- Associated Press - Monday, January 26, 2015

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - Some South Dakota lawmakers are so concerned about the mounting U.S. deficit that they’re advancing a measure to join other states’ calls for a convention to amend the U.S. Constitution to require a balanced federal budget.

The House State Affairs Committee voted 9-3 Monday to send the proposal to the chamber’s floor.

The proposal’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Jim Stalzer, said an amendment is necessary because federal lawmakers have been unable to address the country’s growing debt.

“I think most people would agree that our federal government is pretty much out of control,” he told the committee. “It will take some time to balance the budget, but it can be done, and it’s not rocket science.”

Right now, 24 states - 10 short of the 34 necessary to trigger a convention - have passed resolutions supporting a balanced-budget amendment, according to nonprofit advocacy group Balanced Budget Forever. South Dakota lawmakers in recent years have pushed similar resolutions, but have failed to secure the necessary support.

Thirty-eight states would have to approve the change for the amendment to become effective.

The vote came after Ohio Gov. John Kasich stumped for a balanced budget amendment at a legislative reception in Pierre last week.

But opponents argued the amendment process could backfire and be used to rewrite many parts of the Constitution, an outcome typically called a “runaway convention.”

Stalzer said the bill addresses those fears by restricting a South Dakota convention representative from approving any unauthorized amendments. It would also require convention delegates from the state to take an oath affirming they wouldn’t support a rogue amendment, and the measure would allow up to a $5,000 civil fine if a delegate violated the oath.

Rita Houglum, representing the South Dakota Eagle Forum, a conservative group, questioned whether the state would have the authority to enforce those safeguards.

“It might not be as orderly as we’re led to believe,” she said.

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