Senate Committee passes resolution calling for convention of states

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Texas Senate Committee on State Affairs voted Thursday in favor of Senate Joint Resolution 2, which calls for a convention of the states to propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

The committee’s vote sends SJR 2, Gov. Greg Abbott’s fourth and final emergency priority, to the Senate floor. If passed this session, the resolution would make Texas the ninth state to have a current application for a convention of states, said Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, who authored the resolution. 

Birdwell said a convention of states is required in order to keep the federal government from infringing on the power of the states. 

“Members, I believe that we are on the precipice of history we have not seen before,” Birdwell said. “(This is) the only way to save this republic and federalism as a whole.”

SJR 2 also specifies three types of amendments that could be considered during a convention of states: those placing term limits on elected officials and members of Congress, those imposing fiscal restraints such as a balanced budget and those limiting the power and reach of the federal government. 

Only Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, voted against SJR 2. Several senators, including Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, and Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, said legislators should proceed with caution.  

“I would urge anybody who came today, anybody who’s listening to come forward with their ideas for how we can make this a product that will accomplish both our goal of asserting our state sovereignty and yet protecting that very precious document of Constitution,” Nelson said. 

Article V of the U.S. Constitution says amendments can be proposed if two-thirds, or 34 states, pass legislation similar to SJR 2, which calls for a convention of states. Birdwell said in 16 states, at least one legislative body has passed an application, and 44 states have filed one. Although allowed by the Constitution, there has never been a convention of states. 

The committee also passed two other pieces of legislation pertaining to a convention of states. 

Senate Bill 21, called the “faithful delegate bill,” would provide structural guidelines for how delegates to the constitutional convention would be chosen.  

Under the bill, delegates must be a member of either house of the Texas Legislature at the time the convention is called. Birdwell, who also authored SB 21, said this would increase the delegate’s accountability to the Legislature and their constituents.  

Hughes voted in favor of the bill but said he would work with Birdwell to tighten restrictions on the delegates to hold them accountable. 

“I can’t think of a bigger responsibility we can give anyone,” Hughes said. 

Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, was absent during the committee meeting due to illness, but his resolution, SJR 38, passed the committee unanimously. 

Nelson, who introduced SJR 38, said it would rescind Texas’ previous applications for a constitutional convention prior to this legislative session. 

“(This bill would) provide a clean slate for any actions taken this session,” Nelson said.

State affairs committee chairwoman Joan Huffman, R-Houston, said the three pieces of legislation and their proposed amendments will be presented and debated on the Senate floor before the entire body votes on the legislation.