OC Convention Bills for US Amendments En route to SC Senate

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COLUMBIA, SC (AP) — Several bills that would add South Carolina to a list of more than a dozen states calling for a convention to add a balanced federal budget and changes to congressional term limits are heading to the Senate.

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the proposals on Wednesday broadly in line with party lines.

The convention is one of two ways to propose amendments to the US Constitution, but has not been used since the Constitution was ratified in 1787.

Proponents said the US Congress will never agree to limit its own powers, so the traditional method of the US Senate and House of Representatives approving an amendment by a two-thirds majority and then having it ratified by at least 38 of the 50 states is impossible .


The convention would choose the other way of amending the constitution. Two-thirds of 34 of the 50 states can call for a convention, which could then meet and propose changes. Proponents said South Carolina is the 18th state to ask the convention to change the balanced budget. Fewer states have agreed to seek the other proposals.

Opponents said the constitution is not specific to how the convention process works, and since it has remained unused for more than 200 years, the convention could pass amendments that overhaul the entire basis for US government.

In written testimony before a subcommittee last week, the League of Women Voters of South Carolina said even if the convention doesn’t begin to tear apart the foundations of the U.S. government, the country’s sharp political divisions would leave large groups of voters from all parts of the political spectrum distrustful of the process and unwilling to accept changes made.

“It would be like throwing a lit match into a pile of gas-soaked rags. The prospect of further dividing our nation is the greatest danger of all. This danger should not be underestimated,” the group said.

Senator Josh Kimball said those fears were overblown and that the Founding Fathers would not have introduced the provision if they did not want it to be used.

“No one is talking about putting the entire constitution on the chopping block. I don’t think the founders intended this to be a self-destruct button,” said the Spartanburg Republican.

Proponents also said states would have to approve any changes proposed by the convention.

One of the bills that passed would also make it a crime, punishable by up to five years in prison, for a convention delegate to disobey orders and raise issues outside of the balanced budget, term limits and limitations on federal powers.

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Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP.

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