A resolution sponsored by a Tooele County legislator has made Utah the 14th state to call for a convention to amend the U.S. Constitution.
Senate Joint Resolution 9, which calls for a federal constitutional convention with limited authority, passed the state Senate on Feb. 27 and state House on March 5. Joint resolutions do not need the signature of the governor.
Rep. Merrill Nelson, R-Grantsville, was the House sponsor for SJR 9.
“We are thrilled with the passage of SJR9 by the Utah Legislature, joining other states in the drive for an Article V convention of states to propose amendments restoring ‘the constitutional equilibrium between the national and state governments,’” Nelson said. “Reason and hope prevailed over misinformation and fear. We join hands with grassroots supporters and legislators across the country — as well as with our founders — to help heal our nation and protect individual liberty.”
Article V of the U.S. Constitution allows for the calling of a convention to propose amendments to the constitution by “application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several states.”
Nelson said he has worked on getting legislative support for a constitutional convention for several years.
In 2016, the Utah House of Representatives approved a constitutional convention resolution, but the resolution did not pass the state Senate, according to Nelson.
Nelson was part of the delegation of 150 state legislators from 50 states who participated in a simulated constitutional convention held in Colonial Williamsburg in September 2016.
The legislators were invited to participate in the historic simulation by Citizens for Self-Governance, a national citizens movement pushing for states to invoke their right — to call for a constitutional convention.
The idea is not to replace the constitution, but to restore the proper balance between the federal and state governments, Nelson said.
The language of SJR 9 limits the convention to considering amendments that impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and limit the terms of office for its officials and for members of Congress.
The limits on the convention eliminate the fear of a runaway convention making changes in the constitution, according to Nelson.
It takes 34 state Legislatures to call for a constitutional convention. Following the convention, three-fourths, or 38, of the state Legislatures must ratify the proposed amendments, according to Article V of the U.S. Constitution.
During the discussion of SJR9 on the House floor, Nelson said that Congress is broken and he doesn’t expect the federal government will check itself.
“The only check in the constitution is in article five, the convention of the states,” Nelson said. “If you believe and trust in the constitution, in the founders, in the remedy they gave us to protect their work and our liberties, then the proper answer is a yes vote on this resolution. We created the federal government, we now need to rise up and repair it.”