Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

Effort to call convention of states fails in Kansas Senate

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

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

March 8, 2018

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— 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.

Comments

Ken Lassman 1 month, 2 weeks ago

I find it very humorous and hypocritical that the Republican dominated state legislature, in goose-step allegiance with some of the more radical elements of the national party, is asking for a balanced budget amendment at the same time as their fearless leader, Donald Trump, has proposed spending at a rate way beyond our means, don't you?

The dynamics of deficit spending is fundamentally different at the federal level than at the state level, since the feds print the money and all the states can do is spend it. The feds have used deficit spending to bootstrap ourselves out of recessions more than once, so am not sure that we should take that tool off the shelf for the future with a Constitutional Amendment. Trump is currently proposing a huge deficit spending budget to boost our growth rate because he thinks it's not growing fast enough, which I think is fraught with problems that could come back to haunt us, but I would like to think that if we had a responsible executive branch, coupled with a functional legislative branch, such behavior could be kept in check, at least most of the time without the use of a Constitutional Amendment. I may be wrong, but it seems like a better dream than having a successful Constitutional Convention called by the states. And if states believe that strongly about the balanced budget amendment, they can petition their congressional representatives to vote for an Amendment the old fashioned way: a 2/3 vote of Congress and the 2/3 of the States ratifying.

State sponsored Constitutional Conventions sound too open ended for me. Would you trust our state legislators to not try to slip in some lame-brained amendments? There are just not enough safeguards to satisfy me that such a possibility couldn't happen.

P Allen Macfarlane 1 month, 2 weeks ago

I'd be happier with a convention to rein in the state.

R.J. Dickens 1 month, 1 week ago

If the government's "out of check", Ty Masterson ought to know. It takes one to know one: He became chair of the Ways and Means Committee AFTER declaring bankruptcy. He has no college degree--but has a $60,000/year PART-TIME job at Wichita State's Innovation Campus. And now, a bill that would keep guns out of the hands of people arrested for domestic violence is sitting in committee because he HAD to add an amendment to protect his nephew's throwing stars. Who's "out of check" here?

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