Kentucky lawmakers slow down push for constitutional convention
Two Republican-backed measures in the General Assembly will be discussed but not brought up for a vote during the current session, the House elections committee chair said Monday.
FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) – A push for Kentucky to join other states seeking a constitutional convention on amendments that would balance the federal budget and limit U.S. government power isn’t likely to advance – at least for now.
Two Republican-backed measures in the General Assembly will be discussed but not brought up for a vote during the current session, said Rep. Kenny Imes, chairman of the House elections committee, which heard testimony on the resolutions Monday.
Such a convention has never happened but is permitted under Article V of the Constitution if 34 state legislatures apply. Thus far, 29 states have made similar petitions.
To date, amendments have been proposed by Congress and ratified by the states.
But supporters argue that a convention called by the states is a Constitutionally-permitted route to address issues Congress won’t tackle, such as a balanced budget amendment. They say there are checks and balances to ensure a convention wouldn’t stray from specific amendments on an agenda.
“Our current Constitution is pretty strong,” Rep. Jim DeCesare, R-Bowling Green, told lawmakers. “It has safeguards in it.”
DeCesare, who is a co-sponsor on both House resolutions, spoke alongside representatives of the Palm City, Fla.-based Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force. Citing an escalating federal debt, the task force says that to “prevent a severe economic meltdown, we must impose fiscal restraints on Congress via a federal balanced budget amendment.”
Its “partner” organizations include the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, a group of Republican state legislators, scholars and private industry advisers that represent energy, pharmaceutical and other interests; the National Federation of Independent Business; and the conservative Heartland Institute.
DeCesare is ALEC’s Kentucky state co-chair.
Critics claim there’s no guarantee that a convention would have to address specific issues and could essentially create its own rules.
Sam Marcosson, a University of Louisville law professor, called a convention an “unprecedented step” and said Constitutional scholars across the political spectrum agree that neither Congress nor the states could limit a convention’s agenda.
“The ultimate authority under a convention model to propose the amendments for ratification back to the states lies with the convention and its delegates,” he said. “Whatever they wanted to do once they were sent to do their business would be up to them.”
Similar measures were filed in the Kentucky legislature last year, but they failed to advance in a House that was controlled by Democrats. The GOP now has a supermajority in both legislative chambers, along with Republican Gov. Matt Bevin.
House Concurrent Resolution 13 calls on Kentucky to apply to Congress for a convention of the states in which delegates would propose an amendment requiring that annual levels of federal spending match estimated revenues. It is sponsored by Imes, DeCesare and Rep. Scott Wells of West Liberty.
Under House Joint Resolution 54, introduced by DeCesare and Tim Couch of Hyden, Kentucky would call for a convention dealing with amendments “that impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, and amendments that limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and no other amendments on any topic whatsoever.”
Eight other states have applied for such a convention, the resolution says.
Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, a Louisville Democrat, filed a floor amendment that would include Constitutional amendments that include restricting campaign contributions to “only individual persons” and limiting donations to $27 per person; giving collective bargaining to employers with at least five workers; and “enshrining same-sex marriage as a constitutional right.”
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