My long holiday weekend would not be complete without studying some one piece of legislation or another, in an effort to try to determine just what our public servants are trying to do for us, or to us, in the current 2015 session of our State Congress.
It has been brought to my attention that Michigan Senate Bill 306,
which passed the Senate on September 17, 2015, and is entered into Senate Journal 83 Page 13 might be opening up a Pandora’s Box that will ultimately result in the full realization of the liberal class utopian dream of completely dismantling the United States Constitution.
Of course, this is being promulgated by the seemingly honorable effort by some of our public servants to “limit the power of the Federal Government.”
In fact, State Senator David Robertson (R, MI-District 14) in the aforementioned Senate Journal 83, Page 13 advocates for the bill by proclaiming, “By my reading, Senate Bill No. 306 is a thoughtful, well-reasoned, and tightly-worded effort to anticipate every conceivable issue that could arise from a convention called under Article V. The compact method is a much-improved approach over previous efforts. The language of Senate Bill No. 306 contains limitations on the convention, strong enforcement procedures, and throughout there are belts and suspenders on every major issue.”
Belts and suspenders? To hold up the major issues that might otherwise fall off our bodies? Let’s see if we can find these belts and suspenders that Senator Robertson speaks of allegorically.
But first, I would like to mention that although 11 senate members voted against the bill, not one of them thought it necessary or proper to have their objections written in the Senate Journal (so We the People might know of their rationale for voting against the bill’s passage).
Who were these naysayers? They were Jim Ananich (D-MI District 27), Curtis Hertel (D-MI District 23), Bert Johnson (D-MI District 2), Rebekah Warren (D-MI District 18), Steven Bieda (D-MI District 9), Morris Hood (D-MI District 3), David Knezek (D-MI District 5), Coleman Young (D-MI District 1), Vincent Gregory (D-MI District 11), Yoon-Young Hopgood (D-MI District 6), and Virgil Smith (D-MI District 4).
In other words, every single Democrat in the State Senate voted against the bill, without offering any reason for doing so. So, it is left to our imagination to think that maybe they voted against it because it was sponsored by the Republicans, or maybe the Democrats secretly want to continue to pile crushing levels of debt upon our children – either way, these might be good negative future campaign slogans to be used by the opposing party (if there is an opposing party).
I wonder how many of our State public servants even really read the bill. I can tell you that it is (as usual) a very difficult bill to read; that is, if your goal is to understand what has been written. But, in my effort to give due diligence to The People’s role of leadership in a self-government system, like our American Republic, I, Janice Daniels, have read the bill.
Following are my observations, comments, questions, analysis and conclusions, written for all to read (NOTE: I am a very strong advocate for having our public servants’ observations, comments, questions, analyses and conclusions made available to the people via FOIA, but that is a subject for another day).
My first observation comes at Page 2 of the 23 page bill, under Article II – Definitions.
In Section 2 it states that, “Convention” means the convention for proposing amendments organized by this Compact under Article V of the Constitution of the United States and, where contextually appropriate to ensure the terms of this Compact are not evaded, any other similar gathering or body, which might be organized as a consequence of Congress receiving the application set out in this Compact and claim authority to propose or effectuate any amendment, alteration or revision to the Constitution of the United States. This term does not encompass a convention for proposing amendments under Article V of the Constitution of the United States that is organized independently of this Compact based on the separate and distinct application of any State.”
Did any of our public servants even question the full and true meaning of this chopped up definition?
Let’s look at the first sentence from a grammatical perspective. The word “convention” is first defined as “the convention for proposing amendments organized by this Compact under Article V of the Constitution of the United States.” The operative and unusual word here is “amendments” plural, because the document in a number of places restricts the “convention” to the Balanced Budget Amendment, singular. We disapprove of inconsistency so early on in the text.
Then read the next three clauses of that same sentence, “where contextually appropriate (my add: by whose perspective?) to ensure the terms of this Compact are not evaded,” then “any other similar gathering or body,” then “which might be organized as a consequence of Congress receiving an application set out in the Compact and claim authority to propose or effectuate any amendment, alternation or revision to the Constitution of the United States.”
