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Lawmakers say no to constitutional convention

Published: Monday, July 6 2015 8:36 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Attempts to get Utah to join the call for a convention to amend the U.S. Constitution didn't make it out of a legislative committee Thursday.

HJR14, sponsored by Rep. Bradley Daw, R-Orem, failed 5-5 in the House Government Operations Committee after a long list of opponents spoke against it.

That led the sponsor of the other resolution on the agenda, HJR2, Rep. Dave Clark, R-Santa Clara, to ask that the committee hold his bill rather than vote on it.

Daw's resolution would have called for a convention to amend the U.S. Constitution to require the approval of a majority of states to increase the federal debt.

Clark wanted a convention to consider an amendment allowing two-thirds of state legislatures to repeal federal laws or regulations.

No one during the two-hour hearing argued against the need to reign in the federal government. But only one person testifying spoke in favor of holding what would the nation's first convention to amend the Constitution.

"You have the risk of death by debt," Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, said in support of HJR14. "Or you can go down swinging."

Opponents, however, expressed concerns that once a convention is called, there would be no control over the agenda. "Are we going to risk our Constitution for this?" asked Eagle Forum President Gayle Ruzicka.

Several committee members backed the proposals, including Rep. Holly Richardson, R-Pleasant Grove, who said the federal government is out of control. "I'm tired of rolling over," Richardson said.

Rep. Kraig Powell, R-Heber City, said the federal government has "finally gone too far." He said he believes worry over a runaway convention "is essentially a bogeyman" and that Americans would respect the amendment process.

One of the committee members that voted against the resolution, Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake, said she is "not quite as fearful as many people seem to be about the status of where our government is. I don't need to have my freedom restored."

Earlier Thursday, the House debated another resolution urging Congress to pass a balanced budget amendment. But HCR3, sponsored by Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman, ended up being circled so an amendment allowing for the federal government to go into debt to pay for wars and emergencies could be drafted.

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