WASHINGTON — Rep. Rob Bishop and outgoing Utah House Speaker Dave Clark are among the backers of a "repeal amendment" to the U.S. Constitution to give states more power over the federal government.
On Tuesday, Bishop introduced the proposed amendment that would allow two-thirds of the states to band together to repeal any federal law or regulation they oppose.
"If you get two-thirds of the states going against something, it's pretty clear it is wrong," said Bishop, co-chairman of the GOP's 10th Amendment Task Force in Congress.
He said the amendment "will provide citizens, through their elected state representatives, with a powerful tool to check an overzealous and power-hungry federal government."
Clark, who will be replaced as House speaker in January, said the amendment could be used to put a stop to Washington following "the path of more government over more freedom."
The Republican leaders are among some 18 elected officials from 10 states — Utah, Virginia, Florida, Texas, Missouri, South Carolina, Indiana, Georgia, New Jersey and Minnesota — who came out Tuesday in support of changing the Constitution.
They named President Barack Obama's health care legislation as a top target, but also said they like to roll back environmental, education and business measures that impose state mandates.
Marianne Moran, executive director of The Repeal Amendment organization that's behind the effort, said it started with members of the Virginia tea party movement, but all of its supporters are considered leaders.
If the amendment is passed, she said it would take time to repeal federal actions. "It would be a long process," Moran said. "But it provides the states a tool and a mechanism."
Amending the Constitution would take two-thirds of the states calling a constitutional convention if Congress doesn't act, something that's never been done. Finally, an amendment must be ratified by 38 states.
University of Utah constitutional law professor Wayne McCormack said the effort appears to be a way of sending a message to Washington.
"The thing is cumbersome. It's more efficient to lobby directly to Congress," McCormack said of the amendment. "It's more like, 'Wake up and pay attention to us.' "
He said the issue of states rights regularly resurfaces about once every generation and said it's ironic the tea party is raising it now.
"They seem to reflect anti-government sentiments," McCormack said. "At the same time, there's a wing of that movement which feels that it's state government that ought to be calling the shots as opposed to the federal government."
Bishop, though, told KSL Radio the amendment is not about exerting states rights, but "an effort to go back to the original intent of the Constitution, which was to provide the states and the federal government each with enough power to balance the other."
This story was reported from Salt Lake City
Contributing: The Associated Press