The resolution passed the House on Thursday, March 6, with a vote of 107 to 58. All Bartow County representatives and senators voted in favor of the measure. In addition to calling for the convention, the resolution lists the topics such a convention should address.
“For the purposes of determining whether two-thirds of the states have applied for a convention addressing any of the subjects stated herein, this application is to be aggregated with the applications of any other state legislatures for the single subjects of balancing the federal budget, limiting the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, or limiting the terms of federal officials,” the resolution reads.
Gail Engelhardt, an official with the Bartow County chapter of the Tea Party, described the passage as “history in the making.”
“We are the first state that has passed a resolution to hold a convention of the states from both houses, and all it took was one of the houses to pass the other one’s resolution and that’s what happened in the House,” she said.
In addition to SR 736, another resolution known as SR 371 passed the Senate on March 7, 2013, and almost a year later passed the House on Feb. 20, according to the Georgia Legislature’s website. SR 371, which was co-sponsored by then-Sen. Barry Loudermilk, makes an application to Congress to call for a convention with the purpose of proposing an amendment to the Constitution. SR 371’s intent was to call specifically for a balanced budget amendment.
“Now, therefore, be it resolved by the General Assembly of Georgia that this body hereby applies again to Congress, under the provisions of Article V of the Constitution of the United States, for the calling of a convention for proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States and recommends that the convention be limited to consideration and proposal of an amendment requiring that in the absence of a national emergency the total of all federal appropriations made by the Congress for any fiscal year may not exceed the total of all estimated federal revenues for that year,” the resolution reads.
Passing two separate resolutions calling for a convention does not weaken or strengthen Georgia’s efforts to call a convention, said Rep. Christian Coomer (R-Cartersville) of the 14th District. Rather the purpose of the separate resolutions is to use every method available to call for a convention of the states.
“So that’s why there are multiple resolutions, not because we’re trying to sort of say the same thing twice, but because we’re trying to take as many routes as possible to get to the same destination,” he said.
Coomer believed it was a good thing for the state Legislature to “take the lead for this issue.”
“The government in Washington, D.C., is far beyond the path that was originally intended in the Constitution and if the people running the government in Washington, D.C., cannot or will not rein themselves in, then the Constitution provides for various mechanisms for the people and the states to rein in those in Washington,” he said. “These Constitutional convention resolutions are aimed at the exercising one of the avenues that we as Americans have in our Constitution for changing the government.”
Sen. Bruce Thompson (R-White) of the 14th District said he believed the resolutions reflected the state’s mood toward the federal government.
“Certainly the assembly has been elected by the people and so that we’re to represent our district ... that we’re kind of tired of the federal government dictating to us as a state [items] that don’t represent our state, and some of those are the continuing growth of our federal government and the budget, not balancing the budget,” he said.
Both Coomer and Thompson said they had heard positive feedback on the resolution, though some constituents had expressed concern about a runaway convention that could pursue its own agenda. Coomer said the resolution contained added language that would render any vote on an issue outside of the resolution itself null and void. Thompson said the process of calling for a convention to propose amendments would prevent any attempt to hijack the proceedings, as 34 states must call for a convention under Article V and 38 states would ultimately be required to ratify a proposed amendment.
Even if a convention is not called, Thompson believed both houses of the Legislature passing the resolutions sent a message.
“So I think the fact that this passed strongly sends a message — not only is the assembly down here, but I would say the people of Georgia are pushing back and saying enough is enough,” Thompson said.
Engelhardt believed a called convention would not occur until either 2016, as enough states may not be calling for the gathering until late 2015 or early 2016. She added the convention to propose amendments could be held before the 2016 election.
“But I look at it this way ... our founding fathers put in our Constitution for the very reason and of the way our government is being run right now — in violation of the Constitution — and they wouldn’t have put it there for us to use if they didn’t want for us to take advantage of and to use it only when our federal government has violated and all three branches are not protecting the Constitution and not keeping the checks and balances on each other and that’s exactly what’s going on,” she said. “If we don’t do something very quickly, we may not have an opportunity to do it again.”