Wisconsin and Nebraska this week became the 16th and 17th states to call for a convention of states to propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution, putting the grassroots movement halfway towards its goal of triggering a convention with the support of 34 states.
Lawmakers in the Nebraska legislature on Friday approved a convention of states resolution by a 32-10 vote, three days after Wisconsin passed a measure calling for a convention to put fiscal restraints on the federal government and impose term limits on members of Congress and other federal officials.
"This week our resolution passed both Wisconsin and Nebraska bringing our total to 17 states. Additionally, we passed the South Dakota House and are moving in the Senate. This puts us across the halfway mark to the necessary 34," said Convention of States President Mark Meckler.
"The question is no longer if we will call a Convention of States, but when. People in this country are sick and tired of DC, and they know that they are going to have to take the power back to the states themselves," he said.
The Convention of States Project, an offshoot of Citizens for Self-Governance, is a movement to limit the power of the federal government and return power to the states by constitutional means. Supporters hope to use Article V of the U.S. Constitution to call for a convention for proposing new amendments to the nation's founding document. A convention will be called if two-thirds (34) of the state legislatures in the United States pass resolutions demanding one.
Nebraska state Sen. Steve Halloran (R) sponsored the resolution calling for a convention of states. He told the Associated Press that his constituents are concerned with the mounting federal debt and that states have the power to rein in Congress if Washington D.C. will not impose restraints on itself.
“Functionally, the founding fathers intended for the states to have equal footing with Congress,” Halloran said. "To me, that's important. I think it's a state sovereignty issue.”
Opponents of the convention of states movement have raised concerns about a "runaway convention" in which delegates from the several states propose radical changes to the Constitution that would erase the freedoms protected in the Bill of Rights.
Supporters answer that any proposed amendments offered by the convention would still have to be ratified by three-quarters of the states, a herculean task that has only occurred 27 times in the history of the United States.
They also argue that the state resolutions calling for a convention can impose limits on what proposals such a convention may consider. For example, Nebraska's resolution calls for fiscal restraints on the federal government, limits on the federal government's power and jurisdiction, and consideration of term limits for members of Congress. A proposal unrelated to those issues would not be germane.
Convention of states resolutions have passed in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin — halfway towards the goal of 34 states.
"It looks like they are going to do it sooner rather than later," said Meckler. "Our grassroots are on the march and they can't be stopped."