Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Right Way to Amend the Constitution, part 12

This is part twelve of an ongoing series of articles containing proposals for amendments to the Constitution. For someone who claims so fervently to be a “Constitutionalist”, how is it that I can be so eager to change the Constitution? Well, there are several reasons. For one thing, I believe that after the Bill of Rights, much damage was done by some of the amendments that were added and the legitimacy of some of their ratifications are questionable. Secondly, the Constitution has been violated so much that the necessity of further amendments is needed to resolve the resulting problems. But this should be done extremely cautiously. These amendments are extremely unlikely to ever be introduced, much less ratified, but hey, I can dream, can’t I?

I got this one from a well written article, The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions: Guideposts of Limited Government, written by William J. Watkins, Jr. This is a fascinating historical account of the struggle to impose proper restraints on the federal government with particular respect to the Alien and Sedition Acts, which plainly denied Americans their first amendment right to freedom of speech over 200 years ago. It’s well worth the time to read and share with others this lesson from history, which illustrates the need for the following amendment, which was included in the article.

Section 1. The Constitutional Commission shall settle questions presented by the several States concerning the constitutionality of measures or actions taken by the government of the United States.

Section 2. The Constitutional Commission shall be composed of one Commissioner from each State chosen every second year by the people of the several States from two candidates chosen by the State Legislature, and the electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for the electors of the most numerous branch of the State Legislature; each Commissioner shall have one vote.

Section 3. No person except a natural born citizen shall be eligible to the office of Commissioner; nor shall any person be eligible to that office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty-five years, and been fourteen years a resident within the United States, and been nine years a resident of that State for which he shall be chosen. No person shall be elected to the office of Commissioner more than four times.

Section 4. When vacancies happen by resignation, or otherwise, during the recess of the Legislature of any State, the executive thereof may make temporary appointments until the next meeting of the Legislature, which shall choose two candidates to present to the people to fill the vacancy.

Section 5. The Constitutional Commission shall assemble at least once in every year, and such meeting shall begin at noon on the third day of January, unless they shall by law appoint a different day. The Constitutional Commission shall choose their Chairman and other officers. The Commission shall be the judge of the election returns and qualifications of its own members, and three-fourths of its members shall constitute a quorum to do business. The Commission may determine the rules of its proceedings. The Commission shall keep a journal of its proceedings, and from time to time publish the same.

Section 6. The Commissioners shall receive a compensation for their services, to be ascertained by law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States. No Commissioner shall, during the time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil office under the authority of the United States.

Section 7. Whenever the Chairman of the Constitutional Commission shall receive petitions from one-fifth of the legislatures of the several States requesting a ruling on the constitutionality of a specific measure or action of the government of the United States, the Commission shall convene. The act or measure of the national government shall be void and of no force if three-fourths of the Commissioners present vote against its constitutionality, or if three-fourths of the Commissioners from one section of the United States shall vote against the constitutionality of the act or measure.

Section 8. The three sections of the United States are defined as follows.

The Western Section shall be composed of Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

The Southern Section shall be composed of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.

The Northern Section shall be composed of Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin.

Whenever new States are admitted to the Union, the Commission shall make the necessary modifications to the sectional compositions.

Section 9. The Constitutional Commission shall not sit as a Convention as prescribed in Article 5 of the Constitution of the United States.

Click here to read the next article in this series.

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