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AZ bill seeking US balanced budget amendment fails

Bob Christie, Associated Press

PHOENIX (AP) -- A House bill that would have Arizona join a compact with other states to push a federal constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget failed in a key committee Monday after questions were raised about whether future legislatures would be illegally bound to its direction.

The bill pushed by Republican conservatives failed after some Republicans joined Democrats in the Rules Committee to reject it by a 6-3 margin.

House Speaker Andy Tobin, who voted for the bill, said he generally supports a constitutional amendment to force the federal government to get its fiscal house in order questions raised by some members and House attorneys about locking future legislatures into the compact resonated with him and other committee members.

The bill would have Arizona join a compact with the intent of getting enough state legislatures or Congress to enact a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It takes two-thirds of the legislatures or two-thirds of both houses of Congress to propose an amendment. An amendment is ratified when three-fourths of the states vote to adopt it.

"Our rules attorney did not say this was unconstitutional," Tobin said. "He said he had some questions. So that says to me, well, I got some questions too.

"But I think at the end of the day we're running into what appears to be a never-ending fiscal crisis at the capitol in Washington, and I think it's helpful to have these conversations."

Bill co-sponsor Adam Kwasman, of Oro Valley, said he's disappointed but won't stop pushing the idea.

"It would seem to be the largest argument about the bill is that an interstate compact binds future legislatures," Kwasman said. "But that of course would not be the case because we enter into interstate compacts often.

"But that doesn't matter," Kwasman said. "We will continue to fight for a constitutional amendment, we're going to continue to fight on because we believe that the federal government is broken and we believe that we need to do whatever we can to make sure that future generations are preserved fiscally."

But this year, Tobin said, the bill isn't moving.

"It's killed in rules. It's not going anywhere now," he said. "It's dead-dead."