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Term Limits and
Constitutional Conventions

June 8, 2015

As you read in last week’s column there was legislation in Austin this year that would have had Texas join a growing number of states calling for an Article V Constitutional Convention.   Consideration of a constitutional amendment is normally done when Congress passes resolutions calling for amending the U. S. Constitution.  For example, in 1972 both houses of Congress passed a resolution offering the Equal Rights Amendment.  The proposed amendment got 35 of the required 38 state legislatures to approve it but it failed to garner enough support for approval.

When our founding fathers wrote the Constitution they envisioned times when the House and Senate might not agree and not propose amendments.  So they included in Article V a provision that has yet to be used.  It allows 2/3rds of the states to call for a constitutional convention, thereby forcing the Congress to convene a convention to consider amendments.   Such was the case with Texas HJR77 this session.  This resolution proposed amendments to deal with a number of issues like fiscal restraints and protections against abuse of power by the Federal Government.  But we would like to discuss the last item in the resolution – the one calling for term limits.

As candidates for Congress in 2012, we differed on this issue.  John was, and is, for term limits, while Mark and Bill were opposed.  Here was the reasoning for our opposition and an alternative suggestion on how to address this issue. 

In our view, if we limit the time a person can serve in office we are arbitrarily taking away the rights of the voters to make a choice.  If the person serving as your Congressman is doing a good job and representing you well, why should your ability to return that person to office be taken off the table just because he or she has been in the Congress for 10-12 years?  You, the voter should be able to have a voice in this matter.  John believes that power corrupts and time in office, under the influence of such power, can have an addictive effect.

But we all know that the real power in Congress – or any legislative body for that matter – is in its leadership. This includes the Speaker of the House, the House Minority Leader, the Senate Majority and Minority Leaders and committee and subcommittee chairs.  So if there were to be a constitutional convention Mark and Bill suggest the delegates consider limiting the time a person can serve in a leadership position to no more than four years in the House or the Senate.  Then require them to relinquish such positions (or power) for at least 4-6 years.  By doing this the rights of the voters are not taken away while also giving an opportunity for new leadership; so that people like John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid would return to only serving as members of their respective houses.  They could still serve, but not in a position of leadership.

Bill, Mark, and John



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