Green Room

If I could amend the Constitution

posted at 10:19 pm on September 20, 2009 by

  1. An Interstate Commercial Transaction as referred to in Article I, Section 8, only exists when the buyer and seller are residents of different states, and the buyer gives money to the seller in exchange for products and/or services which are delivered from one state to another. Congress has no power to regulate commercial transactions which take place within a state between residents of that state, and the Commerce Clause of Article I, Section 8, shall not be construed to grant Congress power to regulate anything which is not commerce.
  2. Because it is important for America citizens who are not members of the Armed Forces to be able to protect themselves, their families, their property, their fellow citizens, and the nation as a whole, the right of private citizens over 18 years of age who are not convicted felons to purchase, possess, and carry firearms and ammunition shall not be infringed by federal, state, or local law.
  3. Hanging as a form of capital punishment is permitted under the Constitution of the United States, provisions of Amendment Eight notwithstanding.
  4. No court in the United States shall be guided by precedents established by courts in other nations or by international tribunals. The United States Constitution and the laws and treaties created under its authority shall be the sole source for all legal decisions within the sovereign territory of the United States.
  5. No person shall serve more than 8 years as a US Representative or 12 years as a US Senator.
  6. No provision of any treaty shall be enforceable within the United States if it infringes the rights of citizens as recognized by this Constitution.
  7. Neither Congress nor any state or local government shall make any law infringing the right of the people to produce and release carbon dioxide. No taxes or fees may be charged for such release.
  8. In lawsuits where lawyers work on contingency, the lawyers collectively may not receive a greater percentage of the award than any single one of the clients they represent.
  9. It is double jeopardy for a defendant to be criminally tried in both State and Federal court for the same event, even if the indictments read differently. In cases in which both State and Federal prosecutors wish to prosecute, the State shall have priority.
  10. Neither the federal government nor any state or locality may pass any law or implement any policy which discriminates against or in favor of any person on the basis of race, gender, or national origin.

Of course, the chance of this even being considered is nil. I’m more likely to be struck by lightning.

(Crossposted from my blog Chizumatic.)

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Comments

I like it overall, but your point 10 strikes a conflicting note with;

No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President

While a constitutional requirement is not a law or policy, it seems inelegant and presumably an avenue of attack against your amendments as a whole.

18-1 on September 20, 2009 at 11:35 PM

Steve,

Great to see your post.
5. I assume those limits are in total not just a limit on serving more than 8/12 successively.

chimney sweep on September 20, 2009 at 11:43 PM

Some quibbles:

4. No court in the United States shall be guided by precedents established by courts in other nations or by international tribunals, except precedents prior to July 4, 1776 in the law of the United Kingdom and Anglo-Saxon common law. The United States Constitution and the laws and treaties created under its authority shall be the sole source for all legal decisions within the sovereign territory of the United States.

For 5, I’d prefer instead to simply mandate that no one can be re-elected to consecutive terms in the office of Representative, Senator, or President. After they’ve sat out, if the people see fit to return them to office, so be it. Look at how George McGovern has grown since he left government!

But my real preference is to repeal the 16th and 17th Amendments, (making election to Senate a matter for state legislatures). And I’m growing ever more fond of the idea of doing away with elections to the House entirely, and instead simply randomly selecting citizens over the age of 25. Such a body would truly be representative of the people. If anyone should object that it would undoubtedly contain some mentally deficient members, I would point them to its current roster and ask if they really think it would be worse.

8 is right out. It interferes with people’s right to contract with one another for services. It’s bogus when rabble-rousers go after CEOs for making “too much” money, and equally bogus to go after lawyers to work class-action suits. I’d rather go with loser-pays to mitigate their excesses.

The Monster on September 20, 2009 at 11:44 PM

In the case of (9), I would make an exception if the federal charges include Treason.

malclave on September 21, 2009 at 12:17 AM

9.It is double jeopardy for a defendant to be criminally tried in both State and Federal court for the same event, even if the indictments read differently.

Military Justice doesn’t have double jeopardy or otherwise known as Former Jeopardy. Military justice is based on four pillars: The Constitution, UCMJ, Manual for Court-Martial, and Precedents.

Having said that, if you get a DWI off base, after the State prosecutes you the Military will probably give you an Article 15 (non judicial punishment), not for the DWI but for your conduct, Article 92 (Failure to obey order or regulation) and/or Article 134 (General Article).

If the State doesn’t prosecute you or you get a DWI on base
then Article 111 (Drunken or reckless driving) applies.

