Article V of the United States Constitution says the following:

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.

In Mark Levin's book, The Liberty Amendments, he advocates having the state legislatures call a Convention of the states for the purpose of proposing amendments to the Constitution as a means of re-establishing what he says is the Framers' notion of what is a proper role of the federal government.

Two thirds of fifty states is 34. So how would 34 state legislatures coordinate to accomplish this? Does the leadership in a given state legislature routinely talk to the leadership in other state legislatures? Are there existing channels for doing this? Or would it perhaps require leadership at the governor's level to do this?

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    Not sure what your asking here? Are you asking if 34 of the state legislatures know how to use a phone or the internet? Why do we need to know if state legislators routinely talk to each other (to confirm they know how to use the phone/internet?) Why would the governor need to be involved? – user1873 Dec 21 '13 at 15:09
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    When a bill is introduced into the U.S. Congress, it is alive for the duration of that congressional session. If it is not passed, the bill dies. I assume the same is true of most (all?) state legislatures. So it seems to me that 34 state legislatures would have to submit application to Congress (bill? resolution?), in effect, at the same time. I'm curious at how 34 legislatures would coordinate to achieve a simultaneous petition. – Matt Davis Dec 21 '13 at 17:44
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    @MattDavis - Google Calendar? <g> – user4012 Dec 22 '13 at 18:58
  • "So it seems to me that 34 state legislatures would have to submit application to Congress (bill? resolution?), in effect, at the same time." That is a good question, unlike your rambling one. "Do all 34 state legislatures need to call for a constitutional convention during the same 2-year period to make proposed amendments to the constitution?" – user1873 Dec 26 '13 at 16:14
  • @user1873 - I agree, that's a better question. As written, this question asks more about the how then the does, though. – Bobson Dec 26 '13 at 20:44

No coordination, no leadership, no talking, nor governor intervention is required. The existing channel for applications for a Constitutional Convention is the Congressional Record.

The Supreme Court has already ruled on the matter of ratification timing in Coleman v. Miller, finding:

A proposed amendment to te Federal Constitution is considered pending before the states indefinitely unless Congress establishes a deadline by which the states must act.

Since the Constitution doesn't dictate neither when ratification of an amendment expires nor when application for a Constitutional Convention expires, it follows that unless Congress has established a deadline, an application for a Convention is pending indefinitely.

The Congressional Record records applications by state legislatures for a Constitutional Convention (CC). No coordination is needed by the states, because Congress is compelled to call for a CC when the minimum 34 state threshold is reached.

  • I will consider adding a link to a page of the CR that shows applications for a Convention if someone thinks it is necessary. I will also link to SCOTUS decisions if necessary that point to this not being a political question. – user1873 Dec 26 '13 at 22:47
  • If there's an official list of requests online anywhere, I'd love a link to it. I used Wikipedia since that was what I found first, but an official source would be nice. – Bobson Dec 27 '13 at 14:30

TL;DR There's no need for the states to coordinate directly, although they'll certainly be aware of what other states are doing. How concurrent the requests have to be is up to Congress, which has never had to make that decision.

The general way something like this would happen is that some national organization decides to push for it and starts lobbying all 50 states' legislatures. This could be the National Governors Association, in which case it would be each states' governor pushing on the legislature, but it could be any other organization. Additionally, anything like this will start being picked up by the news after a few states start voting for it, so other states' legislators will certainly know what's happening without any formal communication necessary.

There's nothing in the constitution specifying whether all the states need to call for a convention at the same time, but it certainly safe to assume that if they all did so within the same Congressional session (which is two years long), it would be considered valid. However, the 27th Amendment was ratified over two hundred years after it was originally proposed, so it's conceivable that it could be spread out over several years. If it is spread out, then it would be up to Congress as to whether they would honor the requests or not. If they don't, then it might go to the Supreme Court (which would likely find that it's a political question and send it back to Congress). Regardless of what happens, it would set the precedent for any future attempts: Either the timeframe doesn't matter or Congress will need to specify the timeframe explicitly. But there's no way to know ahead of time what that decision would be.

This link has a good summary of the issues involved in trying to organize a such a convention in the first place, as well as previous attempts (which I hadn't known about before this):

The Convention Alternative.—Because it has never successfully been invoked, the convention method of amendment is surrounded by a lengthy list of questions. When and how is a convention to be convened? Must the applications of the requisite number of States be identical or ask for substantially the same amendment or merely deal with the same subject matter? Must the requisite number of petitions be contemporaneous with each other, substantially contemporaneous, or strung out over several years? Could a convention be limited to consideration of the amendment or the subject matter which it is called to consider? These are only a few of the obvious questions and others lurk to be revealed on deeper consideration.

This method has been close to utilization several times. Only one State was lacking when the Senate finally permitted passage of an amendment providing for the direct election of Senators. Two States were lacking in a petition drive for a constitutional limitation on income tax rates. The drive for an amendment to limit the Supreme Court’s legislative apportionment decisions came within one State of the required number, and a proposal for a balanced budget amendment has been but two States short of the requisite number for some time. Arguments existed in each instance against counting all the petitions, but the political realities no doubt are that if there is an authentic national movement underlying a petitioning by two–thirds of the States there will be a response by Congress.

  • "it's probably safe to assume that they should all do so within the same Congressional session" and "Must the requisite number of petitions be contemporaneous with each other, substantially contemporaneous, or strung out over several years?" Since you seem to be disagreeing with yourself, there is no reason for me to. Take a single position, don't be wishy-washy. – user1873 Dec 26 '13 at 16:09
  • @user1873 - Good catch. I missed that as I edited while researching. I've cleaned it up. – Bobson Dec 26 '13 at 16:14
  • Going from probably to certainly doesn't help much. It seems that the OP is worried if it is necessary to complete the process within 2 years, adding that if it is done within two years it certainly isn't an issue doesn't add anything (and might imply it is necessary). The part on the 27th is equally unnecessary and might lead people to draw the wrong conclusions. The ratification process is separate from the proposal process. The fact that the ratification of the 27th took 200+ years doesn't give us any information about the proposal process. – user1873 Dec 26 '13 at 16:23
  • Your yellow quoted section also doesn't answer anything, it just brings up the same questions that the OP has (like i noted in the first comment above). – user1873 Dec 26 '13 at 16:25
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    @user1873 - I read the OP's question as "How can this be coordinated by the states?", which is answered by "It doesn't have to be." The rest of it is simply explaining why there is no answer on timeframe. Some things can't be answered until they happen. – Bobson Dec 26 '13 at 17:17

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