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Utah panel OKs call for convention to amend U.S. Constitution

Published February 27, 2014 12:32 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A proposal to bring delegates from across the country in a never-before-convened constitutional convention aimed at approving a federal balanced budget amendment is making its way through the Utah Legislature.

Rep. Kraig Powell, R-Heber City, is proposing the resolution calling for the convening of such a convention because, he says, the country's fiscal path is unsustainable and Congress has proven it can't fix the problem itself.

"[Congress] is not going to be willing and has never been willing," Powell said, "to restrain itself on this exact point, which the vast majority of Americans now agree."

Twenty-one states have passed resolutions calling for such a constitutional convention. Thirty-four states would have to call for the action before Congress is required to convene such a meeting.

Fritz Pettyjohn, a former Alaska legislator and a board member with the national Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force, said the states have never staged such a convention.

"Congress is completely out of control. … They're addicted to spending," he said. "The framers gave us this tool to allow us an intervention. And, Lord knows, we need an intervention now."

Gayle Ruzicka, president of the Utah Eagle Forum, opposed the push for a constitutional convention, saying it gives power to Congress to determine the agenda and rules, leaving the states with little clout to control the direction it takes. That could mean tax hikes or other mischief.

"We shouldn't move forward so quickly on this until some questions are answered," she said. If the public wants Congress to stop spending so much, it should vote out the officeholders who are the problem.

The call for the convention narrowly passed on a 5-4 vote and moves to the full Utah House.

By the same margin, the committee also approved a Powell bill that would make it a second-degree felony for a delegate to a potential constitutional convention to act in a way that violates the instructions of the Legislature that appointed him or her.