UCMJ

ART. 44. FORMER JEOPARDY
(a) No person may, without his consent, be tried a second time for the same offense.
(b) No proceeding in which the accused has been found guilty by court- martial upon any charge or specification is a trial in the sense of this article until the finding of guilty has become final after review of the case has been fully completed.
(c) A proceeding which, after the introduction of evidence but before a finding, is dismissed or terminated by the convening authority or motion of the prosecution for failure of available evidence or witnesses without any fault of the accused is a trial in the sense of this article.

MCM

Concerning the applicability to courts-martial of the double
jeopardy clause (U.S. Const. Amend. V), see Wade v. Hunter,
336 U.S. 684 (1949); United States v. Richardson, 21
U.S.C.M.A. 54, 44 C.M.R. 108 (1971). See also United States v. Francis, 15 M.J. 424 (C.M.A. 1983).

I don’t know what kind of monkey buisness is going on, but it’s wrong.

BDU-33 on September 21, 2009 at 1:52 AM

Good list, but gerrymandering should be prohibited. The Census section should be changed from people counted to citizens counted. And have an amendment prohibiting the carte blanc granting of citizenship to anchor babies.

NaCly dog on September 21, 2009 at 2:50 AM

Just kill it at the root…

Amendment XXVIII

The sixteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.

elgeneralisimo on September 21, 2009 at 8:28 AM

THANK YOU.

Hate to do this, but here’s something I had written a while back:

There are many people who have recently argued for a return to Constitututional prescriptions … as written. That our nation needs to be re-set. Much of the American populace feels that our government is broken. People are wondering what to do. What they themselves can do to effect change in our government and to undo much of the “change” that has occurred since our founding. There are even many people who want a (non-violent) revolution to return to Constitutional principles.

Before wondering “what to do”; everyone should think about what they want AFTER they “do” something. Heading into a revolutionary endeavor (peaceful or otherwise), or even into demonstrations, without knowing EXACTLY what you would
replace the flawed system with makes about as much sense as voting for “change” without ever bothering to question the
the KIND of “change”. If you’d like to get rid of the government we have — I only beg folks to think about what they would replace it with BEFORE going and protesting anyone, anything, or anywhere.

However, whatever change is desired or necessary, it is not as simple as starting from scratch with only the Constitution as guide. (We already tried that. Remember the definition of insanity.)

We, The People, must wre-write the U.S. Constitution.

There should even be several versions. But, each version of a new Constitution must contain improved checks and balances, and more definitely articulated protections against usurpations of power; against those corruptions and usurpations that have already occurred since this nation’s founding. Those who want to “provide new guards” for the security of their unalienable rights would organize and back one or the other of these versions.

This nation must be re-made. But, re-made in its own ORIGINAL image and with its own ORIGINAL founding principles

more firmly defined and protected from abuse and corruption. We therefore need an improved U.S. Constitiution with improved protections for the rights and principles of the original. Our rights and founding principles must be re-affirmed, and stronger, better (WRITTEN) guards provided for them.

What we need is a RE-CONSTITUTION.

Several questions to consider:

Do we need a Federal Government? Shouldn’t we revisit the Federalist/Anti-Federalist debate after witnessing how

horribly the Federal Government has failed, and how ineffectual the Federalists’ promises against abuses have proved to be? Shall we Balkanize?

What, if any term limits are necessary, do we wait for the full amendment process while trying to re-institute a federal government?

Shall we revisit all Supreme Court decisions since Marbury v Madison? What will we do about the ambiguity within the Constitution itself regarding the proper place of the Supreme Court and inferior courts?

Further, there are centuries of social, commercial, and technical advances that would be undone — most, no doubt,
for the better; but some for the worse. Could certain developments in America that the majority not only accepts,
but relies upon, be kept in place while undoing those things which have perverted the U.S. Constitution and the
principles of this nation’s founding? Should they be kept in place?

This is not so simple a question in the case of certain things which have become indispensible to the American economy and way of life, but which have always been accomplished through the power of the Federal Government — even though such power was never legitimate under the Constitution.

For instance, what about the Interstate Highway system?

What about, for example, food safety under the USDA? The USDA itself (and the entire Administrative State) is an
abomination within the context of the U.S. Constitution. But, will it still be necessary (and expected by the citizenry) to be assured of food safety and purity under a more Constitutionally “pure” government? Do we need to
re-read Sinclair’s The Jungle? Cobble together a new Constitutionally prohibited means of solving this definite and unavoidable problem?

If there is a new Constitutional Convention whom will it be open to? It certainly should not includeg ANYONE already holding political (or administrative) office.

Eyas on September 21, 2009 at 10:43 AM

Eyas, you make a good point. One minor detail sticks out though – the Interstate Highway System is technically part of the military (it’s full name being the “Dwight Eisenhower Defense and Interstate Highway System”) as a means to move troops internally in the event of a mass national mobilization, something on the order of the World Wars or a (then entirely-plausible) Soviet invasion of the Lower 48.

