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Senators say it could be ‘dangerous’ or ‘divine,’ but vote to add Utah to the call for a constitutional convention

(Photo courtesy of Utah Senate) Sen. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, speaks in support of his resolution calling for a convention of states to consider amendments to the U.S. Constitution on Feb. 27, 2019. During his presentation, Vickers was draped with a cape and crown made of "blue notes," or messages from constituents who either support or oppose his resolution.

Sen. Evan Vickers was literally draped in opposition Wednesday as he spoke about the need to rein in federal overreach and overspending through state-led amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

Senate interns outfitted Vickers with a cape and crown made of the “blue notes," or constituent messages, sent to the Cedar City Republican regarding SJR9, his resolution that would add Utah to a list of states calling for a constitutional convention.

“I think it’s a tool that we need to use to make change in our country,” he said.

A majority of Vickers’ colleagues agreed, with the Senate giving a final vote of 16-12 in favor of the resolution Wednesday. The bill will now be sent to the Utah House for consideration and would require two-thirds of all states passing similar resolutions before a convention could be called.

Despite the long odds, critics warned of dire consequences if the nation’s governing document were opened up to revision. Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden, remarked that each blue note in Vickers’ collection represents the concerns of a constituent and that lawmakers were debating “a dangerous situation.”

“We’re treading on dangerous ground opening up the Constitution,” Christensen said. “And I very much oppose this bill.”

Vickers’ resolution specifically mentions federal term limits and “fiscal restraints,” while previous efforts to invoke a convention of states — outlined in Article V of the Constitution — have included calls for a federal balanced budget amendment.

Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City, said that if such an amendment had been in place at the time with no ability for deficit spending, the country would not have been able to get through the Great Depression and would have been impeded from fighting in World War II.

“I think this is a very dangerous call,” Davis said.

But Sen. Dan Thatcher, R-West Valley City, said that he believes the Constitution to be “divinely inspired,” including Article V. He said it’s unlikely that any radical or extreme ideas would be incorporated through a convention, as any changes would require ratification by three-fourths of all states.

“I know that what we’re doing now doesn’t work,” Thatcher said, “and maybe calling an Article V convention will change things.”

The Senate’s approval of the resolution marks a new milestone for supporters of a constitutional convention. Previous resolutions have succeeded in the Utah House, while falling short in the upper chamber.

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