Wednesday, February 19, 2014

From the House

Bluffton Today

Last week was a weird one, even for South Carolina. Not only did we get this season’s second portion of snow and ice, we experienced an earthquake. I spent the second planned furlough week on the “left coast.” There were some business matters that needed attention, as well as a good opportunity to visit with my son Cole, who is attending school in California. Needless to say, the weather snarled the airline schedules and left me to improvise a way home.

I’d like to revisit an item I put before you three months ago, as well as give you an update on how the item is playing around the nation. I’m speaking; of course, of the Article Five process that describes the various ways given in the U.S. Constitution by which that document can be amended. You may remember that the common manner of amendment, except for the Bill of Rights, is for both houses of congress to pass a joint resolution by a supermajority of at least two thirds of both chambers. The amendment is then placed before the state legislatures for ratification. When three fourths of the legislatures pass the measure, it becomes an amendment to our foundational document, the Constitution.

The Article Five Convention of States (COS) process is an alternate method for amendment. It involves the legislatures of at least two thirds of the states requesting of congress that a national constitutional convention be held for the purpose of drafting and passing an amendment to the Constitution. Ratification is either by passage of three fourths of state legislatures or three fourths of state ratifying conventions. Such an effort has been under way for almost a year.

When the idea was floated in this column last December, a solid majority of your emails and phone calls supported the idea, especially for an amendment to require a balanced federal budget, except in times of national emergency. Many of you also had concerns that such a process might be hijacked by extremist groups. As the COS process picks up steam around the country, those same concerns are becoming a part of the conversation. For example, a Tennessee Senate Committee approved the “Faithful Delegate” bill last week on a unanimous bipartisan vote. The bill limits the authority of delegates to an Article Five Convention to the scope of the state’s Article Five Resolution. Any deviation from the resolution results in the replacement of the delegate.

Our neighbors in Georgia recently approved the Senate version of the COS bill unanimously. The Florida Senate Judiciary Committee passed that state’s Article Five COS application 7-2. It now moves to the full Florida Senate. In Arizona, the House Federalism and Fiscal Responsibility Committee passed COS legislation 5-3.

This movement is quickly picking up steam and when we reach the 34 state threshold, we are in for a very interesting constitutional exercise.

Locally, the CODA Run4Love walk/race, as expected, was a big success. Despite 30 knots of breeze and cool temperature, the turnout was high, and from all reports, big fun was had by all. I had hoped attend, but my transportation arrangements to get home from California turned nightmarish. Congratulations to all our friends from Citizens Opposed to Domestic Abuse (CODA). Not only do they do excellent work in the community, they also put on a great event. For the race results, go to their Facebook page.

Next week, assuming we don’t experience another weather event, I will give you a mid-point summary of our activity at the statehouse. Candidly, with two planned furloughs and another week off for weather, we have a little catching up to do.