In a landmark move, Georgia’s House and Senate have called for a constitutional convention to limit the size and power of the federal government.
It is the first time that both chambers of a state have supported a conservative- and libertarian-backed movement that would bring together all 50 states to consider amending the US Constitution. The group behind the movement has labeled it a Convention of States and launched a website.
“We Georgians boldly took another few steps out of tyranny,” said Jacquie Peterson, the Convention of States Georgia director. “Those of us who were able to attend this historic vote were honored to be there representing hundreds of thousands of other liberty-loving men and women from across our Nation. It is our greatest hope that many of our sister States will join with us to lead the way.”
It passed the House, 100-65, and the Senate, 37-16. The two versions are slightly different, so the chambers will have to agree on a compromise, which Convention of States supporters say is likely.
The legislature passed what’s called an Article V resolution – a reference to Article Five of the US Constitution which says a Constitutional Convention must be called if 34 states petition for it.
Supporters of the resolution believe such a convention could change the Constitution to limit the size and power of the federal government. Opponents believe it could threaten the basic rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights
“It’s open-ended, and it’s dangerous,” State Sen. Steve Thompson (D-Marietta) said, according to The Macon Telegraph. Thompson voted no on the resolution.
Other, though, believe a convention would not be a threat.
“Our Founders really, truly believed — and if you read Hamilton and Madison in the Federalist Papers the intent was clear — that if the central government went beyond its bounds, the states have the way to close the divide peacefully,” David Biddulph of the Balanced Budget Amendment Taskforce told The Huffington Post.
Why They Want It
The Constitution can be amended in two ways: by the US Congress passing an amendment and sending it to the states for ratification, or by the states gathering and adopting amendments without involving Congress. It is this latter path that supporters have chosen.
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Article V backers such as Biddulph believe a new Constitutional Convention could be used to reign in federal power by passing such measures as term-limits for Congress and a balanced budget amendment.
An organization called the Convention of States has been petitioning for such a convention for some time. The main argument for the convention is that the federal government has become unresponsive to average citizens.
“We sense an utter frustration with what’s going on in Washington D.C., today,” Georgia State Senator Cecil Staton (R-Macon), who sponsored the resolution, said.
Stanton’s frustration is reflected in the House-backed version, which says the “federal government has created a crushing national debt through improper and imprudent spending” and has “invaded the legitimate roles of the states through the manipulative process of federal mandates.” It also says the “federal government has ceased to live under a proper interpretation of the Constitution of the United States.”
Why Some People are Afraid of An Article Five Convention
The big fear from opponents is a runaway convention which would try to rewrite the entire Constitution, including the guarantees of basic rights. Gun-control advocates could take over the convention and attempt to repeal the Second Amendment, for example.
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“An Article V constitutional convention would have the inherent right to be a ‘runaway’ convention,” Larry Greenley wrote in a column posted at the John Birch Society’s website. Greenley thinks there would be no way to keep such a convention from spiraling out of control.
Greenley’s fear is that liberals or leftists would gain control of the Convention and use it to force their agenda on America.
Supporters say a convention’s list of topics would be narrow. Georgia’s House resolution said the topics would be limited to:
- Imposing fiscal restraints on the federal government
- Limiting the power and jurisdiction of the federal government.
- Limiting the terms of office for its officials and for members of Congress