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Mackinac Center Study Gives a How-To When Changing the Constitution

A new study published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy makes the case for a new state-led process for amending the U.S. Constitution. Nick Dranias, the study’s author and president of the Compact for America Educational Foundation, argues that Michigan should join the effort already under way to use this new process to create a constitutional amendment to require the federal government to balance its budget.

Gov. Rick Snyder already signed a resolution in 2014 calling for such an amendment to the Constitution, but Dranias writes that that effort likely won’t amount to much. Instead of using such resolutions, Dranias says that states should create an interstate compact to achieve a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution.

“The Compact for a Balanced Budget, which has already been joined by Alaska, Georgia, Mississippi and North Dakota, is an interstate agreement that advances, proposes and ratifies a federal Balanced Budget Amendment in a single state legislative bill,” said Dranias.

States can initiate a process to create constitutional amendments under Article V of the U.S. Constitution. However, the states have never successfully proposed any amendments this way, and Dranias argues that the traditional approach to using Article V is problematic.

For instance, even though two-thirds of the states would agree to a particular amendment, once a convention is called by Congress, there’s little the states can do to prevent a “runaway convention,” where delegates propose all sorts of constitutional amendments, some of which might be deal-breakers for some states.

Dranias’s solution is to package together all of the legislative and congressional acts that are needed to create a constitutional amendment into an interstate compact. The compact, Dranias argues, will guide the entire process of creating an amendment to bring to the states for ratification — preventing runaway conventions and other potential problems associated with the traditional approach to Article V.

“The Compact for a Balanced Budget promises the speed that is needed to deliver timely federal fiscal reform by consolidating into one bill everything the states do in the amendment process and everything Congress does into one resolution,” Dranias said.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.