SALT LAKE CITY — Two state legislators calling for amendments to the U.S. Constitution aimed at reining in federal government face opposition from a coalition of liberal and conservative groups.
Republican Rep. Brad Daw of Orem wants a constitutional convention to pass an amendment requiring a majority of the states to approve any increase in the federal debt ceiling.
Rep. Dave Clark, R-Santa Clara, is backing an amendment that would allow a super majority of states to overturn a federal policy.
To call a constitutional convention, 34 states would have to pass a resolution. Any amendment proposed during the convention would have to be ratified by 38 states.
Utah is one of six states to have at least one resolution calling for a convention aimed at passing amendments to require state approval of increases to the debt ceiling. Others this year are Arizona, Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota and Tennessee.
Opponents of the Utah resolutions include the conservative Utah Eagle Forum and liberal Citizens Education Project. Although on different sides of the political spectrum, both groups said the danger of a constitutional convention is the opportunity for multiple amendments to be proposed.
"Why risk the unintended consequences of a free-for-all, especially in this time of partisan divide?" said Steve Erickson, director of the Citizens Education Project.
Eagle Forum president Gayle Ruzicka said amendments should be handled as they have historically been handled — with Congress' approval and support from the states.
While she understands the calls for a convention are happening because people are frustrated with Congress, she said the rules for a convention would still be set by the federal leaders.
She is leery of any proposals to amend the Constitution, even ones being pushed by conservative politicians, such as a balanced budget amendment.
"The Constitution is not a Christmas tree to hang a bunch of amendments on," she said.
Daw said a convention is needed so Americans can take control of the federal government's spending. He was not satisfied by congressional promises to balance the federal budget.
"They have a moment of awakening, but then they will come out of it, and it's back to a debt," Daw said.
As for arguments the Constitution should not be amended, he said part of the divine inspiration of the document was the ability to change it as needed.
"While the underlying framework is glorious and wonderful, it doesn't mean there isn't a need to look at it once in awhile," Daw said.
Clark told The Spectrum of St. George the repeal amendment was necessary to restore power to the states.
"The federal government has repeatedly had a choice between more freedom or more government," Clark said. "On issue after issue, time after time, they have chosen more government."
Neither resolution has had a committee hearing.
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