, Muskogee, OK

Oklahoma News

February 16, 2014

Lawmaker seeks two constitutional changes

He’s introduced bills to revise both state, US documents

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — An Oklahoma legislator who has been calling for changes to the 50,000-word state constitution doesn’t want to stop there.

Rep. Gary Banz wants to see the U.S. Constitution changed, too, to prohibit Congress from appropriating money in excess of federal revenue estimates in any fiscal year, except during a national emergency.

“We’re going to have a fiscal tsunami that’s going to destroy the nation if we don’t do something,” Banz said. The U.S. Treasury Department said recently the nation’s deficit from October to January was $184 billion and last year was $680.2 billion.

Banz, R-Midwest City, has introduced bills at the Oklahoma Legislature that would call for two constitutional conventions — one state and one federal.

Oklahoma hasn’t had a referendum on its constitution since 1970, even though the document itself says it should do so every 20 years. There hasn’t been a federal constitutional convention since the Constitution took effect in 1789. Two-thirds of the states, a total of 34, need to approve a petition for a convention for one to be called.

Under the state petition, delegates would meet next year to consider whether to change the state constitution or start again from scratch. A ratification vote would occur in 2016.

Banz’ two earlier attempts cleared the House but died in the Senate.

This is the first year Banz has suggested a federal constitutional convention. Twenty states have passed similar petitions.

“It’s easy for people to get them confused,” Banz said.

The Oklahoma Constitution requires voters to consider a constitutional convention every 20 years, but the last time they were asked was March 17, 1970, when the idea was soundly rejected. Voters also rejected conventions in 1926 and 1950 — and in 1994 rejected an effort to drop the requirement for referenda every 20 years.

In addition to archaic language such as declaring the flashpoint of kerosene is 115 degrees Fahrenheit, the document also requires that candidates for governor and lieutenant governor cannot run on a single ticket, “which is a reflection of this populist mentality that wrote that Constitution,” Banz said.

“They wanted to divide that power every which way they could.”

But Banz wouldn’t say if that part of the constitution needed to be changed.

Legislation petitioning Congress to convene a constitutional convention to consider a balanced budget amendment is part of a growing movement among conservative lawmakers opposed to deficit spending on the federal level.

The measure calls on Congress to convene a constitutional convention that would be limited to proposing a balanced budget amendment. Oklahoma delegates would be authorized to debate and vote on only a balanced budget amendment even if the convention was not limited to that issue.

The possibility that the convention’s focus could be wider than just a balanced budget amendment alarms some conservatives concerned it could lead to the loss of existing constitutional rights.

“History tells us, as well as good legal minds, that you cannot limit this to one issue,” said Charlie Meadows, president of the Oklahoma Conservative Political Action Committee, which supports conservative legislative candidates.

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