House kills planned Nashville meeting on U.S. constitutional amendments

With members acknowledging confusion over different groups pushing amendments to the U.S. Constitution through a convention of states, the House State Government Committee has scrapped a Senate-passed bill that called for a July meeting in Nashville to make plans for such a gathering.

Prior to the vote, Rep. William Lamberth, R-Cottontown, lamented “the travesty of this situation” with groups sharing the same goal of curbing “federal government overreach” being unable to agree on procedures. He said it appears the movement for a convention of the states is “starting to shatter.”

Rep. Bill Sanderson, R-Kenton, said the conflict “puts us in a quandry” and the committee’s chairman, Rep. Bob Ramsey, R-Maryville, said efforts “to get these folks together… haven’t really made much progress.

Tennessee legislators in the past have approved two resolutions that call for a convention of the states, as authorized under Article V of the U.S. Constitution. Under the provision, Congress must schedule a convention if legislatures in two-thirds of all states – 34 – adopt authorizing resolutions.

One Tennessee-approved proposal would be limited to an amendment mandating a balanced federal budget. Wyoming recently became the 29th state to approve such a convention, according to testimony before the committee, and there’s a good possibility the required 34 will be reached by the end of year.

The other proposal is somewhat broader and would – according to the Tennessee resolution adopted last year – consider amendments that would “impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and limit the terms of office for its officials and for members of Congress.” Tennessee is one of just eight states signing off on that proposal so far.

By a vote of 27-3, the Senate on Feb. 6 approved SJR9, which sets up a “planning convention” in Nashville, to begin on July 11, for the proposed balanced-budget amendment. The meeting would draft rules that would apply to the actual convention, when and if held. Rep. Dennis Powers, R-Jacksboro, is House sponsor of the measure and when he brought it before the State Government Committee, lengthy debate and testimony ensued with contradictory testimony.

Rep. Bud Hulsey, R-Kingsport, had a similar resolution (HJR124) that includes a reference to the broader proposed convention and which was preferred by advocates for that effort.

The committee wound up sending Powers’ resolution to “summer study,” effectively killing it since the planning convention is supposed to be held in July and the legislature will likely adjourn for the year in April. Hulsey’s resolution was taken “off notice,” meaning no vote on it is anticipated.

During the committee session, proponents of the balanced-budget amendment said that if the committee killed the idea of holding a planning convention in Nashville, it would still be held elsewhere.

Note: See also The Tennessean’s report, HERE.

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Former Knoxville News Sentinel capitol bureau chief Tom Humphrey writes about Tennessee politics, government, and legislative news.
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