The American Party is renewing the fight to force Utah to rescind its call for a federal constitutional convention, saying it hopes the state will join at least two other states that have reversed their positions in the last decade.
For the second time this year, party officials have submitted a proposed initiative petition to the lieutenant governor's office, calling on the state Legislature to reverse its 1979 decision asking for a convention.The party's first petition was ruled invalid two months ago by the state attorney general's office. Assistant Attorney General Ralph Finlayson said the document was too ambiguous.
Deputy Lt. Gov. Dave Hansen said the latest petition also has been given to the attorney general's office to determine its validity.
So far, 32 state legislatures have passed resolutions calling for a convention - the main purpose of which would be to add a balanced-budget requirement to the Constitution. Two of those states, Florida and Alabama, have since rescinded their resolutions. To force a convention, 34 states must officially call for one.
The convention is supported by notable conservatives such as Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. American Party members, however, worry a convention would open an "inspired document" to be re-written by uninspired leaders.
"A lot of people believe the Constitution is out of date and needs to be changed," David Wilson, American Party state chairman, said Tuesday. "That can be a little scary considering the current climate in our government."
The party is one of a list of groups that oppose a convention. Gov. Norm Bangerter also believes a convention is not necessary.
Francine Giani, Bangerter's press secretary, said Tuesday the governor believes the Constitution should be amended through conventional means to require a balanced budget.
If the latest petition is approved by the state, the party will have to gather signatures by enough voters to equal 10 percent of those casting ballots in this year's gubernatorial election. If the Legislature refuses to change its position, the petition provides that state voters get a chance to force a change on the 1990 general election ballot.
Wilson worries delegates to a constitutional convention might change much of the document, including rules for ratification.
"It would be too easy to change the rules, since that's what a constitutional convention does," he said.
Hatch, although in favor of calling for a convention, has said he believes the threat of a convention will be enough to force Congress to propose a budget-balancing amendment.
A similar strategy worked in 1912 when the states were one short of calling for a convention to rewrite the requirement that senators be elected by their state legislatures. Congress then proposed the 17th Amendment, which requires senators to be elected directly by voters in their states.