How do states (specifically Arizona) amend the United States federal constitution? How do states amend the federal constitution without permission/cooperation from the US federal congress? What is the process in Arizona for amending the federal constitution (with and without federal congress approval)? Are there any statutes or mentions in the Arizona state constitution that details the process that Arizona has for amending the federal constitution?

Bypassing federal congress could be really useful in areas of politics like congressional term limits, reducing federal taxes (allowing states to tax more), states having more land (Arizona/Nevada/New Mexico/Western United States barely have state land), reducing federal government control and getting state legislature representation back in the federal senate.

EDIT: I know that Arizona cannot amend the federal constitution by itself, but how does Arizona become the first, or one of the states? What is the process to become one of the states to try to amend the constitution, without federal congress?

  • 2
    State law has nothing to do with amending the Constitution. The amendment process is set in Art. V of the Constitution. That section may be hard to read, but there are plenty of web pages explaining the process. I have no idea what you are asking in your second paragraph.
    – Just a guy
    Aug 14 '20 at 8:29
  • 4
    You have an interesting question -- How do states get together to get a constitutional convention? Sadly, that is not what you wrote originally. To fix what your wrote, it's not enough to add a sentence or two. You need to rewrite what you wrote so it says what you want it to say. If you don't, we can only guess what you mean. If we guess wrong, we won't write answers to the question you meant to ask.
    – Just a guy
    Aug 14 '20 at 17:14
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    Just adding the sentence feels like shifting goalposts and a disregard of the time of those that have spent time on trying to write an answer to you.
    – Trish
    Aug 14 '20 at 17:29

No state can amend the US Constitution by itself.

Technically, an amendment to the Constitution can be proposed a constitutional convention that is called for by two-thirds of the State legislatures (though this is has never happened; all 27 amendments have been proposed by the Federal Congress, which is the alternative path). This can be done without any kind of Federal approval what so ever.

After proposal, an amendment must be ratified by three-fourths of state legislatures.

EDIT: Regarding how to "get a convention started": This hasn't been tested, since a non-Congressional amendment has not, to my knowledge, been attempted, but I would imagine a Convention would be called if 2/3rds of the states submitted requests to Congress (which would probably either be a law or a joint-resolution, which is like a law without executive approval, but the form would probably be governed by each state's respective Constitution).

Alternatively, it may be sufficient for state legislatures to designate delegates who meet up somewhere (as that is essentially what happened with the Constitutional Congress, i.e. the delegates who met and drafted the US Federal Constitution).

A point has been raised in another answer that there may be an issue; however, I'm not convinced of this being a bar to a Convention. The delegates at the Constitutional Congress were original chosen to discuss changes to the Articles of Confederation, but wound up throwing the whole thing out and starting from scratch instead.

Therefore, I do not see calls for a convention with differing but related objectives to be a problem; the whole point of a Convention in the Constitutional Amendment process is to discuss and compromise; otherwise, why require it before skipping to the 3/4ths of states ratifying, if the 2/3rds of states already have to agree on exactly what is being proposed before sending delegates.

  • Please see the edit. How does a state become one of the states to try to amend the federal constitution? I know Arizona cannot do it by themselves, but how do they become the first one?
    – Eliter
    Aug 14 '20 at 17:01
  • 1
    @Eliter: I hope I have addressed your revised question. There are a lot of unknowns, because this has never been tried, and there are not explicit instructions.
    – sharur
    Aug 14 '20 at 18:28
  • "Just sending delegates" won't work, as Congress still has to call them. If it isn't called by congress, it doesn't have the power of a convention and doesn't propose a ratifiable text under Article V.
    – Trish
    Aug 14 '20 at 21:57
  • @Trish Yes, but Art V says, "Congress...on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments...." If Congress got enough requests but refused to call a convention, it seems all constitutional bets would be off.
    – Just a guy
    Aug 14 '20 at 23:17
  • @Justaguy which is where nobody has an inkling of an idea what is to do. The convention can't meet without congress but the supreme court denies that it can force congress to do so on its own... all the convention stuff is untested waters.
    – Trish
    Aug 14 '20 at 23:42

That's not how it works! First of all, neither Arizona nor the Executive branch can amend the federal constitution by themselves, they can't even force the Congress to look into the matter unless enough states ask for it (some 34 are needed) and even then it is up to congress if they want to take matters into their own hands. If the congress does not want to do it, they could just call a meeting to discuss the matter, then vote to drop it and there is no way to force the matter. Even getting enough states together isn't an out as congress still needs to decide to delegate.

It is entirely upon Congress to decide if they want to discuss and write any proposed amendment - or to call the convention. Anything other parties (press, executive, states) say is at best a suggestion to the congressmen and can be entirely disregarded if it acts on its own, and it is only up to Congress to call the convention under Article V - but no timeframe is given! They could very well sit on the matter for a few years, even as they are obligated to call it eventually.

The Congress, whenever two-thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress; provided that no amendment which may be made prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any manner affect the first and fourth clauses in the ninth section of the first article; and that no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate.

Then it is upon every single state to ratify the amendment, and if less then 3/4 sign it, then it is not in force yet. It took 202 years to ratify the 27th amendment, which was brought up together with the first amendment! Nowadays, amendments come with a date if by which they are not ratified, they are tossed.

However, any state can alter its state constitution under its own rules. But they can't have stanzas in their constitution that breach the federal constitution.

but... Convention under Article V?!

In the past, the Convention has never been called upon. To make congress call for it, you need to pass a lot of thresholds:

  • first, the government is usually seen as the executive branch of each state, which just plain can't do anything beyond asking its own legislative body to sign an application to ask for an amendment. Let's assume he wants to get the repealed amendment back.
  • Now, we have a bill in the state legislative body, which then might be approved. Let's assume Arizona might be the first, but what now? We only have one single request to congress! One vote for Prohibition.
  • Now, it needs 33 other states to petition for a convention that matches what Arizona wrote. If 32 want the same and one wants Prohibition and ALSO gambling ban in the same? It's possible that that might be seen as different items and thus different reasons for a convention, but that is untested as it never happened.
  • Now, let's assume we get the needed 34 requests. Now it is up to Congress to call the convention...

As noted, Article V conventions are totally untested, timeframes are not given in any relevant law and it is even unclear if the Supreme Court could force Congress to call a convention if it would just not do so on its own. The problem of enforceability by the courts is because of Coleman v. Miller (307 U.S. 433) - it's a political question and the Supreme Court has repeatedly held that it shall not interfere in Political Questions.

  • @Eliter The law says: Congress calls for it if it wants and if 2/3rd of all state legislative bodies ask for it. - Governement (=executive) is not included.
    – Trish
    Aug 14 '20 at 17:21

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