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Utah News

Law-Makers From 30 States Meet At State Capitol To Discuss Changing The Constitution

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Article V of the Constitution says two-thirds of states within the Union have to approve a constitutional amendment before it is ratified, but there are no rules about law-makers meeting to discuss procedure to revise the U.S. Constitution, last taking place at the Constitutional Convention in 1787.

This week members from more than 30 state legislatures are gathered at the Utah State Capitol to draft a plan to change the Constitution.

Peter Crosby is a political science lecturer at Utah State University who has been following the group’s efforts.

“A lot of the tension that's driving this is the fact that conservatives participate in this are unhappy with the federal debt levels and the government’s ability to borrow and spend and so most of the time when this has been discussed in the last decade or so it’s around balanced budget amendments. How do we force the government to always have a balanced budget? So it’s a conservative tension around, ‘How are we spending tax-payer funds?’ and ‘How do we check federal government?’”(2:55)

It’s important, says Crosby, to look at the significance and likelihood of the potential impact from an event that would change a historical document that has shaped and directs a nation.

“While the convention may start on a limited focus on, ‘We only want to discuss an amendment on ‘x.’ There’s no oversight and there’s no guidance. The Supreme Court doesn’t check it, Congress has no ability to check it so the Convention can really do whatever it wants. Meaning that, as we talk about the structure and framework of the existing document, it could, theoretically, change very dramatically.”

Right now there aren’t enough states needed to support a call for a constitutional convention, and in the past states that have supported such action eventually rescinded. Crosby says should a convention take place right now there aren’t any rules to guide lawmakers. They would create their own policy and procedure.

“Once it happens it’s really a freeform kind of event and so I think that’s probably one of the major reason mainstream conservatives are not overly enthusiastic about this idea because there is a huge likelihood that this could go off the rails pretty quickly,” Crosby says.

Crosby says most of the lawmakers meeting this week understand support for such a convention is unlikely. He argues the real question the public needs to ask is, ‘Why are these lawmakers assembling in Utah to consider ways to hold a constitutional convention that most likely won’t happen?’