention calls. Other organizations who supported the rescission effort include the ACLU of Maryland, AFSCME, the Maryland Center on Economic Policy, the League of Women Voters of Maryland, the Maryland State Education Association, the Maryland State and District of Columbia AFL-CIO, and SEIU.

“The Maryland legislature’s actions are extremely important in protecting our constitution and every Americans’ basic rights from deep-pocketed special interests seeking to rewrite the Constitution to their own advantage,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause. “An Article V convention is one of the most dangerous threats facing our nation, and other states need to look at Maryland’s leadership and rescind their calls. The big money backers of the Article V push have not been shy about pushing legislation nationwide that benefit their business interest, through vehicles like ALEC.”

Even with Maryland’s rescission, Article V and Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA) proponents claim to be just six states away from reaching the constitutionally required 34 states to call a convention. Republicans now control seven of the 22 state legislatures that do not have an existing application for a convention for a BBA: Idaho, Montana, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Virginia, and South Carolina.

In 2016, Article V resolutions were passed in West Virginia and Oklahoma and earlier this year Wyoming and Arizona passed Article V resolutions. Article V proponents are still closer than ever before to reaching the constitutional threshold. Maryland is third state to recently rescind its Article V convention applications, after Delaware (2016) and New Mexico (2017).

Activists on the left have called for an Article V convention on other matters but the risk of a runaway convention is the same regardless of the cause. Although there has been bipartisan opposition to an Article V convention, the push for a convention to impose a balanced budget amendment is being led by Republican legislators and conservative special interest groups bankrolled by billionaires like the Koch Brothers. A leader in the push to rewrite the Constitution is the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a corporate lobby that masquerades as a charity to provide its corporate backers with a tax break. Despite claims by ALEC and other convention proponents, most legal scholars agree that a convention cannot be limited to one issue. With no rules governing a convention, a runaway convention involving a major overhaul of the Constitution would likely result.

Common Cause recently updated its issue background memo on this issue, outlining the dangers of both a constitutional convention and a federal balanced budget amendment: U.S. Constitution Threatened as Article V Convention Movement Nears Success.