Philip Blumel: Well, you win some, you lose some. Hi, I’m Philip Blumel. Welcome to No Uncertain Terms, the official podcast of the Term Limits movement for the week of March 18, 2019.
Stacey Selleck: Your sanctuary from partisan politics.
Philip Blumel: Let’s go straight to Nick Tomboulides, executive director of US Term Limits, to find out what the heck happened in West Virginia last week.
Philip Blumel: Hey Nick. Well last week we had a borage of great news. I was very excited and looking forward to the news of West Virginia over the weekend. This week, not so much. Turns out that we did have the West Virginia vote that we promised in last week’s podcast and the first in the house, I think. Correct me if I’m wrong. Worked out great. The second, well why don’t you tell us, Nick.
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah, I guess in every great story arc, sometimes the umpire strikes back and that is what happened this week. We passed the West Virginia House of Delegates which is the lower chamber, last week by a good margin, 55 to 42. That was on Friday and we were supposed to pass the State Senate on Saturday night. We were following this very closely. Keep in mind, this was the final day of the legislative session. We didn’t want to wait that long, we were forced by the West Virginia leadership to wait that long. We were assured, though, that there would be a vote. So the West Virginia Senate President Mitch Carmichael brought this bill to the floor at 11:40 PM on Saturday night so we were already sweating bullets.
Philip Blumel: And the session ends, constitutionally, at midnight.
Nick Tomboulides: Correct. So we were a little bit worried but we thought we had the votes. We thought that there would be some procedures in place to make sure that this got the hearing the vote that it deserved but there was a senator, I would describe him as an arrogant blow-hard senator, named Michael Romano who just got up and started bloviating. He goes on for 20 minutes, he’s attacking term limits, he’s attacking the idea of a convention, he’s defending career politicians in Washington, apparently believes they’re doing a great job, and once the clock struck midnight, just like the carriage in Cinderella, the legislative session ended and our bill was dead. So we turned into a pumpkin and this senator Michael Romano is officially responsible for killing a congressional term limits bill in West Virginia.
Philip Blumel: It was heart breaking. I was watching the livestream and the guy just looked at his watch, realized it’s midnight, and finished his meandering rant and that was it. The gavel fell and it was over and we lost. We didn’t lose, we had the votes. Our whip count looked strong. We were sure that we had West Virginia won and this guy pulled this parliamentary maneuver in order to make sure that term limits did not get a vote. I’m sure he’s under a lot of pressure right now because, just like everywhere else, the people of West Virginia love term limits and wanted this to pass.
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah. 83% of West Virginians want term limits on Congress so the support is overwhelming. Now we can’t pass West Virginia until 2020 at the soonest. The backlash against this guy has been pretty angry, pretty deafening. We put up a graphic on Facebook to expose his little scheme and his constituents, people all across West Virginia, have been bombarding him with emails and phone calls to call him out for using this deceptive tactic. He’s feeling heat and people who have called him have said this jerk has been insinuating he knows better than us, knows better than the people of West Virginia. That is the opposite of what a good public servant should do.
Nick Tomboulides: And what made it such a sleazy move, it would’ve been one thing if the West Virginia Senate voted for term limits on Congress and we lost the vote but that’s not what happened. We had the votes and this sleazy move was orchestrated to deny the people a vote. He knew he couldn’t win the debate so he used a sleaze bag tactic to stop the debate. So what he feared was a legitimate, genuine, honest vote on term limits and frankly, this guy is exactly the reason why term limits are so important. He’s become a parody. He’s become a poster child in his own right and we’re gonna see to it that he faces the music for this.
Philip Blumel: Right. We did not see this coming and so there may be more to the story than we know yet but we’re investigating and we’ll see to it that people in West Virginia will get the vote on this that they deserve and that they want.
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah, one question I have, certainly, is why didn’t the Senate president who had been supportive all along, Mitch Carmichael, why didn’t he strong arm Romano and force a vote on this? So I think the Senate president needs to answer that question and I think it’s gonna be hard for him to do so credibly. I’m not saying this is an inside job but I think there are certainly questions we have about how the Senate president behaved and why he didn’t allow the vote to take place.
Philip Blumel: Right. And once we get the story you’ll be sure that we’ll report it here on No Uncertain Terms Podcast.
Philip Blumel: In his filibuster to block a vote on the term limits convention in West Virginia last week, Senator Mike Romano of Harrison started his meander with a quote from Supreme Court Justine Antonin Scalia, implying that the respected jurist believe that an Article V amendment proposing convention was somehow an attack on the constitution. We’ve heard this before from various anti-term limits groups. This is not only not true but it’s the opposite of truth. Well Scalia opposed an open ended constitutional convention, such as the one we saw in 1787, and so do we at USTL, Scalia was adamantly in favor of states using Article V to propose specific amendments to the constitution. Scalia’s own words, from an American Enterprise Institute Forum in 1979, expose Senator Romano’s alarmist falsehoods.
