Aiken lawmaker files bill for convention, new constitutional amendments

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013

AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW) -- It's a meeting that's the first of its kind in South Carolina, perhaps the nation, and it's being held in Claude O'Donovan's living room outside Aiken.

It's a small group, but it's a group ready to learn about a new movement.

"We have a runaway government," he says. "We have a Congress that's just drunk with spending, and we have an Executive Branch that is drunk with power."

That's the reason O'Donovan is rallying behind a bill with a bold idea, and it was pre-filed this morning by Representative Bill Taylor (R-Aiken).

A recent Gallop poll found only 9% of Americans think Congress is doing a good job, which is a record low. As the national debt ticks past $17 trillion, Taylor wants change.

"The federal government's out of control. Everyone knows that," he says. "There isn't anybody that would deny that we have an overreaching federal government."

Article V of the United States Constitution says amendments can be proposed and ratified by Congress, but the founders added a fail safe in case of an out-of-control federal government. The other method allows the states to draft and approve amendments in what's called a Convention of the States.

However, first, two-thirds of the states must be on board. Taylor's bill, if passed this upcoming session, would mean South Carolina is on board.

"South Carolina's not alone in this effort. Virginia joined us today. Florida, I'm told, will be later this week. There's even 18 more states that are prepared to pre-file this legislation," Taylor says, adding that the tally could even approach 40 states.

"Is this about who is in the White House currently?" asks News 12 reporter Chad Mills.

"Oh, no. This is not about President Obama," responds Rep. Taylor. "This is not a 'red' movement or a 'blue' movement. This is an American movement. I view this as non-partisan. I believe Democrats and Liberals and Conservatives and Republicans all ought to be joined together to try to fix the federal government."

In a statement, Delegate Scott Lingamfelter offers his support: "If our Founders were here today and heard us complaining about Federal overreach they would tell us “look, we gave you a remedy, Article V of the Constitution. Use it to rein in the excesses and reestablish the balance we had in mind when we created the Federalist system’. Those of us offering this approach are simply doing what the Founders provided for us to do to keep a balanced and orderly system with the Federal Government doing their job and the states doing theirs."

If two-thirds of the states decided to enter into a convention, the Constitution would not be immediately amended. Each proposed amendment would need to be approved by three-fourths of the states (38), which would likely be an arduous process.

In the meantime, O'Donovan will continue drumming up support in living rooms near and far.

"For those who will look at this and say it's just political theater, what do you say to that?" asks Mills.

"You know, a lot of people are going to feel that way," says O'Donovan. "But they way underestimate what we have going on."

When it comes to amendments that could be proposed in a theoretical convention, O'Donovan pointed out a couple that people on both sides of the aisle might want: term limits for politicians, a balanced budget amendment, and other measures to stop excessive spending and debt.

News 12 reached out to other South Carolina lawmakers. While some say they support the measure, others say they need more information. A Democrat says he wants to know more about the intentions and plans until he can say for sure. Another Republican says while he supports measures to reign in the federal government, he says this endeavor is likely impossible.

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