In other words, the definition of “convention” includes not only proposing amendment(s), but ensuring that the terms of the Compact are not evaded, so long as somebody thinks it is contextually appropriate not to evade the terms. Couldn’t our public servants tighten up the meaning of this clause with one of their belts or a particular set of their suspenders?
For some unknown reason, the sentence then addresses another unnamed entity called “any other similar gathering or body” that claims authority to propose amendments apparently as a result of Congress receiving this newly formed SB 306 compact application. But, how the definition applies to this “similar gathering or body” is unclear, or how this “similar gathering or body” applies to the definition is equally unclear. Also unclear is what happens if this “similar gathering or body” does “claim authority to propose amendments?”
If we were to reach the conclusion that a “compact” is needed to “organize a convention (which we have not),” we would insist that our public servants simply state that the Convention organized by this Compact is for the sole purpose of proposing a Balanced Budget Amendment. Then no interpretation or “contextually appropriate” perspective is needed.
On Page 3, continuing Article II – Definitions, Section 4, Compact States are identified as “Member States”. We disapprove of the use of the term Member States, being as it has “contextually inappropriate” meaning associated with international organizations, most notably The United Nations.
Continuing on Page 3 Article II – Definitions, Section 7, we come to the actual proposed “Balanced Budget Amendment” verbiage, although no law, or act, or resolution or regulation has been constitutionally passed by any legislative body and no Article number has been assigned to it.
The definition is muddied by the use of the word UNLESS. Please read Section 1 of Section 7 of Article II, as follows: “Total outlays of the government of the United States shall not exceed total receipts of the government of the United States at any point in time UNLESS (caps mine) the excess of outlays over receipts is financed exclusively by debt issued in strict conformity with this article. Here’s where the fun really begins.
Rather than simply stating that the outlays shall not exceed the receipts, this body of servants has created a set of hoops and hollers that probably severs any belts and suspenders that might have held our budgetary pants in place. And it starts with the premise that outstanding debt shall not exceed authorized debt in the initial amount of 105 percent of the outstanding debt. So if the baseline of national debt as it currently stands is approximately $19 trillion dollars, SB 306 would allow that debt to automatically rise to $20 trillion dollars, by law (how convenient).
But after this first huge shot in the arm of an already out-of-control federal government, then they can only increase the debt in the future if a simple majority of “the legislature of the Several States” approved such an increase and the request for the increase must be “an unconditional, single subject measure.” So, in other words, as the state legislatures are currently configured (with 31 Republican controlled State legislatures, 11 Democrat controlled State legislatures and 8 Split legislatures), only Republican backed spending priorities could be increased at this particular point in time, so we would need a huge set of suspenders to hold up the legislative pants of the fat belly of Republican backed spending priorities, not to speak of any potential future Democrat controlled State legislative majority (God forbid).
Article II – Definitions, Section 4 gives “the President” the sole authority by impeachable misdemeanor to “designate specific expenditures for impoundment in an amount sufficient to ensure outstanding debt shall not exceed the authorized debt,” after debt “exceeds 98 percent of the debt limit set by Section 2,”…“if Congress doesn’t first designate an alternative impoundment of the same or greater amount by concurrent resolution.”
What is an “impeachable misdemeanor?” The United States Constitution clearly states in Article II Section 4 that “The President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” According to a decidedly-noted partisan review, as of 2013 President Barack Hussein Obama has committed over 100 impeachable offenses, but who is counting anymore?
If the Republican controlled federal House of Representatives and the Republican controlled federal Senate have not yet written Articles of Impeachment against this clearly felonious President, by what “belt or suspender” are we to believe that they will write Articles of Impeachment for a misdemeanor that he would certainly, gladly countermand by “designating specific expenditures for impoundment in an amount sufficient to ensure outstanding debt shall not exceed the authorized debt.” Sequester anyone? American military dismantlement, anyone? The implications are frightening.
Why would a Republican controlled group of State legislatures want to give up the Article I, Section 7, Clause 1 constitutionally protected responsibility of Congress that states that, “All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives …”?
