Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: Exploring ramifications of calling for a constitutional convention

Published: Sunday, July 6 2014 12:00 a.m. MDT

Webb: It’s time for the states to fight to restore their rightful role in the federal system. Never has the federal government been so dysfunctional or been held in such low esteem. Citizens understand the federal government has grown too large, too unwieldy, too top-heavy, too bureaucratic and too ungovernable. Citizens trust their local and state governments, while holding the federal government in distain. Now is the time for state leaders to make the case they can outperform the federal government if they have more responsibility and more resources. And the only effective tool they have is to move toward calling a constitutional convention.

Is the far right’s fear of a “runaway convention” legitimate or more right-wing paranoia?

Pignanelli: In 1787, the Continental Congress organized a convention of delegates to "devise such further provisions as shall appear to them necessary to render the Constitution of the Federal Government adequate to the exigencies of the Union." The original intent was to revise the Articles of Confederation, but several strong personalities (i.e. James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, etc.) had other ideas. Although espoused by extremists, the fear of ConCon messing with the Constitution beyond a balanced budget amendment does have a legitimate historic basis. Therefore: BE CAREFUL!

Webb: Nothing demonstrates the utter irrationality and naivety of the paranoid ultra-right than their opposition to a state-called constitutional convention. They forget that the national Congress sits as a constitutional convention every day it is in session. Do these right-wing fear-mongers trust the Congress more than they trust state leaders? Any amendment proposed by delegates would have to be ratified by three-fourths of the states — an enormous hurdle. No frivolous amendment would ever be passed. This is a tool provided by the nation’s founders. It’s the only thing that would get the attention of the federal government and check federal power. State leaders should use this tool.

Republican LaVarr Webb is a political consultant and lobbyist. Previously he was policy deputy to Gov. Mike Leavitt and a Deseret News managing editor. E-mail: lwebb@exoro.com. Democrat Frank Pignanelli is a Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser. Pignanelli served 10 years in the Utah House of Representatives, six years as House minority leader. E-mail: frankp@xmission.com.

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