The Senate State and Local Government Committee has approved legislation to help ensure that delegates to any future convention called to propose an amendment to the U.S. Constitution would be “faithful to” limits imposed by the Tennessee General Assembly. The “Faithful Delegate” bill is similar in purpose to legislation in other states to ensure that Presidential Electors remain faithful to their pledged candidate for President when voting in the Electoral College.
There are a number of proposals being put forth now from various states to call for constitutional conventions. This has raised concern that we don’t have adequate measures in place to protect our Constitution. This legislation puts down the foundation to defend our Constitution in the event a constitutional convention should ever occur, and makes sure the delegates are adequately instructed and faithful to the call that the General Assembly gives them.
Historically, it has been Congress that proposed constitutional amendments; however, Article V of the U.S. Constitution also lays out a mechanism by which two-thirds of the states can propose an amendment by sending Congress a petition. Under this method, the states define the convention’s agenda through their petitions. Twenty states of the 34 required under this procedure, have already called for a constitutional convention for the purpose of writing a balanced budget amendment for the federal government. Other proposals for a constitutional convention are also being considered.
“You were given the responsibility by the authors of our Constitution to protect it,” said Roman Buhler, a constitutional expert and former Counsel for House of Representatives who testified before the Committee. “Senator Norris’ bill is not one for those who are for a convention, or for those who oppose a convention. It is a bill for people who want to protect the constitution from the risk of a runaway convention.”
Senate Bill 1432 requires that in the event of a constitutional convention, the General Assembly would adopt a resolution and provide instructions to the delegates and alternates regarding the rules of procedure and any other instructions relating to the convention. The delegates would then be required to obey those limits or face immediate removal and a Class E felony offense for knowingly or intentionally voting outside the scope of the instructions.