Philip Blumel: Welcome to Tales of Terror. Hi, I’m Philip Blumel. This show’s actually titled, “No Uncertain Terms.” The official podcast of the Term Limits Movement, and this is the episode for the week of February 17th, 2020. But recently in the New Hampshire, state house, there has been an attempt to spook legislators into abandoning their previous support for an article five amendment writing convention. One after another, a parade of opponents spun fearful tales of conspiracy, chaos and anarchy that would reign apparently if States were to send delegates to hash out a proposal for a constitutional amendment. Any constitutional amendment. Fortunately our own Ken Quinn was on the scene with the facts. Before we get into that, let’s find out how U.S. Term Limits, Executive Director Nick Tomboulides fared in Washington DC last week as he met with many of our nation state governors. Hey Nick.
Nick Tomboulides: Hello. Happy President’s day.
Philip Blumel: Oh, thank you. Now I understand that last week you spent in Washington DC but didn’t visit the president, but you visited with a lot of our nation’s governors. How’d that go and what were you there for?
Nick Tomboulides: I was there. I hate flying to Washington DC. It’s my least favorite city in America because it just reminds me of all the wealth of the political class. They don’t make any product or service in Washington DC and yet like four of the five richest counties in America are surrounding it. So do the math. But I attended the National Governors Association in DC, which is a nonpartisan group. Every single governor is a member. The governors themselves actually travel out for this. They do sessions, they give speeches, they host receptions. And the cool thing about it is that you actually get a lot of one on one time with these governors to talk to them about whatever you want. So naturally I wanted to take their temperature on term limits and see where most of these people stood.
Philip Blumel: And how did it go? What kind of vibe did you get?
Nick Tomboulides: Believe it or not, a majority of Republican governors I spoke with and a majority of the democratic governors favored term limits on Congress. And that makes a lot of sense to me. They seem governors in general, they seem to be more reasonable people because a lot of them came from outside politics and 36 of the 50 governors have term limits. So you don’t usually see someone squat in the position of governor for a very long time and grow out of touch. But it was a very warm reaction. Like I said, majority of democratic governors I spoke with favorite term limits on Congress.
Nick Tomboulides: I’ll give you an example. Ned Lamont, the governor of Connecticut, not someone you would traditionally think of as a term limit supporter. He told me he wished the Connecticut legislature had a term limit of six years, which I thought was cool. So that might be an opportunity to work with him, an opportunity to work with Connecticut and getting term limits on Congress. I know we’ve gotten a bill filed there before. He’s a guy with a business background and he’s probably damn annoyed with all the sluggishness, all the complacency of the legislature.
Philip Blumel: I’m not too surprised about the attitude of governors. When you think about the fact that they deal with legislatures and they’re not actually part of it. So their interests are not exactly aligned with all the other legislators, which is the problem with talking to legislators about term limits of course. And also governors, like you say, they have a more varied background. Also they have a real job and being a governor is an executive position where you actually have to run a major organization. Whereas being a legislator is really not a difficult job. Your job is really to show up and to press a button.
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah. And a lot of these governors actually get paid less than members of Congress. Members of Congress get $174,000 a year. I think most governors get substantially less than that. So not only are they doing more work, but they’re getting less pay. And unlike Congressman, Congresswoman, it’s typically not the highest paying job they’ve ever had because most of them come from some kind of executive background. So-
Philip Blumel: They’ve been successful at something prior to politics.
Nick Tomboulides: They tend to be more reasonable. And in terms of what we’re trying to do with article five, obviously what we need is to get a state legislature to call for term limits on Congress. That would mean the state house in the state Senate signing off on it with the majority vote. Or in the case of Nebraska, just the state Senate, since they have a unicameral. But that doesn’t mean the governor can’t play a significant role in the process. Every governor has a bully pulpit, they give a state of the state address every year where they lay out their priorities and who’s to say term limits can’t be one of those priorities. So I was pleasantly surprised by the positive reaction we got there.
