The next great constitutional debate?

There is currently a major effort underway to have a convention of states, as provided for in Article V of the U.S. Constitution, to propose amendments to that document.

This effort has been going on for several years, but has not really received much public attention. Even in academia, there really hasn't been much substantive debate in this area beyond what rules would govern a convention, and what questions it should address: should the presidential Electoral College be eliminated; should term limits be imposed on Congress; do we need a federal balanced budget amendment; and should health care be a constitutionally protected right?

The Texas Legislature recently voted to support the call for a convention of the states.

If the states are going to call for such a gathering, we would like to offer several proposed constitutional amendments for consideration.

Our goal in offering these proposals is to bring more mainstream attention to a possibly monumental moment in our nation's history, and to generate more public debate about the proposed constitutional amendments.

Our proposed amendments for the states to consider:

  • Eliminate the nomination of presidential candidates by private organizations — political parties — and instead create an open-ballot national "jungle presidential primary" process like those used in Louisiana and California. This would take us beyond simply eliminating the Electoral College. This proposal would really create a national presidential election based on popular votes. It would also help reduce some of the extreme political partisanship now dividing our nation.
  • Authorize alternative voting systems for the election of senators and members of the U.S. House of Representatives. Eliminate partisan primary voting in the election of all members of Congress.
  • Provide automatic lifetime voter registration at birth and naturalization. The registration would travel with a voter to wherever they were living at the time of a national, state or local election. America was created by authorization of "the People" through their colonial (state) legislatures. As such, neither state legislatures nor Congress should be allowed to interfere with the people's right to vote and govern themselves through the democratic process at the ballot box.
  • Provide adequate funding to ensure high-quality public school and college education for all Americans.
  • Review all federal agencies and programs every 10 to 20 years, ending those that are no longer required.
  • Beyond requiring a federal balanced budget amendment, subject the entire federal government to a Texas-style performance review every 25 years to maintain the government’s efficiency and to control waste.
  • Create a federal police shooting review board with subpoena power to independently review police shootings and the deaths of civilians in police custody.

These proposed amendments are intentionally provocative. They were structured to attract attention and generate debate.

Let that debate begin — inside and outside of the academy, in the mainstream media as well as among community activists, political partisans and citizens all over the U.S.

We believe that thoughtful, intelligent and respectful debate is good for our nation.

Disclosure: Texas Southern University has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

Michael Adams

Interim Dean, Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs, Texas Southern University