Government & Politics

Kansas House comes close to calling for constitutional convention

The last time a constitutional convention was held, it occurred in 1787 at Philadelphia’s Independence Hall (shown behind the Liberty Bell).
The last time a constitutional convention was held, it occurred in 1787 at Philadelphia’s Independence Hall (shown behind the Liberty Bell). The Associated Press

The Kansas House came within seven votes Thursday of calling for a convention of the states to rein in the federal government.

The House’s initial vote was 77-44 in favor of a convention to propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The resolution needs approval by two-thirds of the chamber, or 84 votes. A final House vote is set for Monday.

Under Article 5 of the Constitution, Congress is required to call a convention for proposing constitutional amendments if two-thirds of the states request it.

Conservatives want the convention to propose amendments that address their concerns about an overreaching federal government. So far, the same resolution has been passed by five states: Georgia, Florida, Alaska, Alabama and Tennessee.

Specifically, the resolution spells out the purpose of the convention as “proposing amendments to the Constitution of the United States that impose limits on the federal government.”

The resolution says the government has created a “crushing national debt” and has “invaded the legitimate roles of the states through the manipulative process of federal mandates, most of which are unfunded to a great extent.”

Rep. John Rubin, a Shawnee Republican, said he supports a convention because the federal government has gone far beyond its authority spelled out in the Constitution. He cited the 10th Amendment, which says that powers not given to the federal government in the Constitution are reserved for the states and the people.

“That’s been obliterated in modern government,” Rubin said.

Rep. John Whitmer, a Wichita Republican, urged a vote for the convention this way: “If you think this government is bloated, increasingly inefficient and increasingly corrupt, vote yes,” he said.

Rep. Brett Hildabrand, a Shawnee Republican, explained the convention process, which has never been used to amend the Constitution. The Kansas Legislature would send delegates to the convention, where each state’s delegation would have one vote on proposed amendments. Amendments would require ratification by three-fourths of the states to become part of the Constitution.

“Think of this as putting forth suggestions,” Hildabrand told lawmakers.

The other method for proposing amendments to the Constitution, a two-thirds vote in the U.S. House and Senate, has been the genesis of amendments so far.

Opponents questioned the purpose and the process of the convention — from exactly what limits on the government would be contemplated to the potential makeup of the Kansas delegation.

“I think there’s too much opportunity for mischief, especially if 50 people are going to make decisions,” said Rep. Ed Trimmer, a Winfield Democrat.

For the Kansas resolution to pass, it would also need two-thirds approval in the Senate.

Edward M. Eveld: 816-234-4442, @EEveld

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