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Utahns support calling a constitutional convention

Published: Friday, Feb. 25 2011 5:47 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — Although attempts by Utah lawmakers to call a convention to amend the U.S. Constitution have been unsuccessful so far, it turns out many Utahns support it, according to a poll conducted for Deseret News/KSL.  

The poll, conducted by Dan Jones & Associates, found that 49 percent of Utahns favor calling a convention of state delegates where the Constitution could be amended with a two-thirds majority. Only 37 percent oppose holding a convention. 

The poll of 496 Utahns was conducted Feb. 8-10. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percent. 

A convention to amend the constitution hasn't been called since the original in 1787 that produced the federal Constitution. Some conservatives and liberals agree the outcome of calling a constitutional convention could be disastrous, resulting in unintended changes to the document. 

Rep. Holly Richardson, R-Alpine, has said she is "tired of rolling over" to the federal government, but she has written on her blog, Holly on the Hill,  that a convention to amend the U.S. constitution could be like "opening Pandora's box." 

But that's a risk Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, is willing to take. "You have the risk of death by debt," he has said. "Or you can go down swinging."

Bills related to the Constitution, as well as Constitution-speak on the Senate and House floors, has been a hallmark of this year's legislative session. A search for "constitution" on the Legislature's website brings up 20 bills related to either the state or federal Constitution. 

Rep. Bradley Daw, R-Orem, wanted a convention to amend the U.S. Constitution in an effort to require the approval of a majority of states to increase the federal debt. The resolution that attempted to do so, HJR14, failed in committee 5-5.

HJR2, sponsored by Rep. Dave Clark, R-Santa Clara, asks for a convention to repeal federal laws or regulations. The bill is still alive, but it's been held in a House committee since Feb. 10. 

One lawmaker who has cited the Constitution countless times on the House floor is Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman. He said he's "adamantly opposed" to the idea of calling a convention because "the risks outweigh the benefits."

"We have a good Constitution," he said. "We just need to start following it."

But Wimmer does believe one provision in the document should be repealed: the 16th Amendment, which allows the federal government to regulate and collect income tax. "I do not believe that was an inspired piece of legislation," he said. 

He tried to send his message to Congress, but HJR20 got stuck in a House committee without being considered. 

Another Constitutional change Wimmer wants to see is a limit on Utah's spending. Under his HJR37, the state Constitution would be amended to limit spending to that of the previous year.

"It prepares the state for the future."

E-mail: averzello@desnews.com

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