Philip Blumel: Excellent. In what way could we recruit governors or I guess I want to say, what do you ask of them if they turn out to be in favor of term limits? What would we like them to do to help out our effort to term limit Congress?
Nick Tomboulides: I tend to ask them to go get their boots shined and then personally helped me kick politicians out of office.
Philip Blumel: Very good.
Nick Tomboulides: No, I think it’s a spokesperson role, a leadership role, someone who can be on TV and the papers communicating on behalf of the term limits movement. A great example I’ll give you is Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida. He’s not somebody I needed to ask about this because I already know where he stands. He is very vocal in his support for term limits. He’s helping us get school board term limits through the Florida legislature. He’s helping get other States on board to term limit Congress. So we need more Ron DeSantises out there. We need to build the bench of governors who will help us get this done.
Philip Blumel: All right. And Of course there will always be helpful in any state where we’re trying to get a term limits convention bill through legislature to have the governor on our side. Even though generally the governor does not have to sign off on a resolution for an article five convention.
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah. Not only do they not have to sign off, but if they tried to veto it, it would not stop the resolution from going forward.
Philip Blumel: That’s right.
Nick Tomboulides So in a technical sense, they don’t have a role in the process, but we all know that when a governor makes a statement that carries a lot of clout in a state and beyond.
Scott Tillman: Hi, this is Scott Tillman, the National Field Director with U.S. term limits. We ask candidates for the state legislature to sign a pledge to help us get congressional term limits. The pledge reads, “I pledge that as a member of the state legislature, I will co-sponsor, vote for and defend the resolution applying for an article five convention for the sole purpose of enacting term limits on Congress.” There are many legislative elections coming in 2020 and the last two weeks 49 new candidates for state legislature have signed the pledge. We also ask federal candidates to pledge support. In the last two weeks, 12 new congressional candidates signed the pledge. The pledge reads, “I will co-sponsor and support the U.S. term limits amendment of three house terms and two Senate terms and no longer limit.” Candidates are getting real traction with the U.S. term limits pledge and with the U.S. term limits issue. If you have access to candidates, please ask them to sign our pledge. Pledges are available at termlimits.com
Philip Blumel: In the New Hampshire state house in January, a hearing was held before the house state federal relations and veteran affairs committee about resending that state’s application for an amendment writing convention under article five of the U.S. Constitution. Now that application wasn’t about term limits. But U.S. term limits Northern regional director Ken Quinn was there to defend the article five convention process against a parade of fear mongers. His testimony was quite frustrated, but it was also masterful. He’s with us today on No Uncertain Terms. Welcome to the podcast, Ken.
Ken Quinn: Hey Phil. How are you doing?
Philip Blumel: So before we get started, let me set the table for the discussion. As listeners know, all 27 amendments to the U.S. constitution this far have been proposed by the U.S. Congress. But the founders also included the power for States by convention to propose amendments to the constitution that the U.S. Congress wouldn’t touch. They realized that it was possible that Congress itself might be the problem and that the convention route was provided as yet another constitutional check and balance. Now in New Hampshire, because of this call for a article five convention, critics put forth this resolution and there were hearings held on other day about why the calls for a convention should be rescinded. And the arguments they made was that the convention process is dangerous and untested because one, it’s never been done. And two, because we don’t know the rules by which a convention would operate. But Ken, your testimony seemed to contradict that.
Ken Quinn: It’s not true. And I think that’s why you could tell I was a little frustrated in my testimony.
Philip: I did hear that. Yes. So what specifically when they say it’s never been done, what do you say to that?
Ken Quinn: I would like to address that because typically in my testimony I like to go over the history of these conventions and we have a long rich history of conventions of States and it’s fascinating history. Prior to our independence, the colonies would meet in convention to deal with issues. And then after our independence and even after the constitution was ratified, we still had conventions of States. It’s the means of addressing critical issues. And that foundation to our system of government is still active and vibrant today. And so I like to do a little history lesson when I testify because not only have we had conventions, but we have one every single year.
