Congressman Luke Messer

Representing the 6th District of Indiana

Messer Introduces Bipartisan Legislation to Address Article V Recordkeeping

May 24, 2016
Press Release

Messer Introduces Bipartisan Legislation to Address Article V Recordkeeping

WASHINGTON—This week, Congressman Luke Messer (IN-06) introduced bipartisan legislation, the Article V Records Transparency Act (H.R. 5306), to ensure states are able to exercise their authority under Article V of the Constitution by restructuring the recordkeeping process of Article V applications.

Article V of the Constitution provides two methods to amend our founding document.  The first method allows Congress to propose amendments to the states for ratification if two-thirds of both Chambers agree upon a proposed amendment. The second method, known as the convention method, requires Congress to call a convention to consider amendments if two-thirds of the states submit applications requesting such a convention.

Since the founding of our country, states have submitted hundreds of convention applications on a variety of topics. Unfortunately, the federal government has never kept track of these applications. And subsequently, not even the National Archives—the chief record keeping agency of the federal government—knows how many applications actually exist.  

“The current recordkeeping process for these Article V state applications is grossly inadequate,” Messer said. “In crafting the Constitution, the Founders intended for the amendment process to be difficult, but not impossible. Without an official count of how many valid state applications exist, it is virtually impossible for the states to effectuate their authority under the Constitution.

“This legislation is not about driving a specific political agenda or expanding Congressional authority; it’s about making sure the Constitution works as the Founders intended. This bill ensures the federal government keeps track of these applications, so that Congress can carry out its specific duty under the Constitution.”

H.R. 5306 requires the National Archives to find every state application and rescission within two years and transmit them to Congress. The bill then requires the Chairs of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees to post these applications and rescissions on a public website, which would serve as the official database for all Article V records.

The Article V Records Transparency Act is being heralded as a vital piece of legislation by numerous stakeholders, including the Jeffersonian Project, the American Legislative Exchange Council’s  501(c)(4) affiliate, the Friends of the Article V Convention, Assembly of State Legislatures (ASL), the Compact for America, the Madison Coalition, the Compact for a Balanced Budget, Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force, and constitutional scholars Prof. Rob Natelson (University of Montana) and Prof. Larry Lessig (Harvard).

Friends of the Article V Convention Co-Founder Bill Walker said the bill “corrects a massive government records issue too long ignored which must, in order to satisfy a constitutional requirement, be addressed by Congress now.”  While Prof. Rob Natelson, considered by many to be the country’s most renowned Article V scholar, notes that “By necessary implication, Article V requires Congress to tally applications, correlate them by subject matter, keep track of any state legislative rescissions thereof, and store them appropriately. […] However, Congress has never adopted a consistent and workable procedure for receiving or storing those applications and rescissions. This bill fills that gap [in recordkeeping].”

H.R. 5306 is also being supported by broad coalition of legislators, including democrat Members Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) and Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL); the House Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA); the Judiciary Subcommittee Chair on the Constitution and Civil Justice Trent Franks (R-AZ); the Rules Subcommittee Chair on the Rules and Organization of the House Steve Stivers (R-OH); Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL); and Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX).

“I’m pleased the legislation has garnered the support of such a broad and bipartisan coalition of House Members and stakeholders,” Messer continued. “Although it’s not clear where or when our recordkeeping process broke down, it is clear that this problem must be addressed. The Article V Records Transparency Act provides a simple solution to an issue that has persisted for far too long.”

For the full text of H.R. 5306, please click here.