It’s bewildering that, facing a looming deadline on a complicated school finance bill, Kansas legislators are wasting time on an effort to call a convention of states.
Yet, with a new school finance plan due to the Kansas Supreme Court on April 30 and hardly any progress made, the Kansas Senate spent Thursday voting on whether to support a convention of states to propose and possibly add amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
Article V of the Constitution provides for two ways to amend the U.S. Constitution. The first is through a vote of Congress that then must be ratified by three-fourths of the state legislatures to become an amendment. Congress has proposed 33 amendments and 27 of them have been ratified by the states.
The second way to amend the Constitution is through a convention of states, convened when two-thirds of the state legislatures, or 34, vote to call such a convention. The convention allows states to propose and vote on constitutional amendments. Amendments that garner support of three-fourths of the state legislatures (38 states) would be ratified.
The purpose of the convention of states is to provide a check on Congress in the event that Congress isn’t doing its job to a degree that requires the states to intervene. There have been efforts to call such a convention in the past, but none has ever been convened.
The Convention of States Project, a Houston-based organization that bills itself as a grassroots effort to bring power back to the states, is behind the current movement. According to its website, the group is advocating for a convention that would seek amendments that “limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, impose fiscal restraints, and place term limits on federal officials.”
So far, 12 states — Alaska, Arizona, Texas, Oklahoma, North Dakota, Missouri, Louisiana, Indiana, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and Florida — have approved the Convention of States Project resolution.
Kansas state Sen. Ty Masterson, R-Andover, said a convention of states is necessary to rein in the federal government.
“The federal government is out of check,” he said. “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.”
The problem with the Convention of States Project is that once the convention of states is called, there is no real limit on what amendments could be proposed. It is a radical method of amending the U.S. Constitution that should be reserved as an option of last resort.
Twenty-two senators voted for the resolution supporting the convention of states with 16 voting against. In order to be approved, the resolution needed a two-thirds majority or 27 votes.
Perhaps Kansas lawmakers can now get back to working on public school funding and the other very real and pressing fiscal matters before them and leave the business of amending the U.S. Constitution to those whose primary job it is — the duly elected members of Congress