Utah Senate approves resolution calling for states to consider amending U.S. Constitution

Photo credit: Utah State Senate

The Utah Senate narrowly gave final approval to a resolution Wednesday to add Utah to the list of states calling for an Article V Convention which allows states to propose and pass amendments to the Constitution.

The issue is an emotional one, for sure. An Article V Convention has never been held in the history of the United States. So far around 17 states have called for the convention to take place. It takes 34 states total to convene the extraordinary meeting.

SJR9, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, puts strict controls on what can be considered in such a convention. Utah would only be on board to consider a constitutional amendment requiring a federal balanced budget and term limits for members of Congress.

Vickers attempted to bring some levity to Wednesday’s debate, donning a “coat of many blue notes” assembled by legislative interns, referring to the messages that are sent into Senators by the public. This issue has generated more than its share of blue notes.

“This is a tool we need to use to make change in our country,” said Vickers. “We want a balanced budget. We want fiscal responsibility.”

Normally, the process to amend the U.S. Constitution requires a ⅔ vote in both houses of Congress, then ratification by ¾ of the states. An Article V Convention allows states to propose amendments that Congress is unwilling to make but still requires ratification by ¾ of the states. There are fears that convening an Article V Convention could lead to a “runaway convention,” where an unlimited number of amendments on a plethora of subjects could be proposed and possibly passed. The resolution approved by the Senate is narrowly worded to avoid such a scenario.

Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City, said he’s wary of requiring a balanced federal budget as deficit spending by Congress has not always been a detrimental situation.

“If we had that amendment in place, we would still be in the Great Depression. We would not be able to fight World War II without deficit spending. This could lead to us losing more freedoms than we could gain,” said Davis.

Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, backed the resolution.

“Maybe calling an Article V Convention will change things,” he said. “I believe the Constitution is divinely inspired, and that includes Article V.

The resolution passed 16-12 and now heads to the House.