Georgia Votes for Convention of States to Amend Constitution

Friday, 07 Mar 2014 02:38 PM

By Cheryl K. Chumley

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The Georgia state legislature has passed a measure calling for a Convention of States to amend the U.S. Constitution, a move long championed by many in the tea party movement.

The action restricts the convention to topics of limiting the power of the federal government and establishing term limits for federal officials. Georgia's House voted 107-58 on Thursday to pass the measure, which previously had passed the state Senate.

"An Article V Convention of States would provide an opportunity for the citizens of this great nation to restore the balance of power between the states and the federal government," Republican state Rep. Buzz Brockway of Lawrenceville said in a statement.

Brockway, the measure's primary sponsor in the state House, urged "legislators in the other 49 states to join Georgia and call for a Convention of States for the purpose of proposing amendments to the U.S. Constitution."

Under Article V of the Constitution, such a convention can be convened when requested by two-thirds of the states, and it is one of two ways to propose amendments to the nation's founding document.

The other method – by which all previous constitutional amendments have been initiated — requires a two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress. Ratifying the amendment then requires three-fourths of the states to approve it.

"A Convention of States to propose amendments is certainly a legitimate way to limit federal power," Michael Maharrey, national communications director for the Tenth Amendment Center, told Newsmax. "It's one of the methods included in the Constitution to make necessary alterations to the document."

A measure calling for a Convention of States also was recently passed by the Alaska House Finance Committee.

Its sponsor, state Rep. Tammie Wilson of North Pole, Alaska, said she introduced the bill because she is fed up with federal overreach.

"The federal government is just not listening to us," Wilson told Newsmax. "The states have certain rights. The Founding Fathers put this process in place for a reason."

The Alaska measure also specifies that a convention must be limited in what it can consider, as critics have raised the specter of a "runaway" convention that could take on an ambitious constitutional rewrite.

The group Citizens for Self-Governance (CSG), headed by Tea Party Patriots co-founder and former spokesman Mark Meckler, is promoting a convention on the web at conventionofstates.com.

"It is important to note that a convention for an individual amendment (e.g. a balanced budget amendment) would be limited to that single idea," CSG says on its website.

"Requiring a balanced budget is a great idea that CSG fully supports. Congress, however, could comply with a balanced budget amendment by simply raising taxes. We need spending restraints as well. We need restraints on taxation. We need prohibitions against improper federal regulation. We need to stop unfunded mandates."

Whatever the path, the end result should be a scaled-back federal government, the group said.

"A Convention of States needs to be called to ensure that we are able to debate and impose a complete package of restraints on the misuse of power by all branches of the federal government," CSG wrote on its website.

Conservative radio talk-show host and author Mark Levin also has been out front in pushing for such a convention. In his best-selling book "The Liberty Amendments: Restoring the American Republic," he proposes 11 Constitutional amendments that he believes should be considered by the gathering.

The text of Wilson's Alaska resolution, HJR 22, asks Congress for a "convention of the states to propose amendments to the Constitution that impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and limit the terms of office of federal government officials."

Alaska Republican state Rep. Doug Isaacson, a co-sponsor of the measure, said he's also signed on to HB 284, which would bind the federal government to a "Compact for a Balanced Budget."

That bill is "focused on constraining the federal budget," Isaacson told Newsmax. "I believe it is important to narrow the topic so that we, as states, can push back on issues important to all of us. I believe we can't come to a convention without a specific solution, be it the regulatory crisis, state sovereignty, unfunded mandates, or the one that drives me crazy — the federal government trying to make decisions that are not relevant to our people. Something needs to give and it should not be the states."

State Rep. Shelley Hughes, a co-sponsor of both measures in Alaska, said she regarded HJR 22 as more of a symbolic message or statement, and HB 284 as the "much more achievable and practical approach," because it lays out a bipartisan way for Alaskans to get the federal government to stop its burdensome overreach.

"It calls for a convention and lays out the rules for how the convention would work and details the amendment itself,” Hughes said, adding that the balanced budget approach would not only trim federal pork but also force Washington, D.C., to choose carefully before enacting new rules and regulations that might bring costly mandates.

Another benefit of HB 284: It limits delegates to discussing a constitutional amendment for a balanced federal budget, so it serves to sooth concerns of any "runaway train" convention, she said.

"We all understand the federal debt has surpassed $17 trillion and most states have to come up with a balanced budget, and the federal government should as well," Hughes said. "The compact is a legal framework."

Some federal regulations have hit Alaska particularly hard — especially those from the Environmental Protection Agency guiding land use, she said.

"In Alaska,” Hughes added, “there is huge federal overreach. I liken it to a home where the kids have grown up and moved out, but the parents are still trying to rule over the kids. There's this sense that the fact we want to be good stewards of our land is not recognized in D.C. Frankly, the feds need to back off a bit."

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