Sometimes, in the bustle and politics of pressing issues, the really big work of the Utah Legislature can pass us by.
One example this session is SJR9, by Senate Majority Leader Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City.
Like several attempts before, SJR9 is a resolution, that if passed by both the Senate and House, would officially add Utah to the growing number of states asking, under the U.S. Constitution’s Article V, for a convention of the states – a meeting never held in the history of our Republic.
Just around 17 states have already asked for such a “constitutional convention,” as it is commonly referred to.
It takes two-thirds, or 34, states to formally call for such a convention for the meeting to take place.
Vickers says while there have been similar resolutions introduced in the Utah Legislature before, this is the first time a member of GOP leadership has sponsored such a measure.
SJR9 says Utah agrees to such a convention to consider just two things, fiscal responsibility (a balanced budget amendment) and term limits for members of Congress.
Similar to Utah’s citizen initiative process, Article V anticipates a situation where Congress refuses to propose a change the U.S. Constitution in a manner demanded by most of the states – being represented by each state’s legislature.
Normally, the U.S. Constitution can only be changed by a vote of two-thirds of the House and Senate, and then ratification by three-fourths of all state legislatures.
Any proposed amendment that may come out of the convention of the states would STILL have to go through the confirmation process in the states, where three-fourths legislatures would either vote the amendment up or down without changes.
Vickers said he has already heard from the traditional group of arch-conservatives who don’t want Utah to join the convention of the states movement, fearing a “runaway convention,” where various current civil rights protections could be removed, especially the Bill of Rights.
But even though no convention of the states has ever been called before, proponents on both sides of the aisle believe Congress will never vote for a balanced budget amendment (at least one version is introduced each year), nor for term limits on their own members – something that poll after poll show is supported by a majority of Americans.
“We’ve been close before” in passing such a resolution in the Utah Legislature, said Vickers, who co-sponsored such resolutions before he was in leadership.
“I think we can get there this year – I think it will pass.”
Should SJR9 indeed pass, it will stay in effect – putting Utah’s name on the convention of the state list – until such a convention is called.
In short, the Utah Legislature will not have to re-vote its approval again.