Protesters stood outside of the Capitol asking legislators to keep their hands off of the Constitution.
Protesters stood outside of the Capitol asking legislators to keep their hands off of the Constitution.
Lindsay Moore

Protesters to State Legislators: You're Not the Founding Fathers

George Washington and Alexander Hamilton were in town today to reclaim their stake as Founding Fathers.

Arizona chapters of Indivisible, some dressed as historical figures, protested on the Arizona Capitol lawn asking legislators to keep their hands off the Constitution.

A total of 72 voting representatives from 19 states are gathering in Phoenix this week to decide rules to organize a constitutional convention under Article V, seeking a balanced federal budget. It would be an unprecedented act of states' rights.

If your eyes are already glazing over, here's what you need to know — representatives are trying to get enough states on board so that they can ratify an amendment and override Congress in the process.

The proposal being discussed is for an amendment to be added that requires a balanced federal budget.

The Constitution allows for a two-thirds majority — 34 states — to call for a convention and put the pressure on Congress.

If 38 states can agree on the proposal at hand, then it will be ratified as an amendment.

This has never happened under our current Constitution.

The last time the states convened, the country was 11 years old and legislators met to discuss the Articles of Confederation.

In 1787, eight representatives locked themselves in a room, scrapped the whole thing, and wrote the Constitution we have now.

This is what retired Arizona State University professor of politics and global studies Ann Schneider fears could happen again.

"The whole big issue is this idea that it would be a runaway session and they would start rewriting the Constitution and taking out parts of the Bill of Rights they don’t like,” Schneider said.

Protesters stood outside of the Capitol asking legislators to keep their hands off of the Constitution.
Protesters stood outside of the Capitol asking legislators to keep their hands off of the Constitution.
Lindsay Moore

There is debate around state conventions — not only if they're necessary, but also the logistics of them. So, before anything happens, there must be rules.

The Arizona meeting was organized by a committee headed by Mesa state Representative Kelly Townsend to set those regulations. Townsend was later voted the planning commission's president.

Townsend said she understands this fear of messing with the Constitution. She said she was originally skeptical as well, until she understood the states' rights at play.

“This is something that the founders could foresee and gave us a tool, and it’s just never been taken out of the tool box,” she said.

It's important to note, though, Townsend adds is that the rules are not binding; they are merely suggestions.

These anxieties over a “runaway” session are unfounded, Townsend said. Unlike the Founding Fathers, the Supreme Court, among other safeguards, now keeps state representatives in check.

Townsend and her team reached out to all 50 states looking for representatives from both party lines.

“This is not a red and blue gathering,” retired Oklahoma lawmaker Gary Banz said Tuesday during his opening remarks. “This is a red, white, and blue gathering.”

Technically, it was just a red gathering.

Unfortunately, Townsend said, all Democrat representatives invited turned down the offer.

Schneider said this is part of the far-right movement that has gained momentum after years of suppressed anger. She fears that this “sleeping giant” will continue to go unnoticed and will gain momentum if left unchecked.

“This is the kind of the thing that the public can’t be caught not knowing,” she said. “We need to educate and inform.”

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