COLUMBUS -- Lawmakers in the Ohio House and Senate are again pursuing companion resolutions calling for a national constitutional convention to address debt and other issues.
Reps. Christina Hagan (R-Alliance) and Bill Patmon (D-Cleveland) and Sen. Matt Huffman (R-Lima) spoke about the measures this week during an event at the Statehouse and as part of testimony in separate legislative committees.
Hagan and Patmon offered a similar joint resolution last session, and Huffman was primary sponsor of a comparable House resolutions when he served in that chamber.
This session's HJR 2 and SJR 1 would formalize state lawmakers' call for Congress to hold a convention of states, as allowed under Article V of the U.S. Constitution.
Such a gathering is needed, Hagan told the Ohio House's Federalism and Interstate Relations Committee, to allow needed amendments to the nation's governing document.
"Federal laws now impede upon nearly every aspect of our lives," Hagan said. "Very personal aspects such as but not limited to: what kind of light bulbs we can buy, farming practices, school curriculum, school lunches and most recently and egregiously our individual freedoms and rights to choose our own health care and insurance policies."
She added, "The fact is, as a state legislature, we are our nation's last line of defense against an overreaching federal government. It's time for us to exercise our Article V power to more closely reflect the will of the people which we were sent to serve and represent."
Under Article V of the U.S. Constitution, two-thirds of state legislatures can adopt resolutions to force Congress to call a convention to consider amendments. Delegations would then meet to hash out amendments, which would require ratification by three-fourths of the country (38 states) to take effect.
"Really, a convention of the states is the only way to control the federal government," Huffman said. " Collectively, there's not the will or the incentive really [for Congress to act on its own] The states have to step up and execute on their constitutional prerogative to control the federal government."
Ohio adopted its Article V amendment several years ago, with wording that attempted to focus discussion on a balanced budget amendment. Gov. John Kasich supported the effort and traveled around the country, in advance of his unsuccessful bid for the presidency, urging other states to adopt similar resolutions.
HJR 2 and SJR 1 expand on the earlier resolution, allowing term limits for federal officials, including judges, as well as fiscal restraints to be discussed.
Republicans on the House's Federalism and Interstate Relations Committee voiced concerns about the possibility of a "runaway convention," with the resulting changes outside of the scope of what is proposed in the House and Senate resolutions.
Rep. John Becker, a Republican from the Cincinnati area, questioned whether the process would ultimately make a difference or if it would do more harm than good.
"Does amending the Constitution really matter, when it seems like the judiciary is what needs to be changed?" he asked, adding later, "Is there not a danger that we could wind up with a new Constitution with something other than three-quarters of the state to ratify? Are they going to wind up putting in here a right to free food, free housing, free health care, free abortions, free education, maybe change the Second Amendment, take it out or worse Anything can happen in this."
But Hagan said her resolution is written to ensure only the listed subjects are addressed, and she voiced a willingness to pursue additional legislation to ensure Ohio's delegates adhere to lawmakers' intentions.
"We should be scared, if we're going to be scared right now as we look into the current state of affairs of our nation's dialogue," she said. "The perversion has already occurred within our federal government, and the courts have been perverse in their interpretations and they themselves in over 30 accounts have stated that they are the only check upon themselves. So I think our only measure moving forward to ensure that our Constitution is interpreted as [intended] is to move forward with a convention of the states."
Marc Kovac covers the Ohio Statehouse for Gatehouse Media. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.
Cheering on Ohio because our Founders meant for us to be "eternally vigilant" and to "keep our Republic." As the article said, they also gave us a tool for doing that...Article V of the Constitution which allows We the People to rein in big government by petitioning their state legislators to call a Convention of States to propose amendments that will then go through the typical ratification process with which we are all familiar. Learn more and sign the petition at www.conventionofstates.com
I do wish you would get your terminology straight. A Convention of the States for the purpose of amending the Constitution under Article V is not a Constitutional Convention. The former is a provided method under Article V for states to offer amendments. The latter is unconstitutional and goes well beyond the boundaries of the former.