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A House Committee gave its OK Friday for Utah to seek a constitutional convention aimed at limiting the power of the federal government and imposing term limits on members of Congress. HJR8 advanced on a 6-3 vote.
The U.S. Constitution allows for a convention of the states to propose constitutional amendments as long 34 states submit similar applications. Any amendment coming out of the convention would still require ratification by three-fourths of the states. Five states have approved language identical to Utah's bill and legislation is pending in 32 other states, said Mark Meckler of the organization Convention of States.
A state constitutional convention has never been called.
Sponsoring Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, proposed a similar measure last year that failed. He said the country has changed in the interim. Citing growing national debt, Supreme Court decisions and regulations, Ivory said it was time for the states to take their power back.
"We need to put teeth back in the 10th Amendment," Ivory said.
The convention, he said, could be used to take control of federal lands or otherwise stop the government from "criminalizing everything in people's day-to-day life."
Gayle Ruzicka of the conservative Utah Eagle Forum spoke against the resolution, saying that changing the Constitution won't fix the problem of leaders in Washington, D.C., not honoring the founding document. She pointed to the amendment to create a national income tax as an example of the downside of such an endeavor.
Mark Meckler of the Convention of States, said fears about a "runaway" convention were unwarranted, since the ratification process provides enough of a safeguard to prevent amendments from getting too far out of hand.
"It would take 13 states to kill anything that comes out of the convention," he said.