Steven: Thanks for crossposting this. Plenty more good comments on this at your site too, I see.

Blacksmith on September 21, 2009 at 11:03 AM

Government workers have unsustainably high benefit levels, and the costs of pensions etc are not disclosed to anyone (an offense a public company manager would go to jail for committing). Consequently, public employees get paid enormous pensions and very few people are aware of it. Also, unlike all the rest of us who save for retirement out of our after-tax income (primarily), they never pay taxes on their savings. Ever.

So, I would add to your list:

11. Annual taxable earnings of employees of any branch, agency or other unit of government shall have the cost of any benefits provided to them included in their annual statement of income (currently W-2) for tax purposes, and the employee will pay tax on the income.

MTF on September 21, 2009 at 11:07 AM

the right of private citizens over 18 years of age who are not convicted felons to purchase, possess, and carry firearms and ammunition shall not be infringed by federal, state, or local law.

The only result of the ban on felons possessing firearms is to make it more convenient for the police by providing them with an easily proven crime to charge those they assume to be potential re-offenders with.

Any harmful use of the firearm is already a crime so the law against possession is redundant.

It would also be more convenient for the police if the fourth amendment did not apply to felons, perhaps we should create an exception for that too.

agmartin on September 21, 2009 at 11:14 AM

…and instead simply randomly selecting citizens over the age of 25. …
The Monster on September 20, 2009 at 11:44 PM

Of course the Random Selection would be rigged every bit as bad, if not worse than the current setup.

Beltway Bandit on September 21, 2009 at 11:37 AM

How about an amendment dealing with the current situation: That a president who may deserve to be impeached will not be impeached simply because his party controls congress.

Daggett on September 21, 2009 at 12:28 PM

I think you should keep 1.

Then you just need one more on the general welfare clause.

“At the time congress uses the general welfare clause to claim authority to pass legislation, any other member of congress may call Shenanigans. Immediately a vote will be held to determine shenanigans, if a super majority does not defend the claim both the congresscritter and the bill are to shot into the sea by cannon.”

jhffmn on September 21, 2009 at 12:29 PM

I like the thought that went into this. I’m still of the opinion that the Bill of Federalism would be better.

OhioCoastie on September 21, 2009 at 3:18 PM

I’d add another one. States like to force businesses to collect taxes on their behalf. It’s expensive, mean-spirited and scary for the business owner (since you are liable if you make an honest mistake and collect too little tax):

No state can require any company to collect a tax on behalf of the state.

MTF on September 21, 2009 at 3:25 PM

11. All Congressional districts shall be drawn in such a manner that a line drawn from any point within that district to any other point within that district shall not cross another district within the same state.

Crawford on September 21, 2009 at 8:00 PM

Good list. I would also repeal the 17th amendment and require that any federal tax increase for any purpose other than defense spending requires a 2/3 majority in both houses and a 3/4 majority to override a veto of such tax increase.

cirrus on September 21, 2009 at 8:28 PM

For 5, I’d prefer instead to simply mandate that no one can be re-elected to consecutive terms in the office of Representative, Senator, or President. After they’ve sat out, if the people see fit to return them to office, so be it.

I love that idea.

Congressmen shouldn’t spend their whole term campaigning and fundraising.

Of course, Congressmen would just spend their “fallow” terms as lobbyists…

ClintACK on September 21, 2009 at 8:30 PM

The Anti-Federalist views, and they are plural, on power and representation are interesting reading, as they look at other ways to restrain government beyond term limits. Not only the lock-out concept, suggested above, but a time limit on given powers that need re-upping by approval. Of course the greatest gripe was that Congress was in no way representative enough, and that large districts would usher in an era where individuals would not really know their representatives. Chilling stuff to read their forecasts on the Constitution and find more than a few coming true.

Of course I do support the 1:30,000 concept on the ‘many eyes make good code’ concept, but have also advocated the 10 year sunsetting of all Public Laws, rules, regulations and so on. That way not too many laws are put into the system and the need to re-examine them periodically means they get reviewed. That would go for all non-mandated cabinet positions and agencies, which would include the Federal Reserve, Energy, Education, and so on and on and on.

On arms, the English concept that one could own nearly anything save crew-served weapons is a potent one: if it can be carried, armed and used by an individual it is not disallowed for popular use. Crew served weapons could be owned, but were restricted to one’s property or to general practice areas for training. Truly a most fine concept of arms.

