By Shirley Spellerberg
Special to the Star-Telegram
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is misguidedly calling for a constitutional convention for the purpose of crafting a federal balanced budget amendment.
The BBA is only one of numerous amendments being suggested as a result of public frustration with the lack of action on the part of our elected officials to act responsibly in fiscal matters.
Resolutions calling for a constitutional convention (ConCon) have been filed by Republicans in both the Texas House and Senate. They will be heard in the Senate State Affairs Committee and should be killed in committee.
The names of members of the Senate State Affairs Committee may be found online at www.capitol.state.tx.us/Committees/Membership.aspx. If you are concerned about the risks involved in a constitutional convention, please call committee members and Dewhurst's comment line at 512-463-5342 to urge defeat of the Senate Joint Resolutions sponsored by Sens. Florence Shapiro, Steve Ogden and Jeff Wentworth (all Republicans) and any other ConCon resolution that may be forthcoming.
The risks of a constitutional convention outweigh any hoped-for good results because there are no rules in the Constitution or in any law to limit a ConCon's purpose, procedure, agenda or election of delegates.
A runaway convention carries a host of possible unintended consequences:
Repeal of the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms;
Repeal of the 10th Amendment: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people";
Repeal of the Electoral College in favor of a popular presidential vote ;
Repeal of presidential term limits;
Recognition of international law as a part of our Supreme Court decision-making (which, I believe, is already being done unconstitutionally); and
Re-write of the Fourteenth Amendment by excluding the "under the jurisdiction thereof" phrase to include citizenship for children born to illegal aliens within the United States.
Since the 1980s, Phyllis Schlafly, National Eagle Forum leader, has warned against a ConCon.
Schlafly has said, "Many prestigious constitutional authorities say it is impossible for Congress or state applications to restrict what a ConCon does."
The highest authority who ever spoke out on this subject, the late Chief Justice Warren Burger, wrote: "There is no effective way to limit or muzzle the actions of a Constitutional Convention. After a convention is convened, it will be too late to stop the Convention if we don't like the agenda."
Other distinguished professors of constitutional law, both Republicans and Democrats, say it is impossible to restrict the agenda of a ConCon to one issue, and all agree that even if Congress called a ConCon to consider only one issue, the convention delegates can ignore that instruction, set their own agenda and make their own rules.
It is not credible that various politically active groups (liberal and conservative) would pass up the chance to try to force a ConCon to vote for their special interests. Outside of a ConCon hall, demonstrators would be demanding constitutional changes, demanding consideration of amendments to recognize their asserted rights. The ConCon process would be a prescription for political chaos, controversy, confrontation, litigation and judicial activism.
Political frustration and emotions should not motivate Texans and other Americans to pursue such a dangerous option as Article V of the U.S. Constitution permits. Let us rather closely monitor federal and state legislation and hold our elected representatives accountable with an eye to the next election.
Shirley Spellerberg is the former mayor of Corinth, a charter member of the National Eagle Forum and a member of Texas Eagle Forum.
Further information: ConCon