Utah Bill Calls for Constitutional Convention on Balanced Budget and Term Limits for Congress

One of the most conservative members of the Utah Legislature wants to call a constitutional convention of the states, even as arch conservatives worry such a gathering could become a “runaway” convention, causing much mischief.

Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, introduced HJR14 on Wednesday.

Ivory, a constitutional scholar, said that the U.S. Constitution likely would never have been ratified by the original states if not for the section that allowed for the states to call a constitutional convention and amend the founding document outside of Congressional control.

“Not only is (a convention of the states) allowed, I believe it is required when the federal government” abuses its powers to the extent it has today, said Ivory.

Any number of conservative groups and commentators oppose such a convention, including the John Birch Society, this budget-watching group and the Utah Eagle Forum.

There are several other resolutions this session that, if passed by both bodies, would also call for a convention of the states (what some call a constitutional convention).

You can read HJR3 by Rep. Merrill Nelson, R-Grantsville, here.

But Ivory’s, so far, is the most broad.

It would allow Utah to join such a convention if one of three specific subjects is to be discussed – and only these three:

  • Impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, like a balanced budget requirement.
  • Limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government.
  • Limit the terms of office for its officials and for members of Congress.

A balance budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution has been discussed many times, even by the Utah Legislature in previous bills that called for Utah to join a convention of the states.

None have passed here.

If two-thirds of the states call for a constitutional convention, it will be held. Any amendments passed there must be adopted by three-fourths of the state legislatures before the amendment becomes law.

And those calling for such a convention say even if it should pass terrible amendments, those changes would never be adopted by three-fourths of the states.

Interesting enough, Ivory’s resolution includes term limits for members of Congress.

And Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, is now in his 38th year in office; 80 years old.

In his 2012 re-election, the senior (and senior citizen) senator said this would be his last term. But he has already talked about changing his mind and running again in 2018 if, as chair of the Senate Finance Committee, he can’t get tax reform passed before then.

Hatch would be 84 years old at re-election and 90 when he would leave office in 2024.

Following Franklin Roosevelt’s four-term elections Congress passed an amendment limiting presidents to two, four-year terms. But Congress has refused to pass an amendment limiting its members own terms.

Ivory said his term limits point has nothing to do with Hatch.

“This is not about political parties or personalities,” said Ivory.

Congressional term limits “is just one tool in the box” aimed at stopping the federal government’s continuous onslaught of power grabbing – which can be enhanced by entrenched, long-serving congressmen.

A convention of the states is the legal way for states to wrestle power away from the federal government, “should it become out of control,” said Ivory.

“And by any measure we’d all say the federal government is out of control,” said Ivory, who declined to say exactly how he would react to opposition to his proposed resolution from members of the far-right, who historically have been his backers.

“This is about self-governance” by the states “and fighting back against the central control” of the federal government, he said.

“I swore to uphold the (U.S.) Constitution. And this (a constitutional convention) is allowed under that very Constitution.”