Ken Quinn: And I don’t know if you want to get into that, but I like to share how we have a convention every single year. All 50 States participate in it and it operates exactly like an article five convention.
Philip Blumel: That was one of the things that caught my attention. So let’s talk about this convention because I think most legislators don’t know about it. Most of our listeners probably don’t know about it. So there is a convention of the States every year. What’s it called?
Ken Quinn: It was originally called the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws. Today it’s known as the Uniform Law Commission. Okay. And if you ever heard of the uniform commercial code, if you’re familiar with that, it came from this convention.
Philip Blumel: And this is held every year?
Ken Quinn: Yeah. It’s held every year. It started in 1892 and what was happening back after the constitution was ratified and the States had different laws. And so it started to get really messy for the people of our country because you go from one state to another, they had totally different laws and what happened was the federal government started to encroach upon the States and their authority.
Ken Quinn: And so they got tired of this and I believe the first meeting was in Saratoga, New York. I think five States sent delegates and the whole purpose of starting this conference or convention amongst the States was to prevent the federal government from intervening in the issues that are delegated to the States. And so it was basically enforcing the 10th amendment is what it was doing. And they met every single year. Since then, the only year they did not meet was in 1945. And so we have a vibrant history of how a convention of States works.
Philip Blumel: So it will be meeting in 2020, where?
Ken Quinn: In Madison, Wisconsin.
Philip Blumel: Okay.
Ken Quinn: And I attended the one in 2016 in Vermont and it was fascinating. The delegates were all seated together with the flag of their States. The whole entire process from the call to the final vote of the, what they call, model act, is a virtually identical to an article five convention.
Philip Blumel: Okay. Let me see this in a little detail. So we have all 50 States are participating in this. That’s fantastic. Participation, I guess they wouldn’t have to if they didn’t choose to. Now each state sends delegates and you said they’re seated together. So that’d be very much like any other convention of States. They, I guess they have an agenda that they agree on and they make proposals. Now what happens with these proposals because a convention of States itself cannot alter or abolish any law.
Ken Quinn: Yeah, great question. So once they vote, it’s one state, one vote at the conference. And typically they will typically pass maybe five or six of these, what they call model acts or uniform acts. And what happens after they pass it, the commissioners or the delegates, they then bring that model, act back to their state and bring it to the state legislature to be adopted as a bill to try to get the legislature to pass it.
Ken Quinn: And if it gets passed, they call it enacted. Once it’s enacted, it only applies to that state. So it doesn’t apply to other States only to that state. So that mirrors the ratification process of an amendment.
Philip Blumel: Yeah, very similar. Okay. That’s very interesting. And you mentioned also in your testimony in New Hampshire, and I found this fascinating that there was also a convention of States that actually related to article five in Arizona and I think you said 2017 what was that about?
Ken Quinn: Yeah, that was an official convention of States called by the Arizona legislature. They met in Phoenix and the purpose of that convention was to draft the rules for the article five convention for the balanced budget amendment. They’re up to 28 States now. So if they got to a convention, the purpose of this convention was to have the rules already established for that specific convention.
Philip Blumel: How many States participated in the Arizona Convention of States?
Ken Quinn: 21, 25 States, I believe. I don’t have the exact number.
Philip Blumel: Okay. Wow, that’s good participation. All right, and that followed I guess the exact same structure as I guess any other convention of States, including an amendment five convention, which is that some state calls it, States provide delegates, they adopt some rules and then they come up with proposals that they send back for ratification or approval by the appropriate legislatures. So clearly, the amendment process is something that’s not experimental. It’s something that we’ve used all the time. Let’s look at the rules for a second because you said that the convention of States in Arizona in 2017 was being held to adopt rules for a potential actual article five amendment writing convention that directly addresses some of the fears that people have about article five conventions.
Philip Blumel: But I noticed to have a convention that convention of States in Arizona must had rules. And also the uniform law commission that’s held every year has rules. Where did these rules come from?
