State legislators call Mount Vernon Assembly productive, plan next steps

MOUNT VERNON, Va. - Shortly after 1 p.m. Saturday afternoon, state representatives and senators from 32 U.S. states filed out of the Fred W. Smith National Library at Mount Vernon . Most were rushing to catch flights out of Washington, D.C., ahead of the weekend's severe winter weather.

The 97 men and women, the majority Republicans, spent the morning taking part in The Mount Vernon Assembly. Their purpose - to begin the process of establishing procedures for an Article V Convention of the States.

"I think it went well," said State Rep. Buzz Brockway of Georgia.  "I think the organizers have been very cautious in pursuing this action. Folks have to understand, while we're pursuing a path that's in the Constitution, it hasn't been utilized."

Under Article V , there exists two ways to amend the Constitution. The first is through the commonly known Congressional method where a proposed amendment must be approved by two-thirds of both houses of Congress and ratified by three-fourths (38) of the states.

The other process occurs through the states when two-thirds (34 states) ask Congress to "call a Convention for proposing Amendments…" Those amendments then go through the same ratification process. (Click here for related story)

The Mount Vernon Assembly was organized by State Senator David Long of Indiana and Rep. Chris Kapenga of Wisconsin.

Rep. Brockway noted Saturday's meeting, which was closed to both the public and the media, was to only measure state leaders' interest and wasn't intended to propose possible amendments.

"There are a lot of unanswered questions," he said. "How do you organize it? What do you when you actually get there, and if you get that far, how do you get other states involved?"

Legislators inside the room relied on Twitter to communicate with followers, curious about the proceedings. According to Kansas Rep. Brett Hildabrand's Twitter feed (@Brett4ks), the recurring themes from the meeting included the transparency of the possible Convention of the States, the concept of one state/one vote and the specific charge of the Convention.

Another topic of discussion involved funding for the Convention, which Arkansas Rep. Randy Alexander said had to be decided, if the Convention was to avoid outside influence.

"The recommendation is that the money would come from the states, but individuals would be able to contribute up to a limit of $100. We do not want this to be sponsored by some organization," he said.

Supporters and opponents to the Assembly gathered outside the Library, waiting for the legislators to adjourn. One protestor, who would only identify herself as "Janet" said, "I don't trust the men and women we've elected to Congress, but I have no reason to believe these state legislators will act any differently. I don't trust any of them anymore."

Another who declined to be named remarked, "I don't see how (state legislators) think they have the power to do this. It seems to me they're trying to hijack our process."

South Dakota State Senator David Omdahl got into a heated exchange with one protestor, later saying, "I hope we can clear up some of the misconceptions about what is going on… We are in a state of crisis right now. With the nuclear option that went on in the Senate, the leadership happening with our President, this debt is out of control. We must somehow rein it in. It's about time we exercise the 10th Amendment."

Following the meeting, Arkansas State Sen. Jason Rapert echoed Sen. Omdahl's sentiment. "Overall, it was historic, and I think it is a beacon for the rest of this nation to know the state legislators, of which there are 7,383 of us, are standing together to tell the 535 in Washington, ‘You are no longer doing your job.  You haven't passed a budget in a number of years. You allow the President to step outside of his executive authority and are not holding him accountable. You're drowning the nation in debt, and we want it to stop.'"

The next meeting of the Mount Vernon Assembly is tentatively scheduled for May. However, with some State Assemblies scheduled to be in session, the time frame could be changed.

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