SD House refuses convention for balanced budget in USRep. Manny Steele, R-Sioux Falls, and Rep. Hal Wick, R-Sioux Falls, have worked closely with figures from outside South Dakota who are seeking a balanced-budget amendment to place restrictions on federal spending.
By: Bob Mercer, Republic Capitol Bureau
PIERRE — Rep. Manny Steele fell short of convincing enough members in the state House of Representatives to take the first step Thursday toward a national constitutional convention seeking a federal balanced-budget amendment.
House members voted 40-28 against his legislation that would have required constitutional delegates from South Dakota to vote only as they were instructed. It was one piece of a broader plan under way this session.
Steele, R-Sioux Falls, and Rep. Hal Wick, R-Sioux Falls, have worked closely with figures from outside South Dakota who are seeking a balanced-budget amendment to place restrictions on federal spending.
“We are the states. We are the people. This is our constitution,” Steele said. “I want it to go forth as our state’s rights against a runaway Congress. I’m not concerned about a runaway convention, when we have a runaway Congress, on one issue.”
Wick has his turn today with a House hearing scheduled for another one of the pieces. HB 1242 calls for South Dakota to make application to Congress asking for a constitutional convention on a balanced budget except during a national emergency.
A third piece is in play by the House Taxation Committee, chaired by Rep. Brock Greenfield, R-Clark. Wick is vice chairman. The panel introduced a joint resolution similar to Wick’s bill. The exceptions in the resolution would include times of war, economic calamity or national catastrophe.
Steele and Wick have been working with Roman Buhler, of Meehan, Va., and David Biddulph, of New Smyrna Beach, Fla.
Buhler and Biddulph are affiliated with national conservative organizations.
They were the only witnesses who testified in favor of Steele’s bill during the House hearing this week. They have been actively courting legislators in the hallways of the Capitol.
Fighting the Steele bill were lobbyists for Eagle Forum and Concerned Women of America. They warned that a constitutional convention could be turned against conservatives by delegates from other states favoring liberal causes.
Steele’s bill indeed picked up support from some Democrats. One was House Democratic leader Bernie Hunhoff of Yankton, who said Steele’s bill was acceptable as a necessary step toward a balanced-budget amendment.
Rep. Jim Peterson, D-Revillo, disagreed. He repeated the advice he’s often given constituents who want him to support a constitutional convention for one purpose or another.
“Once this (legislative step) is over, you can’t control what they’re going to deal with,” Peterson said. “Please consider this very, very carefully. It is a very, very serious thing we are dealing with.”
Steele acknowledged there is “always the possibility of a runaway convention.” He said the legislation doesn’t authorize a constitutional convention. “This is hopefully a preventive of a runaway convention.”
Steele said a version will be presented in many states this year and next year.
He called it a firewall. “These people are being sent there for this specific issue,” he said.