It’s a relief that Nebraska won’t be adding its name to the list of states that have passed a resolution calling for a convention of states to amend the U.S. Constitution.
The danger of such an event is that its delegates would run amok. No one can say with certainty what the government would look like after they got done reinventing the country.
The Legislature voted 25-18 Monday to send Sen. Laura Ebke’s proposal back to the Government, Military and Veterans Affair Committee. That’s a virtual guarantee that it won’t be back on the agenda for the rest of the session.
Don’t expect the proposal to go away, however.
In recent months five states – Florida, Georgia, Alaska, Alabama and Tennessee -- have officially voted for America’s second constitutional convention.
The movement has some high profile adherents, including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who is a GOP presidential candidate. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, also a GOP presidential contender, said recently, “On my first day in office I will promote the Convention of States Project.”
A prime goal of the project is passage of a balanced budget amendment. There’s money behind the movement. Common Cause reports that the American Legislative Exchange Council, whose corporate donors include AT&T, Pfizer, UPS, Koch Industries, Comcast, Altria, and Chevron, is a source of funding. (There’s also a push on the left side of the political spectrum for a constitutional convention to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United which struck down limits on corporate political spending, but it’s a much smaller effort, according to Common Cause.)
Last summer Ebke held 33 town halls throughout the state to promote the idea, and earlier this month former Sen. Tom Coburn came to Nebraska to promote the Convention of States Project, arguing that a convention of states would give a “spinal transplant” to elected officials in Washington.
Members of the Journal Star editorial board met with Coburn during his visit, and earlier this year met with opponents of the project including Sen. Adam Morfeld of Lincoln.
In November Morfeld attended a three-day meeting of the Assembly of State Legislatures as something of a fifth columnist. The meeting of more than 100 state legislators in Salt Lake City was supposed to draft rules for a constitutional convention, but the effort broke down when some legislators walked out.
The event left Morfeld impressed with the amount of funding that organizers had at their disposal.
Article V of the U.S. Constitution gives a convention of states power to propose amendments to the constitution. That hasn’t happened since 1787. Since the Bill of Rights was ratified all amendments to the U.S. Constitution have been added by amendments originating in Congress and sent to the states. That’s a better approach than trying a convention of states, where, as Morfeld says, “everything would be on the table.”