Senate leader calls for federal constitutional convention over commerce clause

By Jessica Wray
TheStatehouseFile.com

INDIANAPOLIS – Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said Thursday he will work to organize a constitutional convention to debate state’s rights and the power of the federal government.

Long said he will present a resolution to the Senate next week out of frustration and concern that the federal government is exercising too much power.

His resolution will specify two topics he wants the convention to address – the commerce clause and the federal government’s taxing authority.

He said he believes states’ rights are being trampled and that the 10th Amendment –  which gives states any powers not given to the federal government or prohibited to the states by the Constitution – “is in shambles right now.”

“Since the Supreme Court’s ruling on Obamacare, it would seem that the federal government could pass any such law, call it a tax, and there’s no violation of state’s rights,” he said.

Under Article V of the U.S. Constitution, one way to propose an amendment is if two-thirds – meaning 34 states – pass a resolution calling for a constitutional convention. The convention would then allow states to propose and discuss amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

“I believe there are other leaders around the country, whom I have spoken to, who will take this and run with it in their states as well,” Long said. “I think it is the only way the states’ rights can be protected in this country.”

To date, there has never been a federal constitutional convention called by two-thirds of the states, though there have been numerous attempts each year by various states, ranging in topics from national defense to national spending.

But obtaining support isn’t the only obstacle states must hurdle.

“Congress has never adopted any procedures for implementing Article V, so there are lots of legal questions that surround any and all of these calls for a constitutional convention,” said Brenda Erickson, senior research analyst with the National Conference of State Legislatures.

She said there aren’t specifics to the process, including whether there is a time limit for how long the resolution or application for a convention lasts, if the language must be the same in all resolutions submitted by the different states and if a state can rescind a resolution once it’s adopted.

But that hasn’t stopped states from requesting Congress bring together the states to discuss amendments.

Thirty-two states signed on to a campaign for a constitutional convention in the 1980s but then fell short of the number needed to call it, according to a Congressional Research Service analysis.

Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said he has agreed to carry Long’s resolution and work with him on the proposal if it gets to the House.

“I think at least on my team, there’s general consensus that the federal government has reached into corners of the room that it has no business in,” he said.

Long said he believes there is enough support.

“It is a thoughtful and constitutionally based approach to how we can protect states’ rights,” Long said. “It won’t be tomorrow but it needs to start.”

Jessica Wray is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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