Ken Quinn: Yeah, and that’s what’s the most troubling and disturbing thing about this opposition is that we use the rules like this every single year. It’s foundational to how these conventions operate. This is nothing new. In fact, the rules that the uniform law commission operates under are very similar to the rules that other conventions of States have used way back when. And so what’s fascinating, especially in New Hampshire, New Hampshire of all States should be actually leading this charge because each state has its own constitution. New Hampshire in their history, they have had 17 conventions. Two of those conventions were called to draft or adopt a new constitution. 15 were called to propose amendments to their state constitution and their last one was 1984 so out of all the States, New Hampshire knows how to operate a convention.
Ken Quinn: And what’s really fascinating was in their constitution, there’s no rules for such a convention. So obviously, they don’t have the rules in their constitution-
Philip Blumel: Okay.
Ken Quinn: But they’ve been able to do it 17 times.
Philip Blumel: Well, I think it’s pretty clear that there are traditions that basically you go into a convention and you basically know roughly what the rules are going to be and it’s a matter of codifying them I guess is one of the first things you do when you establish a convention of any kind. I know that I’ve been to all kinds of conventions and one of the first things you do is you adopt rules. For most groups, it’s simply a matter of saying, okay, we’re going to operate according to common-
Ken Quinn: Mason’s rules.
Philip Blumel: Or whatever. Yeah. But the point is that there’s a history of rules for conventions and it’s not really a controversial thing. Once you adopt them, the convention has operated according to those rules. And because there’s been so many conventions over history, you go into these conventions knowing basically what the rules are going to be. You nail it down first thing and you move on. It’s a funny thing to create fear and loathing about, because what I’m hearing from you right now is that not only is the convention process not new or experimental, but it’s used all the time. It has been for the whole history of United States. And secondly that we have traditional rules for these conventions. Plus there’s actually rules that have been hammered out or being hammered out by the States right now specifically for an article five convention. So when I hear all this, and I’m sure people listening to this podcast are thinking this is pretty weedy stuff and they’re probably not getting scared. What’s probably, they’re getting bored.
Philip Blumel: This is really boring stuff. So where did all the fear come from, from these people speaking in front of this committee in New Hampshire? What are they afraid of?
Ken Quinn: Well, you’ve got groups out there that want to maintain the status quo, protect the establishment and they use this fear and they try to make it sound like this has never happened before. And now technically there’s never been an article five convention and that’s correct. We’ve never had an article five convention called. And so they use that, I hate to say it, but they use the ignorance of people to make them very fearful of the process when they would just take the time to do a little research and realize, Oh my goodness, we’re using this every single year.
Philip Blumel: This is an important discussion because even though it’s not directly term limits related, we are looking to convince States to call for an amendment writing convention under article five of the U.S. Constitution limited to the subject of congressional term limits. Now, term limits are so popular with the people, that when this issue comes to a head, when we start getting enough States and getting close to critical mass, the political establishment is going to have to find some way to thwart us. And they’re not going to want to admit that they’re against term limits. So I think we’re going to hear a lot more of this talk about, Oh, it’s never been done before. Oh, what will the rules be? Oh, this is a dangerous experiment when it is not.
Male: It’s all there right there [inaudible 00:18:25]. No tricks.
Male: Your organizations is through [inaudible 00:18:31].
Male: There’s a lot more where they came from. Believe me.
Male: Uphold the law. You just killed three police officers, Harry. And the only reason I’m not going to kill you is because I’m going to prosecute you with your own system.
Male: It’ll be my word against yours. And who’s going to believe you.
Male: Man’s got to know his limitations.
Philip Blumel: Did you meet any other notables in Washington while you were there?
Nick Tomboulides: I did, actually. I happened to meet the honorable speaker of the U.S. house of representatives…
Philip Blumel: Okay, Nancy Pelosi.
Nick Tomboulides: I met Nancy Pelosi and it was like Luke Skywalker meeting Darth Vader.
Philip Blumel: All right.
