View Full Version : 27th Amendment ratification history [edited title]
06-27-2003, 03:26 PM
The 26th amendment to the US Constitution:
No law varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives shall take effect until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.
Perhaps the strangest history of any amendment. It was proposed at the same time as the first group that became the Bill of Rights. It did not gather enough support for passage, and languished until the 80's. Some-one seems to have made it their personal crusade to get it ratified, succeeding in 1992.
1. Who was this? The closest thing to an identification I've seen is "an aide to a Texas state legislator".
2. Why? The same provision was already law. While I appreciate that it would be easier for a Congress to overturn the law themselves and then vote a pay raise, it still wouldn't be easy. Even more importantly, when 90-something percent of the House is returned in each election, the practical effect of the amendment is nearly nil.
3. Who decides if this is an actual amendment? Most online copies of the Constitution include it, including the one available on the Library of Congress web site. This shows that that it's accepted as part of the Constitution, but did some official have to certify the ratifications?
There seems to be a Don Quixote-esque quality to this. I guess that this time, the windmills flinched.
[totally unrelated auto-highjack]
Anyone else think it's interesting that, one day after delivering a passionate dissent from the bench to Kennedy's opinion in Lawrence, Scalia joined Kennedy's dissent in Stogner? Probably just me.
[/totally unrelated auto-highjack]
Earl of Sandwhich
06-27-2003, 03:38 PM
You're thinking of the 27th Amendment. The 26th lowered the voting age to 18.
06-27-2003, 03:50 PM
mea culpa. You are correct, of course. The 27th.
06-27-2003, 04:40 PM
Originally posted by paperbackwriter
1. Who was this? The closest thing to an identification I've seen is "an aide to a Texas state legislator".Gregory Watson, who first proposed the idea of reviving the ratification process in an undergraduate paper. He got a "C" on the paper.
2. Why? The same provision was already law. Depends on what you mean. Legislators got (and still get) COLAs (cost-of-living adjustments) to their salaries automatically under a law passed before the Amendment was ratified. Some question the constitutionality of that under the 27th Amendment.Who decides if this is an actual amendment? I don't know if there is a well defined procedure for certifying a new amendment. The Secretary of State certified the first 14 amendments. The Administrator of General Services certified at least a few. The 27th was ruled to be ratified by the Archivist of the United States and also approved by majorities of both the House and Senate. I'm not sure what force of law those actions have, if any.
For more information see http://writ.news.findlaw.com/dean/20020927.html
06-27-2003, 05:35 PM
As I recall, the proposed 27th Amendment was unique in not having a deadline for ratification. Most proposed amendments get send out with something like "this proposal must be approved by the required majority of states prior to January 1, 2013". But the 27th didn't, so theoretically it was still an active piece of legislation and the ratifications it had received were still valid. The 1980's revival of the bill caused several states to add their ratifications and the bill received enough support to become an amendment.
06-27-2003, 06:06 PM
The aide was Gregory Watson.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch article:
Fast forward to the year 1982, where we find Gregory D. Watson, a sophomore at the University of Texas-Austin, searching for a subject for a term paper. In the course of his research, Watson discovered the two unratified amendments. After further study, he concluded that the "Compensation Amendment" was still viable in that it had no internal time limit that would prevent it from being ratified at a later date. Watson had the subject for his paper.
He presented his proposal to his professor, who told him he was wasting his time; after all, it was written for a nation and its people more than 200 years ago. ...
Undaunted by critics, Watson continued his research and discovered that the Compensation Amendment received a vote to ratify in 1873 by the State of Ohio, 84 years after it was originally submitted to the states. This further strengthened Watson's belief that the Compensation Amendment was indeed alive, but to prove he was correct, he had to convince the legislatures of 31 additional states to vote to ratify the amendment -- no small task indeed.
Throughout the next 10 years, constitutional scholars, historians and members of Congress treated his effort to validate his thesis "as a joke." But it was no laughing matter to legislators in other states, in view of the raises members of Congress were voting for themselves. Ever so slowly, one state after another voted to ratify Madison's Compensation Amendment.
Finally, on May 7, 1992, the State of Michigan cast the deciding vote for what is now the 27th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The amendment reads: "No law, varying the compensation for the services of the senators and representatives, shall take effect until an election of representatives shall have intervened."
Passage by three-fourths of the states, as required by Article V of the Constitution, adds the amendment.
It is certified by
the Archivist of the United States, who heads the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), is charged with responsibility for administering the ratification process under the provisions of 1 U.S.C. 106b. (http://www.archives.gov/federal_register/constitution/amendment_process.html)
A proposed amendment becomes part of the Constitution as soon as it is ratified by three-fourths of the States (38 of 50 States). When the OFR [NARA's Office of the Federal Register] verifies that it has received the required number of authenticated ratification documents, it drafts a formal proclamation for the Archivist to certify that the amendment is valid and has become part of the Constitution. This certification is published in the Federal Register and U.S. Statutes at Large and serves as official notice to the Congress and to the Nation that the amendment process has been completed.
From U.S. Constitution Online (http://www.usconstitution.net/constamnotes.html#Am27):
The 27th Amendment was originally proposed on September 25, 1789, as an article in the original Bill of Rights. It did not pass the required number of states with the articles we now know as the first ten amendments. It sat, unratified and with no expiration date, in constitutional limbo, for more than 80 years when Ohio ratified it to protest a congressional pay hike; no other states followed Ohio's lead, however. Again it languished, for more than 100 years.
In 1978, Wyoming ratified the amendment, but there was again, no follow-up by the remaining states. Then, in the early 1980's, Gregory Watson, an aide to a Texas legislator, took up the proposed amendment's cause. From 1983 to 1992, the requisite number of states ratified the amendment, and it was declared ratified on May 7, 1992.
As for the "original" 12th Amendment (which never passed), I think it had something to do with limiting the size of the House of Representatives, as new states were added to the Union. As this part has been handled by federal law, it lies obsolete and forgotten. (More info is on that site I linked to, I think...tried looking but I couldn't find it.)
06-27-2003, 09:34 PM
Gregory Watson "revived" the ratification process? Just four years after Wyoming ratified it? WTF?
06-27-2003, 10:16 PM
Thanks, all for the information, especially to Exapno for the St. Louis article and to bib for kindly correcting the title.
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