Buffalo Gap man on a mission

Charley Najacht

He has been everywhere lately in District 30, which encompasses Fall River, Custer and part of Pennington County. You may have heard or seen one of his presentations in Wall, Hill City or Hot Springs, or seen him in a parade, at a county fair or a rodeo. And, no, he is not a state representative, senator or a candidate.
Harvey Fitzgerald of Buffalo Gap is on a mission to spread the word about the need for an Article V Convention of States (COS) and was in Custer Monday evening, April 19, at the Pine Room of the courthouse annex in Custer talking to about 50 interested citizens. Fitzgerald, a retired S.D. Army National Guard lieutenant colonel with 34 years of service, is a COS district captain.
“The Constitution is a contract with the government and the people. We said our rights come from God. We need a limited government to protect our God-given rights and create a civil society,” he said. Since 1789 when the Constitution was ratified by the states, government agencies and federal spending has grown at an enormous pace. “We now have 430 government agencies and departments, according to the Federal Register,” he said.
“There were 5,600 pages in the $1.9 trillion COVID law and our elected representatives had six hours to read it and vote on it,” Fitzgerald said. He said about 9 percent of the money in the bill was earmarked for COVID relief and the rest went overseas or to cities and states for non-covid projects.
“The federal government took in $1.9 trillion in income taxes last year and has already spent $7.7 trillion so far this year,” Fitzgerald said. This has pushed the national debt to about $28 trillion.
“We are living far beyond our means,” he said.
In his final years in the National Guard, Fitzgerald served as a procurement officer. When it comes to around the last two months of the fiscal year, it is typical of government agencies to be told to spend the remaining money in their budgets if they want to receive the same amount the next fiscal year, he said, which often leads to enormous waste. Instead of turning in the money they have not spent in their budgets, all these agencies spend it on things they don't necessarily need.
People are frustrated with their federal government, especially now when they see things like 47 executive orders signed in the first three months of the new administration, he said. These include nationalized meals for 40 million Americans, rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, cancelling the XL oil pipeline, stopping oil/gas leases in 11 states, USDA “30 for 30” where 30 percent of land in the country would be set aside for conservation, illegals counted in the census, open entry for noted terrorist countries, halting border wall construction and restricting border enforcements and tax money for foreign abortions.
So, what is the answer and how do we try to right the ship?
“Our framers gave us a lifeline,” he said of the writers of our Constitution. Article V of the Constitution sets up the framework for a Convention of States for proposing amendments to the Constitution. The process calls for two-thirds of the states, or 34, to agree on a certain number of proposed amendments and then meet to vote on them.
Each state would select their delegates (five recommended), but caucus to cast their only one singular state vote. That means South Dakota would have as much clout as much larger states like California or New York, Fitzgerald explained. Right now, 15 states have passed the resolution calling for the three proposed amendment topics, with another 22 states actively considering the same in their respective legislatures.
The first would be term limits for members of Congress and unelected officials.
The second would be a balanced budget goal by limiting both spending and taxation.
The third limits the power of the federal government to its original intended boundaries, under the general welfare clause, commerce clause and necessary and proper clause.
Fitzgerald said the matter failed in the S.D. Legislature this past session when it failed by one or two votes to make it out of both the House and Senate State Affairs Committee. In other words, the issue never made it out of committee to be voted for or against on the floor. There have been at least five attempts to bring the COS matter to a floor vote in the legislature. The resolution has previously passed in the S.D. House.
He blames these failures on an unfounded fear some legislators have that a COS would result in a “runaway” convention where a number of other issues would be brought up for discussion, which would complicate matters. Fitzgerald maintains this would not happen because delegates would be limited to the three topics to be discussed and voted upon and not one more. The Framing Fathers made both the Congress and the states equal in limiting their topics in potential amendments.
“There is a civil fine of $5,000 for deviating from the three proposed amendments and House Bill 1069 has already been enacted in South Dakota. Delegates can also be subject to recall if they don’t live up to discussion of these three issues,” he said.
Some may wonder why the process has taken so long to get passed in at least 34 states.
“It’s supposed to be a hard thing to do. Our Founding Fathers did well to make it so. I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald is far from alone, as the S.D. petition signors has grown by over 70 percent during the past covid year and some 75 S.D. citizens participated in person to plan COS educational events and Constitution classes for the upcoming year. The same is happening in every state in the Union.
At the end of the meeting he had petitions available for people to sign and send to the Fitzgeralds. Additional information may be had by contacting COS at info@conventionofstates.com or call (605) 381-4090.

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