Nick Tomboulides: Thankfully she did not say she was my mother because that would have been terrifying. But so I got some advanced word she was going to be there and the gears in my head started turning because I really knew I had to do something. People who know me know I’m a little bit of a provocateur. If you weren’t already aware of that, I was the kid who would let the pet snake loose in the classroom and stand in the corner laughing my ass off. So combining my lack of maturity with a Nancy Polosi appearance, and this is what you get. My original plan was to give her a copy of the term limits pledge. But not just any term limits pledge, a laminated version, so that when I handed it to her she could not rip it in half like she did with Trump speech.
Nick Tomboulides: So I had the pledge laminated but I didn’t… They were moving her so fast through security. There was no time. So I wasn’t able to give it to her. But my plan B was to sneak my term limit sign into a picture with her and me and that we were able to do.
Philip Blumel: Yeah, I saw it. It’s great.
Nick Tomboulides: Which was really cool. So that picture is online. That picture is on Term Limits Facebook, term limits.com, Term Limits Twitter. It’s gotten like tens of thousands of shares from people. And what you didn’t see was behind the guy taking the photo, were like 100 people watching this. All these political leaders in Washington know us. And they see me whip out the term limit sign and they start cracking up as this is happening. And Nancy Pelosi looks at me and asked me why they’re laughing. And I’m like, I have no idea.
Nick Tomboulides: So she had no idea that joke was on her and it was amazing.
Philip Blumel:That’s fun.
Nick Tomboulides: And meanwhile I was hanging out with Nancy Pelosi and my wife was at an event with Rand Paul in Florida who of course is a very big pro term limits guy.
Philip Blumel: Sure.
Nick Tomboulides: So I’m thinking, I need to reevaluate my life choices here because something has gone horribly wrong. Why am I hanging out with Nancy Pelosi?
Philip Blumel: Well that was very helpful. Thank you very much. We also had some concrete news over the past week down in Florida, for instance. You mentioned how we’re working on trying to get eight year term limits on all of the school boards and that has made its way through a couple more committees and now is headed towards a floor vote in the house on Wednesday.
Nick Tomboulides: Yes. This will be the first time the Florida house has ever voted as a body on putting school board term limits on the ballot. It’s never made it this far before. If you recall back in 2018 it got on the ballot through the constitutional revision commission and then for activists in black robes on the state Supreme Court struck it down. They disenfranchise 13 million people. So this is our second bite at the Apple. It has gotten through all of its committees on the house side, which is phenomenal. It has gotten through all but one committee on the Senate side has. It’s awaiting one more hearing and then it will go to the Senate floor too. And if it gets a three-fifths vote in each chamber, it will be on the 2020 ballot. So every Floridian will get to decide it, which is really cool.
Philip Blumel: Well, I’m not counting chickens yet. We got a lot of work to do, but I mean we really have momentum on this and it really looks like fingers crossed that we’re going to cross the finish.
Nick Tomboulides: We do all the hard work. All the elbow grease has been paying off. We’ve been schlepping our way around the state for the last three years just talking to people about this, building coalitions, getting legislators signed up behind it, writing op-eds, writing letters to the editor. So many people have worked so hard. It’s been a true grassroots campaign and now we’re just starting to see the fruits of that effort. But I will tell you like I would say we’re on our opponents 20 yard line right now and it’s like third and six. We’ve got good field position, but this is by no means a lock. We can’t take it for granted. If you live in Florida, go online, go to term limits.com and go to our action page and send a message to these legislators because they need to hear from you.
Philip Blumel: Thanks for joining us for this episode of No uncertain terms. Term limits are an American tradition that is worth celebrating. On February 27th, how will you publicly show your support for term limits day? For ideas, go to term limits.com\termlimitsday. For swag, go to term limits.com\shop. Feel free to contact us with your ideas through our website as well. Whatever you do, be sure to document it on social media. Thanks. We’ll be back next week.
Female: If you like what you’re hearing, please subscribe and leave a review. The No Uncertain Terms Podcast can be found on iTunes, Stitcher and now Google Play.
Male: You just totally rewired my brain on the concept of term limits. To be Frank with you, I didn’t like term limits, but term limits for all. That totally changes the dynamic.