FRANKFORT Kentucky will not join 29 other states calling for a constitutional convention to propose a federal balance budget amendment — at least not this year.
Rep. Kenny Imes, R-Murray, chairman of the House Committee on Elections, Constitutional Amendments and Intergovernmental Affairs, announced Monday he would not call for votes two resolutions seeking such a convention.
But he said discussion on the resolutions will continue throughout the year and “I assume there will be a vote on them in 2018.”
Article V of the U.S. Constitution requires 34 of the 50 states to call for such a convention and some other states are presently considering such resolutions. Most want the convention to consider a balance budget amendment although one of the Kentucky resolutions, sponsored by Rep. Jim DeCesare, R-Bowlng Green, also wants to limit the federal government’s power over states, something he called “states’ rights.”
Opponents fear a “runaway constitution” which could re-write the entire framework of the country’s government, including Samuel Marcossan, law professor at the University of Louisville Law School.
DeCesare and Loren Enns, with a group called the Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force, claim delegates to such a convention could consider only the specific proposals authorized by the states sending them to the convention.
But Marcossan said there is nothing in Article V prohibiting delegates from proposing any amendments they wish, something on which he said constitutional experts from both the left and the right agree.
“All the states can do is provide guidance,” Marcossan said. “The ultimate authority is the convention and the delegates. Whatever they want to do, they could do.”
He also pointed out that the convention method of amending the constitution under Article V has never been utilized and that the original 1787 convention disregarded its instructions from state legislatures to amend the Articles of Confederation, choosing instead to offer an entirely new system of government. (Amendments generally have been proposed by Congress and ratified by the states.)
DeCesare countered that even if a convention proposed more changes than its delegates were instructed to do, those amendments or changes would still have to be ratified by three-fourths of the states, providing a further check on any “runaway convention.”
Rep. Derrick Graham, D-Frankfort, who is African-American told DeCesare that the term “states’ rights” carries special and negative resonance for him and other African-Americans.
Saying he has known DeCesare for 15 years and realizes such a negative meaning isn’t DeCesare’s intent, Graham said it nevertheless has in the past been used to discriminate against black Americans.
“When you talk about states’ rights . . . the states haven’t always done right for citizens,” Graham said. “It’s been up to the federal government to do what’s right for citizens.”
Without the intervention of the federal government, Graham said, he “wouldn’t be where I am today.”
DeCesare said that part of his resolution is aimed at things like the federal government’s requirement states implement a uniform identification system called the REAL ID.