Indiana News

Amending the Constitution an Uphill Battle for State Senator

2/15/2013

The leader of Indiana's State Senate wants to amend the U.S. Constitution as it has never been amended, using state legislatures to call for a constitutional convention.  History shows he has an uphill battle.

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Republican Senator David Long wants Indiana to become the first of what he hopes will be 34 legislatures to propose a convention to amend the constitution.  But while this is one of two ways to amend as outlined in Article 5 of the Constitution, it has never been successful.  Political scientist Georgia Wralstad Ulmschneider of IPFW says there are too many things that can go wrong in organizing a convention, not to mention participants with multiple agendas at work.

Ulmschneider says the use of the legislative amendment method has come close to being a success twice.  The first was in the late 1960's when an amendment was proposed to overturn a pair of U.S. Supreme Court decisions requiring states to adhere to the one man, one vote principal in the drawing of districts for state and federal elections.  A convention resolution was passed by 33 states, one shy of what was required, when the amendment's main support, Illinois Senator Everett Dirksen, died in 1969.  The second convention movement to come close was in the early 1980's, when 32 states approved resolutions supportive of a balanced budget amendment.  

Long is hopeful that a constitutional convention would consider amendments that would limit the federal government's use of the Commerce clause as well as limit federal taxing authority.  But Ulmschneider says nothing in Article 5 outlines procedures for conventions, such as the selection of delegates or topics to be covered.  While Long says those topics would be covered in the resolution, Ulmschneider says even holding a convention is no guarantee that the amendments would be approved by delegates, nor approved by three-quarters of states after the convention takes place.

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