The Arizona State Legislature will host a dry run of a convention of states in preparation for a possible future gathering to be convened under Article V of the U.S. Constitution for proposing a federal balanced budget amendment (BBA).
Commissioners, or delegates, from participating states will convene in Phoenix on September 12 to recommend rules and procedures for a later convention of states at which commissioners could propose amending the U.S. Constitution with a BBA. Commissioners at the planning convention will set up committees to determine time and location, security and staffing, and other management decisions. State legislatures are responsible for selecting commissioners.
Arizona House Concurrent Resolution 2022, adopted on March 30, defines boundaries for the planning convention. Rogue commissioners—delegates who stray from their specific instructions to consider only a balanced budget amendment or who violate their oath of office—will be replaced, the resolution states.
Under Article V of the Constitution, Congress must call a convention for proposing specified amendments once two-thirds of the states, currently 34, submit matching petitions calling for a convention. Any amendment approved at such a convention would require ratification by three-fourths of the states, currently 38, in order to be added to the Constitution.
At the urging of the Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force (BBATF) and other groups, 27 states have approved matching petitions for a convention of states limited to proposing a BBA.
BBATF has advocated holding the planning convention.
Bill Fruth, a national cofounder of BBATF, says efforts to rescind applications for a convention of states are unlikely to prevent a convention from occurring.
“I believe a convention to propose a Balanced Budget Amendment will convene very soon,” Fruth said. “While the liberals have launched a strong effort to stop us, causing four Democrat states to rescind, there are no more Democrat legislatures left.”
Arizona state Rep. Kelly Townsend (R-Mesa), House majority whip and a member of the planning convention committee, says success may arrive soon.
“It is my hope that the states exercise their authority under Article V to convene for the purposes of proposing the 28th Amendment,” Townsend said. “We see the Balanced Budget Amendment as a single-subject call coming the closest, which was recently up to 30 of the 34 states needed, so it is conceivable that it could be as early as next year, should the trend continue.”
The number of approved matching applications is becoming more likely to reach the requisite 34 as lawmakers realize the limited nature of a convention, Fruth says.
“We need seven states and have seven Republican-controlled legislatures yet to pass the resolution,” Fruth said. “If we can effectively demonstrate a convention cannot ‘run away,’ as the opposition claims, each of these states should pass the resolution. We have found that many times the fear of our economic and political future overcomes the fear of a [runaway] convention.”
The specter of a runaway convention is unfounded and politically motivated, Fruth says.
“The fear of a runaway convention is manufactured and contrived,” Fruth said. “It was created by liberals in the 1960s for the purpose of stopping the states from using the most important power given to them by the Framers of our Constitution: the ability of the states to convene a convention to propose an amendment and subsequently ratifying such, without the interference of Congress.”
The state applications would necessarily limit the authority of delegates attending an amendment convention, Townsend says.
“If there were an effort to amend the Constitution to address health care, you would need to first have 34 states petition Congress for an Article V convention for the purpose of proposing an amendment to the Constitution that addresses health care,” Townsend said. “Arizona would have to pass a separate concurrent resolution asking Congress to convene the states for the purpose of proposing such an amendment, as would 33 other states.”
Even if delegates were to stray from the convention’s limited purpose of proposing a BBA, any proposed amendment would still be subject to the constitutionally established checks of the ratification process, Townsend says.
“Assuming that the delegates would agree to a rogue suggestion of an amendment that is outside the call of the convention, and that a judge would rule that it was allowable to propose an amendment that was not germane to the call, that proposed amendment is not binding in the slightest until you get 38 states to ratify it,” Townsend said.
Only amendments with bipartisan support are likely to be ratified by that many states, Townsend says.
“Any heavily partisan amendment, say a repeal of the Second Amendment or overturning Roe v. Wade, would not be ratified,” Townsend said. “In order to get both blue and red states to ratify the efforts of the convention, it would have to be a bipartisan proposal that both sides could agree on, like term limits or states’ rights.”
Arianna Wilkerson ([email protected]) is a government relations coordinator at The Heartland Institute.
Rob Natelson, “Eminent Constitutional Scholar Rob Natelson Answers Article V Questions,” Independence Institute, January 17, 2017: https://heartland.org/publications-resources/publications/eminent-constitutional-scholar-rob-natelson-answers-article-v-questions
Arizona state Rep. Kelly Townsend (R-Mesa): http://azleg.gov/MembersPage.asp?Member_ID=85&Legislature=51&Session_ID=110
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