A judge has quietly dismissed a lawsuit against Missouri Republican state Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard over a resolution the legislature approved in 2017.
Ron Calzone’s lawsuit claimed the Senate Resolution (Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 4) calling for a Convention of States was not first sent to the governor before being sent to Congress.
Missouri became the 12th state to send a document to Congress calling for a Convention of States to propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The process is granted by Article V of the U.S. Constitution.
Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem issued a decision Wednesday saying Calzone doesn’t have standing to bring a lawsuit as a taxpayer because he wasn’t harmed by the legislature’s actions.
Beetem further determined that Article V doesn’t include the governor in the process for applying for a Convention of States and also noted the resolution was not subject to state law because the legislature was exercising authority granted under Article V of the U.S. Constitution, not the state.
Calzone of south-central Missouri’s Dixon is the executive director of a group called “Missouri First” and is a familiar fixture at the state Capitol who testifies at committee meetings.
On the Missouri First website, Calzone, who is not an attorney, said calling a constitutional convention “opens the door to amending the Constitution at a time when moneyed special interests and unfaithful politicians run the show”.
The 12 states that have so far petitioned Congress for a Convention of States – Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Indiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Louisiana, Arizona, North Dakota, Texas and Missouri – are all under Republican control.
The national organization supporting the various state resolutions, itself known as Convention of States Project or COSP, has three priorities. It wants to restrain federal spending, reduce the jurisdictional reach of Congress and impose term limits on many federal officials, including Supreme Court Justices.
Although Judge Beetem’s decision dismissed Calzone’s lawsuit on procedural grounds, Missouri COSP Director Brett Sterley said the hand down confirms the organization’s legal standing.
“This ruling validates the constitutionality of our Convention of States grassroots movement,” said Sterley. “It sets a national precedent for lawsuits that might question our organization’s intent or legal position.”
Convention of States Action President Mark Meckler called the decision a triumph of states’ rights. “This is a victory for federalism,” said Meckler. “No one can stand in the way of our right, through our state legislatures, to amend our Constitution and restore meaningful restraints on the federal government.”
The Convention of States Project, which was launched in 2013, claims it has more than 3.3 million volunteers and advocates.
As stipulated by the constitution, 34 state legislatures would have to pass largely the same resolution to legally call for a convention of states.
State sponsors are allowed to make contributions to the Convention of States resolution. The Supreme Court has determined that the documents must “aggregate”, or agree, and call for the same meeting.
Any proposals drawn up at a Convention of States would have to be approved by 38 states to become federal law.
There’s been concern that a Convention of States could swerve in dangerous and unpredictable directions because once delegates are sent to the gathering, they become federal officials with authority derived from Article V, not from the states that sent them there.
The Convention of States Project claims its movement is bipartisan in nature. One of its prominent spokespeople is former Republican Oklahoma U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, who was ranked among the most conservative members of the chamber when he was in office.
The organization has also been loosely endorsed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a nonprofit organization of conservative state legislators and private sector representatives who draft state-level legislation for state governments to consider.
Two other groups in addition to the Convention of States Project have formed to call a similar Article V gathering.
U.S. Term Limits is focused on the singular topic of imposing a limit on the length of time members of the U.S. Congress can serve. The group Americans for a Balanced Budget Amendment (ABBA) wants to assemble a convention of states for the purpose of passing a balanced budget amendment.
The Missouri legislature passed a resolution this year for a Convention of States based on the U.S. Term Limits organization’s effort.