Founding Member and Special Advisor to the Patrick Henry Caucus, Rep. Craig Frank (HD57), was the House Sponsor of SB250 Political Party Bylaws—United States Senators (H. Stephenson). Successful passage in both houses of the legislature, and the signature of the governor, means U.S. Senators are one step closer to being held accountable to the sovereign body the Founding Fathers originally intended–the state legislature.
See what can happen to a perfectly good constitution before people start messing with it?!
Thom. Jefferson cautioned…
“On every question of construction, let us carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and, instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.”
In 1913, the basic fabric of state’s rights was fundamentally shifted when the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed by Congress and then ratified by three-quarters of the states. (Utah, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Virginia didn’t vote for ratification.) No longer were the state’s U.S. Senators directly accountable to their state legislatures. No longer did U.S. Senators feel compelled to focus on states’ rights issues, federalism, and their performance in representing their state’s interests. Instead, six-year termed senators were at greater liberty…to take liberties. Focus shifted from listening to local lawmakers, and more toward lining their coffers with questionable contributions for the next go-around. No longer did the body most likely to scrutinize every political gesture by a U.S. Senator have the ability to reign them in when necessary.
A remarkable thing happened in 2010…
A bill re-introduced in the state legislature was finally passed following years of consideration and debate. The bill was SB250. SB250 authorizes political parties to establish a process in their bylaws (which must be filed with the executive branch in many states) to consult with and obtain the opinion of members of its party serving in the House and Senate about the performance and policy positions of the United States Senators and any candidates for United States Senate including specifically their views and actions on state’s rights and federalism and their performance in representing their state’s interests. Also, this new law allows for the political party to obtain collective or individual endorsements or ratings of a particular United States Senate candidate from the members of its political party serving in the state House or state Senate. (Taken from the body of SB250, 2010)
SB250 takes U.S. Senators one step closer to direct, personal accountability with their state legislature. Some have commented that this measure also brings us one step closer to repealing the 17th Amendment—direct-election of U.S. Senators. This law requires that the two Senators’ political party (or parties) formally place in their bylaws a procedure to review their performance before that information can be gathered, compiled, and released for public review. Without this “mandate,” there is little hope that U.S. Senators will feel any obligation to listen to anything their state lawmakers have to say. Judging the performance of a U.S. Senator “in public”, under a certain set of performance measures, will educate and engage a broader discussion among the electorate when it comes time for the people to make critical ballot decisions. A report card (scorecard) of sorts can be provided with the many legislators’ comments and review.
TAKING PERSONAL INITIATIVE…ORIGINAL INTENT
One U.S. Senator is already taking legitimate steps to “repeal” the 17th Amendment on his own—at least in practice. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) during his annual visit (“report”) to his home state legislature in 2012, distributed a nicely bound stewardship report of his performance during the previous year. Included in the report were bills and amendments he’d introduced in Congress and correspondence with lawmakers and citizens. He even went so far as to publish social media posts and dialogue with constituents. Sen. Lee is already taking the initiative to mitigate the damage of implementing the 17th Amendment.
WHAT WE ARE DOING…
Model legislation is sometimes difficult to custom fit to each state. (That’s OK. The states are designed that way.) However, the concept for holding politicians accountable is similar. We are currently working with the states to introduce SB250-like legislation. Party structures vary from state to state; we are working to figure out what works best in yours.
WHAT WE NEED YOU TO DO…
Download a copy of Utah’s SB250 Political Party Bylaws—United States Senators. YOU CAN LINK HERE FOR A COPY. Once you read and understand the concept, call your state party’s leadership and introduce them to the idea. Ask them how the Utah legislation can be “massaged” to work in your state. Then, contact your legislators. Explain what you’re trying to accomplish. Ask them if anything like this already exists. If it exists, find out how effective the legislation has been. If it doesn’t exist, ask the legislator to open a bill and start working on this measure. Contact the PHC Special Advisor at Advisor@PatrickHenryCaucus.org. Give the Special Advisor your ideas. We ALL benefit from idea sharing! Let us share with you our ideas of how you can get this measure (or something like it) passed in your state. Be patient. Some proposals take a while to be considered. Also, finding the right legislative sponsor to carry a proposal from draft legislation all the way through to the signature of the governor is critical.
Senator Mike Lee’s report book to legislature > > >