Op Ed: Delving Into Senate Joint Resolution 2 (SJ 2)
February 1, 2023
Montana’s 68th legislature is in session and is considering over 1300 bills to date. Most of us will only take note of a few high-profile bills that will have a direct and immediate impact on our lives. For example, tax relief bills, a couple of which will pass with little opposition. However, there is one bill if passed that could have significant, adverse, and long-term consequences for our state and country. This bill is flying under the radar with little or no attention. I’m referring to Senate Joint Resolution 2, (SJ 2).
SJ 2 aims to invoke Article V of the U.S. Constitution to call a limited constitutional convention, which could ratify amendments to the U.S. Constitution. As stated in section 1 of the resolution, SJ 2 would impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government and impose term limits for officials and congress. To date, 19 other states have passed this resolution. A minimum of 34 (two-thirds of the states) will need to pass this resolution to call a convention. So, what is the premise behind SJ 2, its intent, and foreseeable consequences?
Imposing fiscal restraints, as stated in Section 1 is not well defined. Any amendment resulting from SJ 2 as written, could be used, for example, to gut necessary programs and use the saved revenue to enact tax cuts. As a result, we would move no closer toward a balanced budget or reducing the deficit, which is the unsupported basis of SJ 2. If this resolution’s intent is fiscal responsibility, then SJ 2 should have made clear that revenue saved as a result of budget cuts shall be used exclusively to pay down the deficit and to work toward balancing the budget. SJ 2 as drafted, does not make this distinction.
Limiting the power and jurisdiction of the federal government stated in Section 1, is also ambiguous. Will a resulting amendment(s) take away the power to enact treaties, and tariffs, declare war, end public land management, or maybe weaken the authority of one or more of the three branches of government? The unlimited nature of SJ 2 could open the door to dismembering the constitution, the federal government, and our Union of States. SJ 2 needed to make clear the specific powers and jurisdictions that need to be limited.
Concerning term limits; the learning curve in congress and for federal government officials is quite steep. Why is this? One reason may be that the United States is the premier world power. Decisions and policies made by congress and officials not only affect our country but also have worldwide implications. Think about it, would it be better to have congressmen who have a lifetime of experience, or a revolving door of freshman and sophomore congressmen crafting these policies? The only impact term limits will serve, will be to dumb down the federal government. Just as inadequate funding for education tends to dumb down populations. Elections are the ultimate form of term limits.
Now, I do agree with the premise behind SJ 2 that we need to deal with the run-away deficit. However, I strongly oppose what I perceive to be the actual intent of the bill, which is to write a blank check for dismantling the constitution. To the proponents of SJ 2, I suggest you carefully reread the bill concentrating on Section 1. If you do, I think you will realize that you have been duped by the out-of-state interests representing the 19 states that have already passed this resolution. To our elected leaders, I suggest that you lead by rejecting SJ 2. However, don’t stop there. Pass a legislative referendum that seeks to reduce federal government spending and that will apply the saved revenue exclusively toward reducing the principal of the deficit. An issue this important should be decided by all Montanans. Of course, if default is your intent, then do nothing.
In conclusion, I often hear legitimate concerns about the run-away deficit. What I do not hear is tangible solutions on how to deal with this potential national upheaval. Reducing the deficit and working toward balancing the budget will take time, spending cuts, and innovative ideas. Make no mistake, this supersized debt is coming due and it is going to require pain on everyone’s part to pay it off. SJ 2 is not a legitimate solution to the debt crisis; it is problematic and political theatre at best.