OKLAHOMA CITY —
An Oklahoma bill that would call for a convention to propose a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution is likely dead for this year's legislative session, the measure's sponsor said Tuesday as the latest deadline for automatic federal budget cuts nears.
Rep. Gary Banz's bill called for Oklahoma to support a proposal by conservatives that the federal government not be able to spend more each year than it takes in revenue. When the House States' Rights Committee didn't take the measure up at its last meeting, Banz pulled it from the agenda himself, so the proposal is unlikely to resurface unless the Legislature brings it up as a nonbinding resolution.
"There's just not enough consensus at this point to really push the issue," the Midwest City Republican told The Associated Press in a phone interview. "We've just got more work to do to make sure everyone understands what's fact and what's fiction."
He said he will keep pushing the idea that the federal government must limit its spending.
The bill, if passed, would have made Oklahoma one of several states to call for a constitutional convention to formulate a balanced budget amendment. Two-thirds of the states — 34 — would have to make such a call for a convention to occur, which hasn't happened since the Constitution's inception.
Opponents of a balanced budget amendment say spending cuts, if they must happen, should be more gradual than the amendment would allow or should be up to a vote.
Because of this, no one knows for sure how a convention would work. Many in Oklahoma and elsewhere fear a so-called "runaway convention" that could propose sweeping changes to the Constitution, Banz said. He also proposed — then pulled — a companion bill designed to prevent an Oklahoma delegation from voting for anything other than what the Legislature approved.
The number of states calling for a convention is in dispute. Michael Bird, a National Conference of State Legislatures policy analyst, said 29 states currently have that call on the books. Banz put the number at 17.
John Harrison, a constitutional law professor at the University of Virginia, said even if the number of states calling for a constitutional convention doesn't reach 34, that possibility was enough to make Congress propose the 17th Amendment, which says U.S. senators are elected by a common vote.
He said the whole idea of a constitutional convention is that "sometimes Congress is the problem."
Banz said he firmly supports that notion.
"We can't afford to wait 30 or 40 years hoping that Congress will be willing to discipline itself," he said. "I'm a whole lot more concerned about what I know to be true, and that is the fiscal tsunami that's heading our way if we don't right this ship."
Copyright The Associated Press