The Arkansas Senate on Tuesday (Jan. 29) approved a resolution to convene a Convention of the States to amend the U.S. Constitution after sponsor Sen. Gary Stubblefield, R-Branch, gave a long, impassioned speech arguing that the nation’s rising $22 trillion debt would imperil the nation’s future.
Under Stubblefield’s Senate Joint Resolution 3, which is part of a national effort in several legislatures across the U.S., a so-called Article V convention would be called to propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution that impose fiscal restraints or require a balanced budget, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, as well as imposing term limits on members of Congress.
Article V provides that upon the application of two-thirds of the state legislatures, or 34 states, Congress shall call a convention of the states to propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Tried, but never successful, at the Arkansas General Assembly, Arkansas lawmakers in pass legislative sessions have proposed Article V conventions on everything from gay marriages and abortion amendments to proposals on balance budgets, term limits and voter rights.
Stubblefield cited a Congressional Budget Office report on Monday that the U.S. is likely to add more than $12 trillion in debt over the next decade due to higher government spending and slower economic growth. That total is on top of more than $16.6 trillion in public debt that the U.S. government is expected to owe at the end of 2019.
The Republican senator told Senate colleagues that his bill, which has 16 Senate co-sponsors, would help rein in an out-of-control Congress.
“Do you think anything is going to change in Washington, D.C.?” Stubblefield asked rhetorically. “You know what has happened, we have drifted so far from the original intent of the founding fathers from the mornings of our Constitution that we have flipped. Now the states have no power and the federal government has all the power.”
After several other senators spoke for and against SJR 3, the resolution was approved by a vote of 19 “yeas” and 13 “nays,” which led to cheers from dozens of citizens viewing the debate from the Senate gallery. Sen. Jonathan Dismang, R-Searcy, and Sen. Lance Eads, R-Springdale, did not vote. Stubblefield’s resolution now moves to the House State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee.
In other Senate business, Sen. Alan Clark, R-Lonsdale, filed a bill that would authorize the state Department of Finance and Administration (DFA) to build a new 200-space parking garage on the State Capitol grounds. Clark told reporters after the Senate recessed Tuesday that Senate Bill 195 would begin the discussion on much-needed space to allow Arkansas citizens better access to the State Capitol.
Clark admitted that he doesn’t expect his bill will be approved in this legislative session, but hopes that the proposal will start a robust debate that eventually leads to serious consideration of such a project in the future. He also said past state studies have put the possible one-time cost for a covered parking facility at between $5 million and $30 million, depending on the project’s location and design.