The Senate State Affairs Committee today voted on party lines to approve a bill (SB 21) calling for a new U.S. constitutional convention. The measure now goes to the full Senate for consideration.
The bill invokes Article V of the U.S. Constitution to enact what supporters refer to as a “convention of states,” with the aim of enacting a series of amendments to limit the power of the federal government, including a balanced budget amendment and congressional term limits. Governor Greg Abbott previously named the measure one of his emergency items for the legislative session during his State of the State address last month.
The state affairs committee passed the bill following nearly two hours of public testimony. Most of the witnesses testified in favor of the measure. But several conservatives opposed it, warning about the possibility of a runaway convention. Activist Barbara Harless from Dallas was among the first.
“What if a real Article V convention proposed amendments with unintended consequences that actually increased federal powers and did not restrict them?” said Harless.
Senator Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury), author of the bill, responded with points echoed by many of the witnesses that followed. “My trepidation with not doing this is that, if we think we’re going to get any adjustment out of a Congress to restrict and limit its power, we’re putting our hope in a forlorn action,” said Birdwell.
So far, eight other states have adopted legislation similar to Texas’. The Constitution requires two-thirds of the states to do so, 34 out of the total 50, for a convention to take place.