- Associated Press - Thursday, February 18, 2016

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Conservative Republicans arguing that the federal government is out of control advanced a proposal Thursday in the Kansas House aimed at calling a convention of the states to propose changes in the U.S. Constitution.

The House voted 77-44 to give first-round approval to a resolution calling for such a convention. It would consider constitutional changes for lessening the federal government’s power and for term limits on members of Congress and other federal officials.

But supporters of the resolution will need a two-thirds majority, or 84 of 125 votes, when the House takes a final vote, scheduled for Monday. The chamber’s approval would send the resolution to the Senate.

If both chambers adopt the measure, Kansas would be the sixth state since March 2014 to adopt the same resolution applying to Congress for a convention. The measure says the nation’s founders empowered state lawmakers to be “guardians of liberty,” decries the federal government’s “crushing debt” and declares that it has “ceased to live under a proper interpretation” of the U.S. Constitution.

“Authoritarian governments never choose to limit their own power voluntarily,” said state Rep. Brett Hildabrand, a Shawnee Republican. “Answers and ingenuity lie with the people and not with the government.”

The U.S. Constitution says that Congress shall call a convention of the states when two-thirds of them, or 34 of 50, apply for one. Supporters of such a convention said each state would have a single vote, though it could send multiple delegates.

The proposed changes approved by the convention would take effect if they were ratified by legislatures in three-quarters of the states, or 38.

Critics of the idea doubted that a convention’s scope can be limited. Questioned during debate, Hildabrand acknowledged that a convention could propose constitutional changes to prevent the federal government from offering popular programs such as Social Security and federal Medicare coverage for seniors. He dismissed the idea that such ideas could be ratified.

Still, Rep. Ed Trimmer, a Winfield Democrat, told him, “I think there’s too much opportunity for mischief.”

Rep. Michael Houser, a Columbus Republican, said he opposes the resolution because it doesn’t spell out how convention delegates would be selected. The method would be left up to each state.

The Virginia-based group Convention of States said Georgia was the first state to pass the same resolution, followed by Florida, Alaska, Alabama and Tennessee. Spokeswoman Tamara Colbert said another 35 states have resolutions.

The Kansas version was introduced by 41 House members last year, and the House Federal and State Affairs Committee approved it in March 2015. Ahead of Thursday’s debate, the same committee had a briefing on the measure and heard from one of the movement’s national leaders, former U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, of Oklahoma.

Supporters of the resolution cited not only the federal debt, but regulations imposed by agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency. Many also are vocal critics of the 2010 federal health overhaul championed by President Barack Obama, a Democrat.

“No government controls my freedom,” Coburn told the committee. “And what we have now is an onerous federal government that is not mal-intended, but in spite of itself is limiting our freedom, limiting our economic growth and limiting our creativity.”



Text of Kansas resolution: https://bit.ly/1BVv46z

Convention of States: https://www.conventionofstates.com/


Follow John Hanna on Twitter at https://twitter.com/apjdhanna

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