Critics of “runaway” federal government are pushing S.C. legislators to call for a convention of states to amend the U.S. Constitution.
Constitutional amendments proposed in a pair of state Senate bills aim to require the federal government to balance its budget and ban same-sex marriage, defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
A Senate panel, considering legislation sponsored by state Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Berkeley, heard testimony for and against calling for a convention of states Wednesday.
Many of the speakers, on both sides of the issue, had ties to Tea Party and liberty movements in the state.
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Grooms’ bills call for a convention of states, and propose the balanced-budget and marriage amendments.
Supporters of Grooms’ bills urged lawmakers to take advantage of their constitutional power to call for a convention to amend the Constitution.
Article 5 of the U.S. Constitution says state legislatures can convene a convention if two-thirds of states agree by passing resolutions. Those resolutions would limit the scope of the convention to specific topics.
Any amendments passed by a convention would have to be ratified by three-quarters of the states to become part of the Constitution.
Sen. Grooms said federal judges are disregarding the Constitution by taking liberties in interpreting it. That is why a convention is necessary, he said.
“To say, ‘There's a right of gay marriage’ – I don't see that in the Constitution, but a federal judge did,” Grooms said.
Opponents of calling a constitutional convention said they fear the process could be hijacked. Others said there is nothing wrong with the Constitution, adding congressional leaders and the federal courts are the problem.
Eddie McCain of Batesburg-Leesville said he fears letting people who voted for President Barack Obama twice take part in adopting a constitutional amendment. “Instead of having a Bill of Rights, we're going to have a bill of government-granted privileges.”
Those fears are unfounded, said Charleston County GOP chairman John Steinberger, adding the “firewall is thick” that protects the Constitution.
Thirty-eight states would have to ratify any amendments passed by a constitutional convention. That means 13 states could block them.
Steinberger said 25 states have passed resolutions calling for a convention of states to pass a federal balanced-budget amendment.
Grooms’ third proposal calls for a convention to take up amendments under three topics: placing fiscal restraints on the federal government, limiting the federal government’s power and jurisdiction, and creating term limits for federal elected officials.
Identical resolutions have been introduced in 26 states, said Bob Menges, S.C. director for the Convention of States Project. Three states have passed the resolutions, he said.