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Utah senators will not join their House colleagues in calling for a convention of states to amend the U.S. Constitution.
HJR3 fell in a 16-12 vote of the Senate on Thursday, with lawmakers expressing both skepticism that an out-of-control federal government could be reined in, and concern over unintended consequences.
Members of the House voted 45-29 in favor of the resolution earlier this month.
"I am very, very afraid that a convention could then destroy our separation of powers," said Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City. "That is something that I believe is probably the most sacred part of our Constitution."
Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, said the federal government currently operates beyond the limits of its constitutional powers. But there was little reason to expect that would change, he said, even if the states convened to consider amendments.
"Even if we change the wording," he said, "unless we get people back there [in Washington] who are really committed to following constitutional principles we'll have the same problem no matter what we do."
And Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, joked that if the convention was comprised of individuals like himself, the result might not be positive for conservatives.
"That Second Amendment is gone," he said. "It is out of there."
But Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, said the worry about a runaway convention is overblown. Any changes would require ratification by three-fourths of the states, he said, which would lead to consensus and collaboration.
"Any proposal that would cut any of the Bill of Rights, there is not a chance that it passes in more than half the states," he said.
The bill's Senate sponsor, Sen. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, said the issue is not life or death. But he invited his colleagues to imagine the possibility for meaningful change if a convention was successful.
"Just picture what the world would look like if that were to happen," he said.