House panel OK’s resolution to call convention of states

by Wesley Brown ([email protected]) 332 views 

A House committee on Wednesday approved a resolution for the state of Arkansas to call a Convention of States that would propose a so-called “countermand amendment” to the U.S. Constitution to limit the reach of the federal government under Article V.

House Joint Resolution 1022, sponsored by Rep. Rick Beck, R-Center Ridge, received a “do pass” recommendation by the House Committee on State Agencies and Government Affairs. It now goes to the full House for consideration.

Article V provides that upon the application of two-thirds of the state legislatures, Congress shall call a convention of the states to propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Tried but never before successful, this convention would be called to enact fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit its power, and limit the terms of federal officials and members of Congress, Beck said.

In the convention, a majority of states must agree on amendments that must then be approved by 38 states. All previously enacted amendments have been initiated by Congress. Beck told the House panel that the resolution would foster better relations between state government and various federal agencies, which he said often overreach their authority.

“This is very powerful. Once in place, the countermand amendment would provide a tool for the state legislatures, a tool that would allow a federal mandate, statute or decision to repeal if the legislature of 30 states think that it opposes on the states’ rights guaranteed in our Constitution,” Beck said.

Today, eight states have enacted such resolutions. An effort to pass one in Arkansas in 2015, sponsored by Rep. Bob Ballinger, R-Hindsville, passed the House but died in the Senate Committee on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs. Ballinger, chair of the House panel that approved HJR1022, is also a sponsor of the legislation along with Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Bigelow.

In addition to the Article V resolution, the House panel also approved Senate Bills 256 and 257, which are part of Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s efforts to consolidate various government agencies and make state operations more efficient. Both bills, sponsored by Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View, would transfer the Arkansas Energy Office into the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality and the office of Health Information Technology to the Health Department, respectively.

At the end of November, the governor said his administration will begin implementing some of the strategies recommended in a report by the Arkansas Policy Foundation that found at least $50 million in potential efficiencies. The report makes 60 recommendations, with 20 meant to advance a culture of efficiency in state government.

In response to questions on specific details the state would gain once agency consolidations are completed, State Energy Office Director Mitchell Simpson told the House panel that most of the financial savings would come from streamlined office functions not job cuts.

Simpson also said that the state of Arkansas is likely to receive more than $14.6 million as part of two nationwide settlements with Volkswagen AG over allegations of cheating emissions tests and deceiving customers. The total cost of the agreements to the German automaker is expected to exceed $15 billion.

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