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The 27th Amendment of the Constitution prohibits laws that decrease or increase the income of Congress representatives until the beginning of the succeeding terms served by these government officials. It is also considered as the most current amendment made to the U.S. Constitution. Although the amendment was proposed to the different states in 1789 for ratification, it only took effect since 1992.
No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.
Highlights of the 27th Amendment
The amendment states that any changes in the salaries of congress members will only be adopted after the start of their next term. This amendment was also referred to as the Congressional Pay or Compensation Amendment, and it aimed to prevent Congress representatives from determining their own salary.
Several states in the country proposed this amendment, which can restrain any conflict of interest among the Congress members. In the North Carolina convention of 1788, numerous changes were suggested. For instance, the laws that determine the salaries of representatives and senators are postponed until the election of these representatives.
In 1816, the General Court of Massachusetts presented its desire for a change to the Constitution. The legislation the embodied the proposal for an amendment was approved by the House of Representatives in Massachusetts. Other states followed suit including Tennessee’s and Kentucky’s lawmakers.
Proposal of the Amendment
During 1789 to 1791, the proposal for this amendment was passed by the state legislatures in North Carolina, Delaware, Virginia, Vermont, South Carolina, and Maryland. However, ten states were required before the amendment may be ratified. As several other states have opted to enter the Union, the chances of having the amendment ratified also increased. In fact, the General Assembly of Ohio ratified the compensation proposal as its means of protesting against the rather questionable Salary Grab Act, which made the salary increase retroactive.
Proposal and Completion of the Ratification
In 1978, the amendment was passed by Wyoming, which served as a protest to the pay increase of the Congress. However, the proposed amendment was forgotten when Gregory Watson, an undergraduate at the University of Texas, wrote a paper that delved on this topic, in 1982. Watson expressed his support for the ratification of the amendment with his letter-writing campaign presented to the state legislatures.
During the period when Watson started his campaign, only 8 states have chosen to ratify the amendment. The initial legislature that ratified the amendment was credited to Watson’s extensive campaign in Maine and Colorado.
Certification and Acceptance of the Ratification
On May 18, 1992 Don W. Wilson, the U.S. Archivist at the time, formally certified the 27th Amendment. The day after the certification, the amendment was printed in the U.S. Federal Register, including the ratification certificate. Eventually, Tom Foley and several others have requested for a legal challenge because of the unusual ratification of the amendment.
In the certification of the amendment, Don Wilson had acted based on statutory authority that was granted to him by the U.S. Congress. Such authority was stated under the Title 1 and section 106b of the U.S. Code that explained that the United States Archivist would be allowed to publish the amendment with his or her certificate, and this specifies that states where the amendment is adopted and considered as valid. This only applies when there is an official notice obtained by the National Archives and Record Administration.
Despite these guidelines, Senator Robert Byrd reprimanded Don Wilson for providing a certification to the amendment without any approval from the Congress. Although Byrd was a supporter of the Congressional acceptance of this amendment, he still argued that Wilson had chosen to deviate from the historic tradition. Wilson has decided not to wait for the Congress to acknowledge the ratification’s validity, given the 202-year lapse even since the proposal of this amendment.
Effects of the 27th Amendment
On May 20, 1992 the amendment was ratified validly. It was kept with the precedent that was initially established in terms of the ratification of the 14th amendment, and each member of the 102nd Congress passed a version of the concurrent resolution. Despite the long period of over 202 years before the amendment was ratified, all of the participating state legislatures realized that their efforts were worth the wait to pass the 27th Amendment.