Historic constitutional convention opens at Arizona State Capitol

Arizona hosted a convention with a goal to limit federal spending and possibly amend the U.S. Constitution.

PHOENIX - The solid rap of a gavel falling at the Arizona State Capitol wasn't lost on the assembled 72 delegates from across the country.

"It's pretty historic, really," Arizona State Rep. Don Shooter said. "I think it's the first time since 1861." 

Lawmakers and observers were in Phoenix for the Balanced Budget Amendment Planning Convention, the very first step in amending the US Constitution. The proposal would force the federal government to only spend the money it has.

"This isn't a Republican or Democrat issue; this is an American issue, I think," Kansas State Rep. Blake Carpenter said.

But can this group, and others like it, actually make a difference? Yes! But it's a long, tough process.

"States always had the power to change the Constitution when it was necessary, when citizens believed it was necessary," Arizona State Sen. Nancy Barto said.

A tall order, but it can happen because of Article V in the U.S. Constitution -- handing over some power to States to propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

But as Oklahoma delegate Gary Banz cautioned during his opening remarks to the convention, "We are not here to write language for a proposed amendment."

Rather, the goal of this convention of state legislators is to draft rules for the next step of the process.

"If we have the rules all planned out ready to go, people can look at them," Carpenter said. "I think it makes it a little more tangible for us to get to 34."

Thirty-four states are needed just to get Congress to call for an Article 5 Convention. However, getting states to ratify a new amendment is an even heavier lift for lawmakers.

"There's no Republican or Democrat majority that's 38 states," Idaho State Senator Marv Hagedorn said. "So to ratify the amendment, you're going to have to get both parties onboard for any kind of ratification."

The BBA Planning Convention is at the House of Representatives building at the Arizona State Capitol until Friday.

© 2017 KPNX-TV


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