Greetings! I have decided to write about a Constitutional Convention, also called a Convention of States, Article V Convention, or Con-Con. For simplicity, I’ll refer to it as COS (Convention of States).
For those who attended Gold Discover Days in Custer recently, the COS folks were there in force getting signatures on a petition for a COS. They then took your signature and transformed it onto a form letter and have swamped my emails. Pretty funny huh? Well, to the good people pushing a COS, this tactic doesn’t work on me. Having said that, let’s discuss.
My understanding is the reason a COS is proposed is to implement term limits on our two U.S. Senators, currently Thune and Rounds, and our Congressman, currently Dusty Johnson AND to institute a balanced budget by the Federal Government. In South Dakota we had Amendment A on the ballot in 1992. It passed with 64% approval and was designed for term limits. The language read 12 years in U.S. Congress. Currently U.S. Senators serve a 6-year term and our Congressman in the House of Representatives serves a 2-year term. In our state legislature, both members of House and Senate serve 2-year terms with a max of 4 terms consecutively.
So, on a federal level Sen. Thune and Sen. Rounds could serve two 6-year terms and Congressman Johnson 6 2-year terms. Sound logical? One opposing thought is: Do we want to recall Sen. Thune when he is a Majority Whip in the Senate and could very likely become the Majority Leader, as Sen. Daschle was before losing his seat to John Thune?
The COS group’s second point is a balanced federal budget. Here in South Dakota we have to balance our budget each year per our state constitution. This is a really big deal because we have no deficit spending and even have money in reserves just like a savings account. So, why am I not in favor of having a COS?
First, it’s never going to happen in our lifetime, at least mine. It takes 34 state legislatures to pass a COS, and then 38 states to pass any amendments that might pass at the convention. Right now there are at best count that I could find, 17 states on board. Another source shows 15 states.
Ever since I’ve been in Pierre, and I’m going into year 5, COS forces are in with a proposed COS with a huge lobby effort. There is also a big lobby effort against it. I should mention the John Birch Society is a lobbying group opposing the COS. What I dislike most about having this debate each year is how it divides up our caucus. By the way, in the House of Representatives, the Democrats are also opposed to a COS.
So, here are a couple of questions I ask my fellow legislators who are trying to get me to change my vote. First, how much campaign money have you received from COS to vote for this convention? Second, who is funding this COS endeavor? Those are questions anyone can ask them.
Getting back to their 2nd initiative of a balanced federal budget. That’s a novel idea! Unfortunately, our federal government is so out of control and even more so with Covid 19, that it would be fiscally irresponsible to shut the federal government down abruptly. Remember, they still have to get 34 states to have a convention and 38 states to ratify. Figures I’ve heard are that for every percent our Gross National Product (GNP) increases, 1 trillion comes off the national debt. So, if we could have four years of 5% GNP growth, that would take 20 trillion off the national debt. The problem is with these out of control stimulus monies being sent out to individuals and to states, we are looking at a 28 trillion dollar national debt. This is absolutely out of control federal government and we need to do something!
Currently we have 27 amendments to our constitution. The first 10, called the Bill of Rights, were done at a COS held in 1787. Since then we have added 17 more, all by an act of Congress. Some examples: Amendment 13 To Abolish Slavery, and Amendment 16 Allowing an Income Tax, Amendment 19 Giving Women the Right To Vote, and Amendment 26 Allowing 18-year-olds the right to vote passed in 1971.
In conclusion, our U.S. Congress could pass Amendments 28 and 29, Term Limits and Balanced Budget, tomorrow if they wanted to. So, is my explanation as to my opposition as clear as mud? Yep, my biggest concern is the weight of the vote each state carries. One vote for each state is a great deal. However, it would most likely be like our Electoral College which would give South Dakota 3 votes and California 50+. Not a good deal for us.
Tim R. Goodwin, District 30 Representative
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