The state Senate has approved legislation that adds Wisconsin to the list of states calling for a constitutional convention to pass a balanced budget amendment.
Lawmakers approved three bills Tuesday that set up the process for selecting delegates to a convention and authorize an application for a convention, making Wisconsin the 28th state to act on the issue. Article V of the U.S. Constitution requires 34 states to call for a convention, before one can be held.
During Debate on the Senate floor, Republican Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield) said the effort is meant to address an out of control federal debt that Congress will not deal with itself. “There is no debate as to whether or not there’s an issue in Washington – they’re dysfunctional,” he argued. “There’s no debate on if there’s an issue with the debt in our nation.”
Democrats warned at length though that there are questions about whether a convention can be controlled, and calling one could have unintended consequences for the entire U.S. Constitution. Middleton Democrat Jon Erpenbach compared the potential effects of a convention to treating the Constitution like an “Etch-a-Sketch,” at a time when deep political divisions are being seen across the nation. He warned that could lead to unpredictable results and questioned if lawmakers “want to leave the fate of our country in the hands of people on both sides right now, who are more full of rage than they are of acceptance.”
State Senate President Roger Roth (R-Appleton) joined Democrats in voting against the legislation. Roth had introduced amendments that would have withdrawn the state’s authorization after seven years if the movement failed to gather the needed support to call a convention. The amendments did not receive a vote.