News and Tribune


March 28, 2013

SMITH: Advancing a state initiative to fight federal overreach


Senate Joint Resolution 18 calls for an Article V convention strictly confined to the consideration of amendments to limit Congress’ power to tax and regulate commerce — two areas which are widely regarded as the root of today’s federal overreach. For such a convention to occur, 33 other states would then have to pass similar resolutions.

Some individuals have expressed concerns with an amendments convention and argue that the better path to fight federal encroachment is instead through nullification or interposition. These concepts involve individual states declaring that they will nullify — or ignore — any federal law they deem unconstitutional. While I certainly identify with the spirit behind this, the Supremacy Clause found in Article VI of the U.S. Constitution expressly prevents states from nullifying federal laws.

As an elected official, I have taken an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution and the Constitution of the State of Indiana. It would be irresponsible and fruitless for me to push for a proposal we know would be thrown out in court.

The concerns that supporters of nullification have about holding a state-led Article V convention stem from their fear of a “runaway convention,” where our Constitution could be entirely scrapped or altered beyond recognition. Indiana has drafted its proposal to quell these fears and make sure this could never happen.

Alongside SJR 18, we have passed Senate Bills 224 and 225, which would restrict the authority of Indiana’s convention delegates, prohibiting them from considering amendments that do not seek to limit Congress’ power to tax and regulate commerce. These measures, if enacted by other states calling for an Article V convention, would effectively prevent a “runaway convention.”

It’s also important to remember that any proposed amendments approved by the convention would ultimately need to be ratified by three-fourths of the states — 38 states — in order to be added to the Constitution. This provides an addition check on the threat of a runaway convention.

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