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Defeated in ID Senate, Constitutional Convention Lives On

State legislators want to enact Article V in order to add a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. (Wikilmages/PIxabay)
State legislators want to enact Article V in order to add a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. (Wikilmages/PIxabay)
March 6, 2017

BOISE, Idaho – So far, 28 states have passed resolutions calling for a Constitutional Convention to add an amendment requiring the federal government to balance its budget - but Idaho isn't one of them.

A state Senate resolution calling for a Constitutional Convention was defeated last week, although a House version is still in play. Only six more states are needed to hold a convention under Article Five of the U.S. Constitution.

Although many state senators are sympathetic to the idea politically, Betsy McBride, advocacy director for the League of Women Voters of Idaho, said the resolution ultimately was defeated in the Senate because opponents couldn't be assured the convention would only cover the balanced budget amendment.

"They just were left with, 'You might tell me it could be controlled, but it doesn't say that,’” McBride said. "There's no language about who and where and how, and how many amendments would be taken up."

The Senate resolution was defeated 11 to 24. Eight other states, including Montana and Washington state, also have considered and rejected similar resolutions this session.

Arn Peason, general counsel for the watchdog group Center for Media and Democracy, said the nationwide movement is being pushed in part by the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC is made up of conservative lawmakers and corporations, and distributes model legislation on a variety of topics - including the calls for a balanced budget amendment.

"They see a chance to get a rewrite on the Constitution that limits federal power and prevents the federal government from regulating their industries,” Pearson said. “And it's really a chance for the 1 percent to lock in their political power for generations to come."

Pearson said the convention wouldn't necessarily be a popular convention and, because it isn't clear how delegates would be chosen, it might well be dominated by political interests.

"It's most likely that the delegates would either be the current elected political leaders or be chosen by the governor or legislature,” he said. "It's not something that the people get to choose."

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ID