Concerned that convening a convention to amend the U.S. Constitution would open a Pandora’s box, a Louisiana Senate committee Tuesday rejected a bid to put the Legislature on record requesting such a meeting.
House Concurrent Resolution 2 is Louisiana’s entry in a nationwide endeavor by conservative state legislators to have the states call for a convention that would amend the U.S. Constitution to restrict federal powers, require a balanced federal budget and enact term limits for federal officials.
Senate Judiciary Committee B voted 3-4 against the House-passed resolution, likely putting an end to it for this session. Sponsor Rep. Ray Garofalo said he’ll likely bring it back next year, if he is re-elected.
That HCR2 lost in Judiciary B didn’t come as a great surprise, the Chalmette Republican said after the two-hour hearing. Had the measure been assigned to a different committee, perhaps the outcome would have been different, he said.
“The fact that it went to Jud B is questionable to me,” Garofalo said. “The makeup of the committee is such that I did not expect to get the bill through.”
Four other states have passed similar resolutions, Garofalo said. He said the Constitution could be amended if 34 states agree, a convention is held and three-fourths of U.S. states ratify proposed changes.
Judiciary B Chairman J.P. Morrell, a New Orleans Democrat, noted that many conservative and liberal legal scholars have raised concerns that a convention could end up rewriting the entire document that serves as the basis of American law and, in so doing, roll back many freedoms.
“There are three checks to prevent a runaway convention,” Garofalo countered.
Delegates to the convention, which he called ambassadors, would be forbidden from exceeding the scope of their limited call. The ambassadors would have specific instructions, and the proposed amendments would have to be ratified by 38 states.
Republican Sen. Norby Chabert, of Houma, criticized federal policies and agreed with Garofalo about the intent of the legislation.
But even he paused at the possibility of convening a constitutional convention. “I agree with what many of my colleagues said about opening up a Pandora’s box,” he said.
“Right now we see a federal government that is spending our children’s money, our grandchildren’s money for generations to come with no restraint on that at all,” Garofalo said, arguing that a convention of states could limit the scope of its debate to fiscal issues.
New Orleans Sen. Karen Peterson, who also heads the Louisiana Democratic Party, said Louisiana legislators so far have failed to follow the dictates of this state’s constitution as far as showing fiscal restraint and responsibility.
“We have a nightmare fiscal situation,” Peterson said. “To have spent an hour and half to talk about what the federal government should do, when we haven’t done our own business, I just think that’s phenomenal that we focus on resolutions.”
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