News Advisory: Zoeller on the 17th Amendment

July 22, 2014

THE INDIANA LEGISLATURE could set in motion a process that could help restore a more bicameral Congress, allowing selection of two candidates for U.S. Senate who would then represent their political parties in a general election.

It is one of various proposals for making the senate more accountable to the states that is analyzed by Attorney General Gregory Zoeller in a white paper for the quarterly Indiana Policy Review.

“Many in our state and nation have serious concerns with the seeming dysfunction that grips Washington, and they are searching for answers to what appear to be systemic problems,” the attorney general writes in an assessment of various 17th Amendment reform proposals.

The amendment, enacted in 1913, supplanted the original bicameral organization of Congress. This, it is argued, has made Washington more vulnerable to special interests and less accountable to the individual states.

“The House of Representatives represented the people, while the Senate represented the states,” Zoeller said of the bicameral system. “The best way to ensure that the federal legislature did not pass legislation that benefited special interests was to divide the legislature into different branches, with members who were selected using different systems and delegated different functions.”

A longtime adjunct law-school professor, Zoeller notes that the state legislatures originally selected U.S. senators to serve as a particular state’s agents in the federal government and act on its behalf: “These agents performed the necessary check on the House of Representatives by ensuring that the federal government did not pass legislation that would impose onerous burdens on the states.”

The 17th Amendment allows states to determine the procedures for nominating senate candidates but requires the senator be chosen by the public in the general election. Statutory revision by the Indiana Legislature rather than appeal to a constitutional convention is more realistic because it does not require concurrence by other states, Zoeller observes in his analysis. This could be accomplished by amending Ind. Code § 3-10-1-4(a), the statute that established primary elections for U.S. Senate candidates, while remaining in compliance with the 17th Amendment.

Media Contact: Craig Ladwig — 260/417-4094



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