Political Notebook

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Long pushes 'Mount Vernon Assembly'

Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R- Fort Wayne, is at the center of an effort to band together the states for future action on amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

He was one of six lawmakers from around the country to jointly send an invitation recently to all 50 state legislatures seeking participation Dec. 7 in what is being called the Mount Vernon Assembly at George Washington's estate near Washington, D.C.

"In light of the federal government's struggle to effectively execute the will of the people combined with the imbalance of power that currently exists between the federal and state governments, we respectfully request your state's participation in a bipartisan gathering of state legislators to be known as the Mount Vernon Assembly," the letter said.

The purpose of the meeting is to discuss and draft an agenda for a "Convention of the States" for the sole purpose of writing the rules that would govern any Article V Conventions for proposing amendments, a so-called constitutional convention.

Though the U.S. Constitution allows for the maneuver, it has never happened. And two-thirds of all state legislatures would have to sign on to make it happen.

The purpose of the Dec. 7 gathering is not to promote any specific Article V subject matter, the letter said.

A constitutional convention has been bandied about in recent years specifically in reference to limiting Congress' power to tax and regulate commerce – i.e., the Affordable Care Act.

But critics claim such a convention could get out of hand and try to rewrite vast parts of the Constitution at once.

By putting rules in place first, it would allow any future use of the convention to be "analyzed solely on the merits of its subject matter," the invitation said.

The purpose of the Mount Vernon Assembly is to convene in a "politically pure environment" comprised only of sitting state legislators free from the influence of outside organizations.

Each state is requested to send a bipartisan delegation of up to three lawmakers and will have one vote at the meeting. To ensure no "undue influence by third parties" each state legislature and legislator will be responsible for their own expenses.

Contact Niki Kelly by emailing nkelly@jg.net or follow her on Twitter @nkellyatJG