POLITICS
03/28/2013 05:29 pm ET

Balanced Budget Advocates Seek Article V Constitutional Convention

Advocates for a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution have pinned their hopes on state legislatures calling for a new constitutional convention to get the amendment included.

The Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force, a Virginia-based group, has been pushing for states to use Article V of the Constitution, which allows Congress to call for a convention if petitioned by two-thirds of the states, or 34 states. Currently, 17 states have submitted petitions calling for a convention in order to add a balanced budget amendment.

"Our founders really, truly believed -- and if you read Hamilton and Madison in the Federalist Papers the intent was clear -- that if the central government went beyond its bounds, the states have the way to close the divide peacefully," David Biddulph, the co-founder of the Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force, told The Huffington Post.

An Article V convention has never been called, even though 49 states have submitted at least one petition calling for such a convention. Currently, at least three states are considering petitions: Georgia for the balanced budget amendment, Indiana to balance the power between the states and the federal government, and Kansas to move certain powers solely to the states.

Biddulph said that 32 states submitted resolutions for a balanced budget convention by the late 1980s, but after Ohio voted down a resolution, states started to withdraw.

The John Birch Society, which pledges on its website "less government, more responsibility," has expressed concern that an Article V convention could turn into a "runaway convention," which would bring proposed, unrelated amendments. Biddulph said that his group found a way to address that issue.

Under Biddulph's plan, states would require convention delegates to only address issues in the resolution and if they don't, delegates would automatically lose their seats, and could face criminal prosecution and jail time. No state has passed such legislation.

"We're asking every state in the 17 who approved the resolution to pass delegate limitation acts," Biddulph said.

The Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force has drafted model legislation for states. The American Legislative Exchange Council also has similar model legislation. ALEC also published a how-to guide for an Article V convention.

Kansas state Rep. Brett Hildabrand (R-Shawnee), who is sponsoring his state's current Article V petition, told HuffPost he's been getting emails from his conservative base expressing concerns over the possibility of a "runaway convention." At the same time, Hildabrand noted that three-fourths of the states would need to approve any amendments from a convention, which is a safeguard.

Biddulph said that his group will continue to press ahead on its plan.

"This isn't about politics," he said. "This is about redirecting the country in a better way then it is going. The founders knew there was a need to make sure the federal government did not get out of whack."

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