The drooping pants terminology of SB 306 continues in Article II – Definitions. Again, Section 5 seems to confer the constitutionally guaranteed “power of the purse” from Congress to the Executive Branch of the Federal Government when it states that “no bill that provides for a new or increased general revenue tax shall become law unless approved by a two-thirds roll call vote of the whole number of each House of Congress.” This clause seems to obliterate Article I, Section 7, Clause I of the United States Constitution by suggesting that “the Bill” for “raising Revenue” originates in the Executive Branch and then requires a “roll call vote” of “each” House of Congress. Why do this?
Then, further muddying occurs on Page 5 with a SB 306 Article II – Definitions, Section 5 “weasel” clausethat makes absolutely no sense at all. It reads as follows: “this requirement shall not apply to any bill that provides for a new end user sales tax which would completely replace every existing income tax levied by the government of the United States.” Is there legislation “in the works” that obliterates the 3.4 million words of Title 26 of the U.S. Code, more commonly called The Federal Tax Code? Is that what this particular clause suggests? It is not that we wouldn’t like the onerous, burdensome, undecipherable, unjustifiable tax code to disappear, we just wonder what relevance this clause has to any current legislative mysteries yet to be spring upon an unsuspecting United States populace.
Further, in Article II – Definitions, Section 5 a loophole suggests that a bill can provide for “a new or increased general revenue tax” without this arbitrary and unconstitutional 2/3 roll call vote of the whole number of each House of Congress, if that bill provides for “the reduction or elimination of an exemption, deduction, or credit allowed under an existing general revenue tax.” So, in common language, this clause would suggest that the Federal Government can still issue perks and pleasures to their crony government buddies by keeping the power to regulate … “exemptions, deductions or credits.”
We need clarification in Article II – Definitions, Section 6 (Page 4) of the meaning of the following clause with exclusions, “total receipts of the government of the United States means all tax receipts and other income of the government of the United States, excluding proceeds from its issuance or incurrence of debt or any type of liability (emphasis mine).” Maybe Senator Robertson would like to comment on the meaning of this clause – is this exclusion a “major issue” or a “belt” or a “suspender,” or is it simply obfuscation that leads to inquiry which leads to judicial review that leads to the enrichment of the judiciary class over the taxpaying class into perpetuity?
The same aforementioned Section 6 of Article II – Definitions concludes with another bewildering exclusion, as follows: “general revenue tax means any income tax, sales tax, or value-added tax levied by the government of the United States excluding imposts and duties (emphasis mine).” We would like any one of the State Senators to give us a clear and compelling definition of the following terms: income tax, valued-added tax, and imposts so that we may have a clear understanding of what revenue is taxable and what revenue is not taxable.
Section 7 of Article II – Definitions further crosses the constitutionally-mandate separation of powers by stating that “Congress may enact conforming legislation to facilitate enforcement (emphasis mine).” Be it duly noted that the power to enforce or execute law is found only in the Executive branch of the federal government under Article II, Section 1, Clause 1. Nowhere in the Article I, Section 8 enumerated powers does it give Congress the authority to facilitate enforcement of bills that are unconstitutionally generated in the first place by the executive branch for the purpose of raising revenue.
Without even getting past the Definitions pages of SB 306 and getting into Article III – Compact Membership and Withdrawal, Article IV – Compact Commission and Compact Administrator, Article V – Resolution Applying for Convention, Article VI – Delegate Appointment, Limitations and Instructions, Article VII – Convention Rules, Article VIII – Prohibition of Ultra Vires (defined as Invalid – definition mine) Convention, Article IX – Resolution Prospectively Ratifying The Balanced Budget Amendment, and Article X – Construction, Enforcement, Venue, and Severability that comprises Pages 6 through 23 of SB 306, We the People find sufficient unconstitutional language in the Definitions sections of SB 306 so as to render it impossible to conform to the rule of law as clearly outlined in the Constitution of the United States.
In conclusion, We the People would ask that the Michigan State House of Representatives, by Congressional action, reprimand the State Senate for wasting their time and our taxpayer dollars huffing and puffing about ridiculous legislation such as SB 306. Further, we would suggest that our State public servants collectively spend time reviewing, learning and understanding the Constitution of the United States, including but not limited to Article I, Section 8 enumerated powers of Congress and Article II, Section 1, Clause 1 Executive powers before embarking upon a Compact that would fundamentally transform our Constitutionally-limited Republican form of self-government.
Janice L. Daniels
November 27, 2015