Editorial: Not the convention Alabama needs
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
Jan 21, 2014 | 1598 views |  0 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The chairmen of the state Senate's two budget committees, Republican Sen. Arthur Orr of Decatur, left, and Republican Sen. Trip Pittman of Daphne, listen to state fiscal experts during legislative budget hearings Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2011, at the state Capitol auditorium in Montgomery, Ala. Photo: Phillip Rawls/The Associated Press
The chairmen of the state Senate's two budget committees, Republican Sen. Arthur Orr of Decatur, left, and Republican Sen. Trip Pittman of Daphne, listen to state fiscal experts during legislative budget hearings Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2011, at the state Capitol auditorium in Montgomery, Ala. Photo: Phillip Rawls/The Associated Press
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The idea of amending the U.S. Constitution seems to gain traction when an element in the nation’s body politic becomes frustrated with government and the options available to make Washington act as that element wishes.

The Founding Fathers purposely made it difficult to amend the Constitution to discourage the sort of things frustrated elements want to do. In these cases, the frustrated grasp at a little-known and never-used provision in the Constitution that allows an amending convention to be called if two-thirds of the states request it.

To no one’s surprise, Alabama Republicans are in the middle of a latest attempt.

Recently, Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Daphne, and Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, traveled to Mt. Vernon, Va., to meet with other Repbulican lawmakers and discuss calling a convention. The group calls itself the “Mt. Vernon Assembly.”

Inspired by the book The Liberty Amendments, by conservative talk-show host Mark Levin, the lawmakers apparently seek to pass amendments that would place term limits on lawmakers and judges, restrict the federal bureaucracy and, in general, hamstring Washington and liberate the states.

According to Pittman, the amendment he is most interested in will be the one that will require the federal government to balance its budget.

Many economists think that is a bad idea. Most states whose constitutions require a balanced budget find ways to get around it. Alabama, for example, issues bonds in order to spend now and pay later, or it raids rainy-day funds to cover shortfalls.

That, however, is not the point. What’s important is that a national constitutional convention, even one to amend our organic law, is a bad idea -- not because the constitutional provision is impractical, but because the results are so unpredictable.

In the traditional amending process, an amendment, if passed by two-thirds of both houses of Congress, is sent to the states. If three-fourths of Congress ratify the amendment, it becomes part of the Constitution. It is a slow, deliberate process, but everyone involved knows what they are getting from the start.

We have an amending process, tried and true, that has worked to keep our national Constitutional uncluttered with extraneous amendments and free to evolve as the nation evolves.

If Pittman and Orr want to see what happens when the amending foxes are turned loose in the constitutional hen house, they need to look no further than the Alabama Constitution. If they want to have a practice run to see what a constitutional convention might accomplish, they should try Alabama first.
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Editorial: Not the convention Alabama needs by The Anniston Star Editorial Board

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