Perhaps if we could re-examine the early roots of English Law and understand some of the divisions and why they were necessary, we could find a better way forward. Looking at Bracton, we can see that our written law was not always written: the distinction of English law was that it wasn’t written down save when it was so widespread that it needed some regularization. That idea is what Congress should be doing, not inventing new law that has no basis in the States and pressing it upon the States. Similarly the understanding that there is a difference between Public Law and the Law of Nations is one that we no longer even think about and yet the basis for all civilization is the Private Law that is the Law of Nations. It is fascinating to run across scale-free law concepts in the 13th century that now, by being placed into an improper venue, are given scale dependencies that are working to the detriment of Public life and Private life. Thus Treaties become a segment of how the Private law is used between Nations, but may not abrogate the Private law, itself. Actually that was pretty well understood up to the time of Lincoln…

In general Amendments should be simple and aim towards structural, not legislative ends. A somewhat tighter structure would mean we get less legislation, delimited powers for the National government, and strong State-level checks and balances (ours were removed during the ‘Progressive’ era, and things haven’t gone well since).

ajacksonian on September 21, 2009 at 8:33 PM

Repealing the 17th would eliminate the much loved unfunded federal mandate. One should also consider wording to outlaw a federal reserve, unbalanced budgets, pork, earmarks, and career bureaucrats….

JIMV on September 21, 2009 at 8:43 PM

I’m not convinced that term limits are the answer. It’s not enough to throw the bums out; we need to put an end to the idea that being elected to Congress is the stepping stone to a lifetime of wealth from the federal teat. I’d prefer as many of the following as can be arranged:

An end to gerrymandered Congressional districts.

An end to the revolving door between Congress and lobbyists.

Full and timely transparency of all campaign contributions.

Prohibit Congress from running its own ethics investigations.

NeighborhoodCatLady on September 21, 2009 at 10:16 PM

An addition to #5:

“All expenses associated with a Senator’s or Representative’s term of service, such as salary, expenses, staff payroll and expenses, travel, etc., shall be paid exclusively by the State sponsoring the Senator or Representative to the U.S. Congress. Apportionment of said expenses shall be determined by the State. No Federal funds may be accessed, transferred or disbursed by the Senator, Representative or their associates.”

The sooner we wean the career politician from the Federally-funded private jet, the better.

CitizenMe on September 22, 2009 at 6:44 AM

I like to amend the constitution so that members of the Supreme Court are not lawyers. That way, when it says that Congress shall make no law, it will really mean that.

storkdoc on September 22, 2009 at 7:31 AM

I always thought the 14 should replace the term “person” with “citizen”.

thegreatsatan on September 22, 2009 at 9:36 AM

The term limits for senators should be 8 years, too.

Seixon on September 22, 2009 at 11:46 AM

12.

rgn on September 22, 2009 at 6:39 PM

I like #11 by Crawford and the addition to to #5 by CitizenMe to have the States pay for their critters.

REALLY REALLY need a #12 reading.

12. There being no ethical or moral basis for the government to extract money by way of taxation from the citizens and residents of the country in order to give or loan such money to others, Congress shall make no law which gives, loans, grants or otherwise distributes money, specie or credit, or goods in lieu thereof to any person, institution or corporation, for any purpose whatsoever, except that Congress may endow National Societies for the Advancement of the Arts or Sciences which may be funded by Congress in order, solely to carry out the objectives of their constitutions, but which shall be operated by independent persons, independently chosen by a nominating board of citizens, who shall serve without pay, for a fixed term of five years without a right of renewal. No ex-member of Congress shall be entitled to be a member of the operating management of such a National Society, nor a member of the nominating board unless the appointment be ratified by a three-quarters majority of a roll-call vote of the Senate.

13. The President shall have the power to veto any individual spending measure contained in a Bill presented to him for signature (Line-Item Veto). Overturning such veto shall require a vote in favour by each of the House and Senate consisting of no less than three-quarters of the members thereof.

14. Congress shall pass no law or regulation which exempts the Representatives or Senators from the application of any law or grants any privilege to themselves under any law of general application not available to any other citizen.
(This together with having the States pay for their reps/senators would stop the gravy train…maybe).

15. No Congressional district within a State shall contain more than 105%, nor less than 95% of the mean of the number of citizens contained in all of the districts of the State.

16. The right of a person physically born within the USA to claim citizenship by reason of birth shall not extend to any child born of a mother not entitled at the time of the birth to legal residency within the USA.

I am not convinced that ‘once and sit out a term’ would work, as 2 incumbents could swap back and forth forever…and of course, act as a lobbyist in the ‘off-season’. Better a fixed limit, then out. And there needs to be a requirement that no ex-congress-critter can act as a lobbyist, nor accept employment from any organization which contracts with the federal government.

rgn on September 22, 2009 at 7:13 PM