Senate to Vote on GOP Bills for Constitutional Convention

The state Senate is scheduled to vote Tuesday on two measures pushing for a constitutional convention sought by business and rightwing ideological interests to add a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The proposals, Assembly Joint Resolutions 20 and 21, lay the groundwork for Wisconsin’s participation in an Article V Constitutional Convention if it materializes. The proposals were already approved by the Assembly last June and, unlike state policy and spending bills, do not require GOP Gov. Scott Walker’s approval.

Congress would be required to call a constitutional convention if 34 states call for the event. So far, at least 27 states have approved such resolutions. If a convention occurs, any amendments approved at it would have to be ratified by at least 38 states.

The push for a constitutional convention was inspired by rightwing groups and their wealthy backers, including billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch and two groups they fund: Americans for Prosperity and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC is a special interest bill mill that unites business and other powerful special interests with state legislators around the country to develop “model” pro-business and social policies that can be introduced in state legislatures around the country.

The two Wisconsin resolutions are formally backed – see here and here – by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) , the state’s largest business group, and the National Federation of Independent Business. A host of social policy, disability, domestic abuse, religious, labor, and good government groups oppose the measures.

Backers of the convention say it’s needed to rein in federal spending, but opponents caution that it would tie the government’s hands in times of recession and cause great economic hardship. Opponents also say that the con-con could take up other amendments that could curtail individual rights or benefit wealthy special interests at the expense of the public interest.

Republicans control the Assembly 64-35 and the Senate 20-13 in large part because of the millions of dollars that WMC and Koch-backed groups have spent since 2010 on outside electioneering activities to support Republican and conservative legislative and statewide candidates.

Since January 2010, WMC has spent an estimated $18.6 million on outside electioneering activities to support Republican and conservative legislative and statewide candidates. In addition to its millions of dollars in outside spending, WMC boasts 3,500 member businesses who are generous individual and political action committee contributors and hail from more than a dozen special interest groups. Those special interests include business, manufacturing, energy, insurance, health care, transportation, construction, real estate, finance, tourism, agriculture, road builders, natural resources and telecommunications.

Americans for Prosperity, a rightwing ideological group, has spent an estimated $5.7 million since January 2010 to help elect Republicans and conservatives to legislative and statewide offices.