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Big Sky Connection



Eric Tegethoff


March 7, 2017

HELENA, Mont. - So far, 28 states have passed resolutions calling for a constitutional convention to add an amendment requiring the federal government to balance its budget. However, Montana state lawmakers yet again stopped an effort to join these states last week.

The movement isn't over. Only six more states are needed to hold a convention under Article Five of the U.S. Constitution.

Arn Pearson, general counsel for the watchdog group Center for Media and Democracy says the nationwide movement is being pushed in part by the American Legislative Exchange Council. "ALEC" is made up of conservative lawmakers and corporations, and distributes model legislation on a variety of topics, including the calls for a balanced-budget amendment.

"They see a chance to get a rewrite on the Constitution that limits federal power and prevents the federal government from regulating their industries," he said. "And, it's really a chance for 'the 1 percent' to lock in their political power for generations to come."

Eight other states, including Idaho and Wyoming, also have considered and rejected similar resolutions this session. Other states have rescinded their requests, or have introduced bills to do so.

Pearson says a convention wouldn't necessarily be popular and, because it isn't clear how delegates would be chosen, it might well be dominated by political interests.

"It's most likely that the delegates would either be the current elected political leaders or be chosen by the governor or Legislature," he explained. "It's not something that the people get to choose."

Anything passed at an Article Five convention still would have to be ratified by three-quarters of the states, but the delegates could vote to lower that threshold. There has never been another constitutional convention since the original in 1789.

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