Utah Legislature approves resolution calling for state convention to change U.S. Constitution

By Katie McKellar @KatieMcKellar1 Mar 5, 2019, 9:42pm MST

SALT LAKE CITY — It’s official: Utah’s game.

The Utah House of Representatives in a late 42-32 vote Tuesday night gave final approval to a joint resolution calling for a convention to consider amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

The resolution, which does not need approval from Gov. Gary Herbert, adds Utah to the list of states seeking to convene a convention to propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution to address what the resolution’s House sponsor, Rep. Merrill Nelson, called a “broken” federal government.

“The checks and balances in our Constitution have been stretched and broken,” said Nelson, R-Grantsville. “All three branches are exercising legislative power. The courts are deciding matters of public policy. The executive is issuing executive orders, making law as we speak. And there’s no way to challenge it.”

In his pitch to his fellow House representatives to vote for the resolution, Nelson pointed out Utah’s federal delegation have all said the federal government is “broken, it’s dysfunctional, it’s not working,” due to gridlock in Congress and $22 billion of national debt.

“We need to push back,” Nelson said. “How do we push back against the federal government?”

The only way, Nelson said, is invoking Article V of the Constitution, which allows two paths for amendments to the Constitution: through Congress, or through a special convention called by the states.

The resolution passed the House mostly on a party-line vote, though some Republicans joined Democrats in opposing the vote. It passed the Senate on a close vote last week.

Debate ended before any representative spoke against the resolution, but opponents have previously expressed fear that a convention could result in drastic and dangerous changes to the Constitution.

Rep. Mike Winder, R-West Valley City, rose in support, saying, “I don’t fear a runaway convention. I fear a runaway federal government.”

“I don’t fear changing the Constitution. I fear a Constitution that never changes and adapts as the republic grows,” Winder said, adding he’s not afraid of radical amendments because 3/4 of states are required to approve of any amendments.

Rep. Cheryl Acton, R-West Jordan, also supported the resolution after she said she had a “moment of fear” in a committee when she previously voted against it because “I was hearing so much from people who were afraid.”

But Tuesday, Acton said she would vote in favor. She said the state-led method has never been tried before, “perhaps because we’ve never been desperate as states to contain the federal government so much as we are now.”

“This erects barriers against the encroachment of national authority, which seems to me what we need right now,” Acton said. “I think it will be very good for our republic if we’re able to do this.”