- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 21, 2014

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Republican legislators concerned about the federal debt are trying to set up the guidelines for Alabama to participate in a state-led constitutional convention.

Sens. Trip Pittman, of Daphne, and Arthur Orr, of Decatur, have introduced two bills setting up how the Legislature would choose Alabama’s delegates to a state-led constitutional convention and the limits they would operate under if there is ever a is constitutional convention called under Article 5 of the U.S. Constitution.

Alabama’s Legislature is one of 20 states that have already voted to support a constitutional convention under Article 5 for passing a federal balanced budget amendment. Alabama’s vote came in 2011. Thirty-four states are needed for a convention to occur. Any proposal from that convention would need the approval of 38 states.

At a news conference Tuesday, Orr conceded that a constitutional convention is “very, very far away,” but he said it’s time for Alabama to lay the groundwork.

Orr and Pittman proposed the legislation after attending the Mt. Vernon Assembly in December. It involved legislators from 32 states talking about amending the Constitution to restrain federal power.

Pittman said he doesn’t see Washington doing anything to limit spending, but Article 5 is a way for states to control “a runaway federal government.” He said a narrowly tailored constitutional convention could approve an amendment requiring the federal government to have a balanced budget that only spends available revenue except in emergency situations.

Pittman said the legislation has nothing to do with this year’s legislative elections.

In response, House Minority Leader Craig Ford, D-Gadsden, said the bills have everything to do with the legislative elections. He said Republican incumbents are trying to appeal to tea party voters and make sure they don’t draw tea party opponents in the Republican primary June 3.

Orr’s and Pittman’s bills are scheduled for consideration Thursday by the Senate Constitution and Elections Committee.

Republican Reps. Barry Moore, of Enterprise, and Ken Johnson, of Moulton, plan to introduce the two bills in the House. Johnson has already introduced a resolution calling for a constitutional convention to impose fiscal constraints and term limits and to limit the jurisdiction of the federal government.



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