Guest opinion: Constitutional convention idea ill advised
A package of bills calling for a “constitutional convention of the states” is set to steamroll through the Texas House — and that should make Texans nervous.
Convening a summit to amend the U.S. Constitution in today’s world of polarized-and-social-media-ized politics would be like giving a baby a ball-peen hammer — there's no telling what the damage would be.
Yes, eight states have passed similar measures. And yes, Gov. Greg Abbott has made the notion a high priority, producing a 70-page brief accompanied by another 22 pages of notes. He also has declared it an emergency issue, which is why it is coming up this week.
His crusade seems more calculated to raise his national profile than produce sound governance.
At best, the movement might be a way to let Washington know that people outside the Beltway are fed up with federal gridlock and meddling. At worst, the campaign risks radically altering the balance of power established in the Constitution by our Founding Fathers — and the Bill of Rights with it.
Ostensibly, the package of proposals would allow a convention of states to amend the Constitution to require a balanced budget, term limits for Congress, and curbs on federal regulation of state activities. One of Abbott's proposals also would allow a vote of two-thirds of the states to overturn Supreme Court decisions or any act by Congress.
To be sure, the issue of federal overreach merits attention, and there is considerable grass-roots support for a balanced budget and term limits. But, as they say, the devil is in the details. Penalties such as jail time and fines have been added to the Texas package that are supposed to prevent convention delegates from sneaking in whatever hot-button issue is in fashion at the time, such as bathroom labels. But the risk of “mission creep” remains.
It is also troubling that the campaign in Texas and around the country has largely been funded by a handful of multimillionaires who see it as an opportunity to circumvent Congress.
The convention campaign is cloaked as a “conservative” effort, but a true conservative believes in restraint — which is why so many responsible Republicans favor judges who look to the Founding Founders' intent and tread cautiously.
Besides, who or what would protect an individual’s right of free speech, religion or political association, if any decision by the Supreme Court could be overturned by statehouses, thanks to funding from the wealthy?
Supporters claim the constitutional convention would return the balance of power to citizens, but they are playing with dynamite by risking a prolonged, acrimonious circus that would distract from the pressing issues facing our country — decaying infrastructure, an overburdened military and a rudderless health insurance system.
It’s disappointing to see Abbott claim his goal is to “restore the rule of law in America." He knows the Constitution has been amended 27 times through a deliberative process that requires two-thirds approval of Congress and ratification in three-fourths of the states.
None of those considered changes was born in a convention of the states because it was not necessary. Or wise.
Dallas Morning News, May 2