Justice Scalia: It really comes down to whether you think a constitutional convention is necessary. I think it is necessary for some purposes and I’m willing to accept what seems to me, a minimal risk of intemperant action in order to have that achieved. The reason I feel it’s necessary is I think the reason the founders put in this alternative method of obtaining a constitutional convention, that the Congress is simply unwilling to give attention to many issues which it knows the people are concerned with and which issues involve restrictions upon the Federal government’s own power. I think the founders foresaw that and they provided this method in order to enable a convention to remedy that. If the only way to get that convention is to take this minimal risk, then I think it is a reasonable risk to be undergone.
Justice Scalia: But, what’s the alternative? The alternative is continuing with a system that provides no means of obtaining a constitutional amendment except through the kindness of the Congress which has demonstrated that it does not want to have any other way to get a constitutional amendment. It could have cleared up a lot of these questions. It could have facilitated them long ago. For that matter, as was suggested to me by someone before the program, it could have provided an amendment by the normal amending process which says that limited cause for state conventions are proper. That would have eliminated all doubt but the Congress is not about to do that. It likes the power. It does not want to have amending power anywhere else.
Justice Scalia: Now, not long ago Proposition 13 came out of California and there was a great cheer about the country. That cheer, it seemed to me at the time and still seems to me, was not so much because of the narrow issue that it pertained to. It was a sort of amazement that by golly, the people, when they really want something badly enough, can really get it despite the opposition of the legislature at the state level. And I think we’re facing the same thing at the federal level. The Congress knows that the people want more fiscal responsibility but it is unable to provide it. Now what we need is some means, at the federal level, like Proposition 13, the Constitution has provided.
Justice Scalia: I suggest that if the only way to clarify the law, if the only way to remove us from utter bondage to the Congress is to take what I think to be a minimal risk on this limited convention, then let’s take it.
Justice Scalia: The basic problem is simply that the Congress has become professionalized. It has an interest much higher than ever existed before in remaining in office. It has a bureaucracy that is serving it. It is much more subject to the power of individualized pressure groups as opposed to the unorganized feelings of the majority of the citizens. All of these reasons have created this feeling which is real and which I think has a proper basis of powerlessness. One remedy for that, the one specifically provided in the Constitution, is this amendment process which bypasses the Congress. I would like to see that amendment process used just once at first. I don’t much care what it’s used for the first time. I think just having it used once will exert an enormous influence upon both the Congress and the Supreme Court I think. I think we’ll get the parameters established of how you do it, what can be done, and I think after that the Congress and the Court will behave much better.
Philip Blumel: In the other states where we had big victories last week, Georgia and Arizona, if you recall from last week’s podcast, the Arizona House and the Georgia Senate both passed the Term Limits Convention Resolution and now we’re waiting on the vote of the other chamber in each state. We haven’t got any dates or anything on this but what’s the status, Nick, and what should people be doing?
Nick Tomboulides: Well in both of theses states, Georgia and Arizona, we have passed one chamber, like you said. We’ve passed the Georgia State Senate and we’ve passed the Arizona House and the mission, right now, is don’t let Georgia and Arizona become the next West Virginia. Get the vote, get it before the end of session, and pass. But we’re not gonna do that without activating our activist army without getting phone calls and emails into members of the Georgia legislature and the Arizona legislature. Right now in Georgia the decision rests with the Speaker of the House, David Ralston. This guy has continually held back the term limits resolution but he’s under fire right now. He’s got some personal scandals that are kind of blowing up state wide and I think we might be able to pressure him to do the right thing if we get active. So for people who want to influence this situation or the situation in Arizona, you have to go to TermLimits.com, go to the current actions tab. There you will see calls to action for Georgia and for Arizona.
Nick Tomboulides: In Georgia it’s SR237 and Arizona it’s HCR2022. Both of them have a real chance of passage this session. Both of them have sessions that go into April so we’ve got a little bit of time on our hands but we have to get active now. We have to contact these people and tell them we need it to pass. If you live in either one of those states-
Philip Blumel: If you’re in Arizona or Georgia, go to the page. TermLimits.com, current actions tab. And in fact, you know, I think we ought to call the Georgia House Speaker and tell him directly that we wanna have a vote on this. I highly recommend you do so. Do you have that number Nick?
Nick Tomboulides: I do. His capital office in Atlanta is (404) 656-5020. Remind him that over 80% of Georgians want term limits for Congress. As a representative it’s his job to listen to the people.
Philip Blumel: Okay. Well, we did have some really good news from last week too, though. We had Florida. We went up to Tallahassee to see this with our own eyes as the bill to put on the ballot, a measure that would limit the terms of Florida’s school board members to eight years in office, advanced in the Senate. Passed the committee four to three and we heard from a lot of great term limits activists in Florida that came to the podium and told legislatures what they’d like to see done and the legislatures listened.
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah it was funny, we’ve featured on this podcast before the commentary from Shayna Lopez Rivas who’s a Tallahassee based activist but I think her testimony at this hearing was probably my favorite because she basically told these senators look, nobody needs more than eight years to learn their job.
