Effort to call convention of states fails in Kansas Senate

The Senate chamber of the Kansas Statehouse is pictured July 23, 2014 in Topeka.

? An effort to call a “convention of states” that would propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution reining in the powers of the federal government failed in the Kansas Senate on Thursday when supporters could not muster the two-thirds majority needed for passage.

Senate Concurrent Resolution 1611 would have added Kansas to a list of states calling for such a convention to propose amendments that would impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, impose term limits on members of Congress and limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government.

Sen. Ty Masterson, R-Andover, a lead supporter of the measure, said he understood that some people opposed the idea because they were afraid of where it might lead. But he accused others of opposing it because “they do not want the national government to be in check.”

“The federal government is out of check,” he said, explaining his yes vote. “Whether you’re on the right and were afraid of the out-of-check Obama administration and Congress, or on the left and afraid of the out-of-check Trump administration and Congress, there’s no question.”

A convention of states is one of two ways the Constitution allows for proposing amendments. But Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka noted it has never been used, and that all of the 27 amendments adopted since 1791 have been done through Congress.

Hensley said a convention of states would open the door to a wide range of dangers, including the influence of corporations and other interest groups.

“If you believe, as I believe, that constitutional amendments should be proposed and ratified by those elected by the people, you should be voting no on SCR 1611,” Hensley said.

Article 5 of the Constitution provides that a convention can be called if two-thirds of the states, or 34, petition for one. Amendments also can be proposed if approved by two-thirds majorities in both chambers of Congress.

Amendments also have to be ratified by three-fourths of the states, which is currently 38.

The resolution needed a two-thirds majority, or 27 yes votes in the Kansas Senate to pass. It failed on a vote of 22-16.

Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, voted no. Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, was absent.