State lawmakers from across the country are gathering in Indianapolis this week to plan rules for a potential convention to amend the U.S. Constitution.
AP Photo/Scott Bauer, File
Legislatures in 22 states have passed resolutions calling for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, while Vermont became the first to call for an amendment to limit spending and contributions in political campaigns.
No actual amendments will be discussed at the Assembly of State Legislatures meeting Thursday and Friday at the Indiana State House, Wisconsin state Rep. Chris Kapenga said, only setting the rules for how an Article Five convention would be handled. Lawmakers from 30 states are taking part.
“As a body we are not touching amendment subject matter and take no stance,” Kapenga, a Republican, told TheBlaze. “We do not take a stance on amendment issues. This body is about process.”
The group of state lawmakers first met in December.
So far, all 27 amendments to the Constitution were passed by Congress and then ratified by three-fourths of the states, but the Constitution also allows for a convention of states to be convened if two-thirds of the states –34 – call for one. If a convention approves an amendment, three-fourths of the states – 38 – must vote to ratify it.
In deciding on the rules, attendees to the meeting could consider such matters as how many delegates each state would have at a convention, who would appoint them and the process for considering a specific amendment.
The group of state lawmaers has no legal authority, but is putting forth a consensus blueprint for rules of the convention of the states, which would be ultimately decided by the convention or by state legislatures.
Kapenga stressed that in addition from steering clear of endorsing specific amendments, the assembly is also avoiding coordination with any political or partisan groups.
“This is strictly currently elected state legislators,” Kapenga said. “There are no meetings, money or involvement with anyone. It must stay politically pure or it takes a political slant.”
He added that along with political groups, Congress has no discretionary power in the process.
“The only political leaning we have is state vs. federal power,” he continued.
The movement for amending the Constitution through a state-led convention gained momentum after conservative talk radio host Mark Levin’s “The Liberty Amendments” became a best-seller in 2013, though is still considered a long shot.
More liberal wings recently have come to embrace the idea. Last month, the state legislature in Vermont passed a resolution calling for a convention to amend the Constitution to overturn the Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court and allow Congress and state legislatures to put limits on contributions to political campaigns.
In March, Indiana House Speaker Brian Bossma told TheBlaze he supported an amendment only for a balanced budget amendment.
“The Constitution was an extremely well-thought out document. It gives the states – which created the federal government – the ability to reign in the federal government whenever it gets out of control,” Bossma said. “The biggest concerns many have about the conventions from people of all sides is this would be used to rewrite the Constitution. This would be for a balanced budget amendment only.”