Arizona Senate considers calls for a Constitutional Convention

The Arizona State Senate is expected to begin work this week on a series of bills that would have Arizona join the call for a Constitutional Convention.

The Arizona House already passed legislation to hold a convention, specifically to consider a balanced budget amendment. Now 30 states out of the necessary 34 have given the go-ahead, the first since our nation’s founding.

The U.S. Constitution has been amended 27 times in all, without resorting to the convention process. In all, Congress has approved 33 amendments, but only 27 of them were ratified, including the first 10 in the Bill Of Rights.

Supporters say Arizona delegates will have to stick to that one issue. But legal experts say there’s no guarantee of that, in fact, everything about our system of government could be up for grabs.

“I don’t know what anybody could do to enforce limits on the convention, should the convention decide to propose amendments totally unrelated to the balance budget issue,” says University of Arizona Law Professor David Marcus.

If that sounds crazy, consider what happened at the original Convention in 1787. Delegates gathered in Philadelphia for the purpose of amending the Articles Of Confederation. Instead, they wrote a whole new constitution from scratch and changed the rules for ratification.

Just one of many uncertainties, adds Professor Marcus, is how many votes each state gets at a convention. Would the number be based on population, would it be one vote per state, or a hybrid like the Electoral College?

Professor Marcus contends Republican supporters want one vote per state because their party currently controls the majority of states.

“If it’s going to be one state, one vote, then this is going to be a total farce,” he added. “You can imagine states like California and New York simply sitting it out because it’s going to be so illegitimate.”

Only four more states are needed to hold a convention. Any changes approved by the delegates would have to be ratified by three-quarters of the states.

Editor’s note: Professor David Marcus expresses his own legal and personal opinions, and does not speak on behalf of the University of Arizona. Dennis Newman is a writer for Public News Service.

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