Kansas House panel endorses effort to change US Constitution

? A House panel endorsed a resolution Thursday that would have Kansas join a process to amend the U.S. Constitution through a convention of the states.

Thirty-three other state legislatures would have to pass legislation similar to the measure approved by the Kansas House Federal and State Affairs Committee to require the U.S. Congress to act.

Identical legislation has already passed in Florida, Georgia and Alaska, and has been introduced in 23 other state legislatures, said Heath Kohl, a lobbyist for the states’-rights group Convention of States that has been advocating for the movement.

The Kansas resolution says the convention would aim to restrict federal fiscal policy, limit the federal government’s powers and shorten terms of office for federal officials. It must be passed by a two-thirds majority in each chamber of the state legislature.

Several committee members cited what they believed to be incidents of federal overreach in voicing their support for the resolution, but others said they worried the scope of the resolution was worded vaguely and could lead to a “runaway convention” enacting wholesale changes to the Constitution.

Republican Rep. Stephanie Clayton from Overland Park said she is interested in requiring the federal government to pass balanced budgets but worries that the movement could lose focus. She also said that she believes some legislators are not fully aware of the ramifications of the proposal.

“What bothers me about a lot of this is that you have a blatant misunderstanding of the document that rules our nation,” Clayton said. “If they don’t know how the U.S. Constitution works, I have grave fears for our future.”

Brenda Erickson, a researcher with the National Conference of State Legislatures, said that because the U.S. Congress has not yet enacted a formal process for creating a states’ convention, several questions remain about the validity of the movement including whether the language in the resolutions must be identical, who determines the scope of the amendments and what the timeline should be if the Congress accepts the call.

Republican Rep. Dick Jones of Topeka said that the move would work to reign in federal law enforcement and legislative spending, but would not go too far.

“This convention is not a radical effort to change the Constitution. It could be a radical effort at trying to revise and re-energize the Constitution, but nobody in their right mind would touch what has to be the greatest document ever written for mankind,” Jones said.