A resolution that would allow South Carolina to participate in any potential constitutional convention for a federal balanced budget amendment will go to the state Senate Judiciary Committee after receiving a favorable vote from a subcommittee Thursday.
The panel voted 2-1 in favor of advancing the resolution after hearing the opinions of several people and groups. Click here to read the resolution.
State Sen. Thomas McElveen, D-Sumter, was the lone “no” vote.
“I’m just not convinced this is the way to do it,” he said prior to voting. “I like the idea of a balanced budget. I’m worried about what a constitutional convention might look like. I’m worried about that in this state what a constitutional convention might look like. I would argue that we live probably in a period of greater political polarization than our country’s ever seen before. I don’t think that’s the time — we’re not all pulling in the same direction.”
McElveen said if states want to change what’s happening in Washington, voters need to elect the best people to represent them in Congress.
“It’s a matter of who we’re sending up there, generally speaking,” he said. “If you look back 20-30 years ago, I think we were more in line of sending our best and brightest people up there. Now it’s ‘Who’s more connected? Who can spend more money?’ So I think if you really want to affect the kind of things and you want to do something monumental, campaign finance reform is probably the better way to go.”
In order for the Article V constitutional convention to occur, 34 states would have to approve participation. Conservative groups such as the Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force say 28 states have voted in favor at this point.
“The longer we ignore it, the worse it’s going to get,” Loren Enns, who represents the Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force, told subcommittee members Thursday. “Every year they’re going to be borrowing a trillion dollars more. The Fed’s going to be raising interested rates because of inflation ticking up.”
Some people speaking at the meeting said they were concerned a one-issue constitutional convention would set a concerning precedent. All 27 of the Constitution’s previous amendments have come through Congress, although the original document allows for Article V conventions.
David Guldenschuh with the Heartland Institute cited court cases that debunked those concerns.
‘We know that the rules were,” he said. “We know how this process works. We have an abundance of precedents that an Article V convention can, in fact, be limited to a single subject.
The League of Women Voters and South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center were among the speakers opposing the resolution.
“This particular way of going about what’s being suggested is not popular democracy,” SC Appleseed Legal Justice Center executive director Sue Berkowitz said. “It really is a power grab.”
State Sens. Rex Rice, R- Pickens and Shane Massey, R-Edgefield, voted in favor of the resolution.