Monday, March 9, 2015
Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair
Bills to call for an Article 5 ‘convention of the states,’ have now passed both the State House and State Senate committees. The Senate version- SJR 4- is authored by Sen. Rob Standridge, (R-Norman). The House version is HJR 1018 authored by Rep. Gary Banz, (R-Midwest City). They now head to the floor for a vote in their respective chambers.
Last week, the NFIB, Oklahoma branch, released the results of a poll of their four thousand plus members in Oklahoma that showed overwhelming support for a ‘balanced budget’ amendment to the U.S. Constitution. According to the NFIB state director Jerrod Shouse, the association sends a ‘ballot’ to their membership each year asking about specific issues. “We don’t try to point the membership to a certain position. We attempt to gauge the membership’s position on issues and act accordingly.”
First, I support small independent business. I am employed by an independent business, but I’m absolutely certain the NFIB Oklahoma members polled were supporting a ‘balanced budget amendment’ first without understanding the underlying vehicle to achieve it- the Article 5. The vast majority of Americans have no clue about what an Article 5 convention is. That is not being condescending. It is just a fact. Even those who have studied and read Article 5 must admit the process is somewhat ambiguous. So polling results from business owners concerning fiscal issues would reflect strong support for the government to ‘live within their minds.’ That’s not surprising.
Second, an Article 5 is an untried, unproven way to amend the Constitution. I’m not saying it wouldn’t work perfectly, just like those pushing the Article 5 claim it would, but I am skeptical. Why? Because anytime you get Congress engaged in anything, it rarely turns out the way it was expected to turn out. If Congress decides to allocate delegates to the convention of states by population, then Oklahoma and the smaller states will have less influence in the process. The more populous states are liberal, so they would control the agenda and the convention because they would have more delegates. . Even the advocates for an Article 5 must admit they are shooting into the dark when they talk about the parameters, restrictions of a convention of the states. No one knows definitely what would happen, because America hasn’t had a ‘convention of the states since the first Constitutional Convention in 1787.
Third, Unintended Consequences! Anyone who is familiar with government knows those two words all too well. As Nancy Pelosi famously said, “we have to pass it to find out what is in the bill.” All too often legislative bodies pass a bill expecting it to do a certain thing, but in effect it does the opposite or it produces ‘unintended consequences.’ Some of the unintended consequences are errors and failure to see the true effects. Other unintended consequences are the result of calculated strategy by unscrupulous people, who know they can’t tell you what will really happen because they know it wouldn’t be approved.
A classic example of unintended consequences in Oklahoma is SQ 676, which was overwhelmingly approved by Oklahoma voters in 1996. The proposal read in part, “This measure would limit the fair cash value of real property for property tax purposes. The fair cash value would not increase by more than 5% in any taxable year.” Oklahoma citizens were told the change would rein in ‘loose cannon’ county assessors across the Sooner state that were assessing taxes with no statutory guidelines or legal restraint. The proposal was supposed to give them a ceiling increase or maximum increase in property tax of no more than five (5) percent per year. County assessors interrupted it to mean they were mandated to go up 5% a year until they got to within 5% of the actual fair cash value. Attorney General Drew Edmondson agreed with the assessors and Oklahoma property owners have been paying for those ‘unintended consequences’ for nearly 20 years.
The advocates for the Article 5 could be right. A ‘convention of the states’ could result in a balanced budget amendment and help get America back on track fiscally or it might result in a runaway convention full of unintended consequences, like the dismantling of the Bill of Rights. I for one am not willing to take that risk, considering that Congress is involved in the process. Contact your state Representative and state Senator and urge them to oppose HJR 1018 and SJR 4 when they come up for a vote on the floor.