MEMO: We're on the brink of a federal constitutional convention. NY lawmakers have the power to stop it.

NEW YORK, NY (09/19/2022) (readMedia)-- To: Editorial Boards

From: Common Cause/NY

Subject: We're on the brink of a federal constitutional convention. NY lawmakers have the power to stop it.

Emboldened by the recent Supreme Court rulings against Roe V Wade and lack of enforcement on the January 6th hearing, right wing extremists are setting their sights on calling a federal constitutional convention to strip Americans of their civil liberties and dilute federal powers. They're relying on a never-used provision of Art V of the U.S. Constitution that allows Congress to convene a constitutional convention upon request of the states.

With no roadmap to navigate a potential Article V convention, and heavy Republican influences, our civil rights and civil liberties including a woman's right to choose, freedoms of speech and religion, privacy rights, right to counsel, the right to vote, immigrations issues, and other valued parts of the American fabric could be rewritten. In fact, even the supremacy of federal law and the Constitution over state laws could be called into doubt.

All the New York Assembly has to do is pass this bill this year and it stops.

What is an Article V convention of the states?

Article V of the United States constitution describes the process for altering the Constitution. There are two ways to amend the constitution: one way is through two-third votes by both houses, and the other is through calling for a convention with two-thirds of the states in agreement (34 total).

During an Article V convention there are no rules, guidelines, or even language in the U.S. Constitution on how a convention can be limited to any single issue, let alone how an Article V convention would even work. Once the convention is called, it creates an opportunity for a runaway convention that could potentially rewrite any constitutional right or protection currently available to American citizens.

A 2016 USA Today editorial correctly stated that calling for a constitutional convention is "an invitation to constitutional mayhem" and "could further poison our politics and hobble American leaders at moments of crisis." Notable legal scholars across the political spectrum agree. One of the nation's most esteemed constitutional law scholars, Professor Laurence Tribe of Harvard Law School, has said a constitutional convention would put "the whole Constitution up for grabs."

Why now?

For the past fifty or so years, there have been numerous campaigns to hold an article V convention – but none were able to garner the 34 states total. Now, right-wing groups are organizing on social media, seizing the momentum from January 6 Currently, many states are gerrymandered to give right leaning candidates the upper hand: republicans now control 62 of 99 legislative chambers, compared to 37 before 2010, and they control both chambers in 30 states. However, they realize that they can't realistically get beyond the 30 states they control.

By counting old "general calls" for Article V conventions still on the books in states like New York, pro- convention lawmakers believe they can reach the threshold of 34 states (they already have 29). Astoundingly, they are relying on three past Article V resolutions passed by the New York Legislature - the first one from 1789.

Thankfully, there is legislation (Krueger/Zebrowski) currently sitting in the NYS Assembly (it passed the Senate in June) that would remove New York's general call and count us out as one of the states calling for a convention. This would follow the lead from other states in recent years in New Mexico, Maryland, Nevada, and Delaware.

All lawmakers have to do is stand up to extremists and pass the bill.