Shayna Lopes: As far as term limits go, I’m very in favor of term limits for every single body of elected office that there is but as far as eight versus 12, I’ll tell you this much. My mom became a trauma nurse at the time with a two year nursing degree. When she first started working in an ICU, you wouldn’t have expected her to work six to ten years to be able to do a good job. In fact, you would’ve expected her the moment she started to be able to do a good job. And the same is true with other professions as well. It takes six months of training to become a police officer and it certainly doesn’t take six years to become a fireman. All of these jobs are where on day one making a mistake and not doing a good job means life or death for somebody else.
Shayna Lopes: School boards don’t have that life or death looming over them but I can say that the only place I’ve heard that it takes six to ten years to learn how to do your job is right here and in reference to political careers. If it takes you more than eight years to do a good job, you don’t need to be doing that job.
Philip Blumel: Last week we featured representative Hank Johnson of Georgia and his comments about Guam tipping over. This segment was quite a hit. We find it startling that this Congress member rarely faces serious opposition at the ballot box, if anyone runs against him at all, and we view his career in Congress as a testament to the power of incumbency. It’s a heavy lesson. In 2014 the Washingtonian published their 15th Biannual Best and Worst of Congress List. Representative Johnson was voted the most clueless by congressional staffers. That’s important but No Uncertain Terms listeners, apparently, just found Hank Johnson to be hilarious.
Philip Blumel: So, by popular demand, we offer another of Hank Johnson’s greatest hits. This one is from 2013 where Johnson is found defending helium subsidies before the US House.
Hank Johnson: This bill, which shows that this tea party Congress will make the tough choice to keep children’s birthday parties on schedule and give industries that rely on helium the lift that they deserve. Imagine, Mr. Speaker, a world without balloons. How can we make sure that the injustice of there being no helium for comedians to get that high-pitched voice that we all hold near and dear to our hearts. Imagine a world without balloons.
Philip Blumel: We haven’t talked about Maryland at all and yet there has been some movement in Maryland. Term limits convention bill has been introduced in the House. I know that it’s got 20 co-sponsors and we’ve got Ken Quinn, US Term Limits, on the ground working hard to get people alerted to this and get involved in the process and apparently they’re starting to hear from us.
Speaker 7: Mr. Quinn.
Ken Quinn: Good afternoon Madam Chair, distinguished members of the committee. My name is Ken Quinn. I’m from Richmond, Maine. I’m with US Term Limits and the American people have been wanting term limits on Congress for decades. In the early 90s, 23 states passed laws putting term limits on their own members of Congress. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court in 1995 overturned all those state laws and what the court determined was the only way this could happen is through Article V of the US Constitution. There’s only two ways to propose amendments, both Houses of Congress need to pass it by two thirds or two thirds of the states need to apply.
Ken Quinn: Now does anybody here in this room think that Congress is gonna propose a term limit amendment on themselves? Of course not. They’ve introduced it over 200 times. In fact, the concerns about a runway convention, it happens every day. It’s called Congress. That’s the runaway convention. Congress has introduced, get this, over 12,000 amendments to the US Constitution. 12,000. The 116th Congress has already introduced 35 amendments to the US Constitution. Any member can stand up any day that they’re in session to introduce an amendment. That is what takes place. With this process, we are only seeking the same opportunity that Congress has taken advantage of 12,000 times. It is limited. It requires agreement, a concurrent of two thirds or 34 states on the same subject matter. That has been proven throughout our history. That is what the framers said at the 1787 Convention and that’s been our experience.
Ken Quinn: The benefits of open seat elections will benefit our nation greatly. We need greater participation in government. That can only come by allowing people more opportunity to run for office, give us voters more opportunity to vote for people that we believe in, not just the greater or the lesser of two evils. Term limits will help reduce the amount of money being spent on elections because 97% of corporate [inaudible 00:19:11] money goes to the incumbents. They don’t want to give money to the challengers because they don’t, I’ll say, own them already.
Philip Blumel: It’s a new week. If you live in Arizona or Georgia, please go to TermLimits.com and look for the current actions tab and use it to send a message to legislatures to support the term limits convention bills. Do it right now, please.
Philip Blumel: We are creating a YouTube video of Scalia’s rousing endorsement of Article V and also a meme or two. Next time you hear someone rely on Justice Antonin Scalia to attack the term limits convention, be sure to enlighten him or her with this information.
Philip Blumel: Last, please subscribe to the No Uncertain Terms Podcast and tell your friends about it too. Imagine if tens of thousands of Americans listened in each week, learning the arguments and catching up on the progress of the term limits movement. We’d be a united and noisy force, unstoppable. You can use the Podcast app on your iPhone to subscribe or use Stitcher or Google play on your Android device or go to iTunes and be sure to rate and review us while you’re there.
Philip Blumel: We’ll be back next week with the latest. If you can’t wait, check us out at TermLimits.com
Stacey Selleck: Follow us on most social media @USTermLimits.
MUSIC CREDITS – Full versions of the music sampled during this podcast may be purchased via iTunes at the following links :
“Let The Four Winds Blow” by Tenpole Tudor, “Jive Talkin” by The Bee-Gees, “99 Luftballoons” by Nena
The “No Uncertain Terms” podcast is produced by Duke Decter for U.S. Term Limits
Executive Producer Philip Blumel (President, U.S. Term Limits)