Senate votes to pursue national constitutional convention to protect states’ rights

By Tim Grimes
TheStatehouseFile.com

INDIANAPOLIS – Senate President Pro Tem David Long said he hopes legislation passed by his chamber Tuesday calling for a national constitutional convention will be a model for other states.

Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, spoke Tuesday for a his resolution that calls for a national constitutional convention to try to protect states' rights. The Senate passed the resolution and it now moves to the House. Two-thirds of states would need to pass similar measures to make the convention happen. Photo by Lesley Weidenbener, TheStatehouseFile.com

Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, spoke Tuesday for a his resolution that calls for a national constitutional convention to try to protect states’ rights. The Senate passed the resolution and it now moves to the House. Two-thirds of states would need to pass similar measures to make the convention happen. Photo by Lesley Weidenbener, TheStatehouseFile.com

Senate Joint Resolution 18 would petition the U.S. Congress to call a constitutional convention, which is permissible under Article V of the Constitution. The convention would aim to limit the commerce and taxing powers of Congress.

It requires at least two-thirds of state legislatures to be on the same page for a convention to be called.

To date, there has never been a federal constitutional convention, although there have been numerous attempts each year by various states that have sought to cover topics from national defense to national spending.

Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, said that there has been over 700 applications to call a constitutional convention, none of which have come to fruition.

“I do get concerned when we talk about state’s rights,” Lanane said. “I just think that it’s a little bit of a dangerous road to go down at this time.”

But proponents of the effort say that the convention is necessary because the federal government has overstepped its bounds. They cite the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of the federal health care law as an example of states’ rights being violated.

But Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, said he’s concerned about a constitutional convention.

The Indiana Senate passed a resolution that calls for a national constitutional convention to try to protect states' rights. Photo by Lesley Weidenbener, TheStatehouseFile.com

The Indiana Senate passed a resolution that calls for a national constitutional convention to try to protect states’ rights. Photo by Lesley Weidenbener, TheStatehouseFile.com

After giving an impassioned speech about the importance of the Constitution and states’ rights, Delph said he was not voting for the resolution because he said the whole system is broken.

“It doesn’t matter what the (U.S.) Constitution says if we don’t follow it,” Delph said.

The joint resolution passed 32-18.

SRJ 18 comes paired with two companion bills. Senate Bill 225 would set the requirements of a delegate to the convention, which include being a registered voter and resident of Indiana and not holding federal office or being a registered lobbyist. Democrats were not satisfied with the bill because it didn’t require the General Assembly to pick bipartisan delegates.

“When Sen. Lanane offered a bipartisan amendment, it got the typical Republican smackdown,” said Sen. Tim Skinner, D-Terre Haute.

SB 225 passed 38-12.

Senate Bill 224 would prevent what some senators called a “runaway convention.”

The bill would set strict guidelines governing the delegates to the constitutional convention. A delegate would be charged with a Class D felony for voting contrary to the Indiana General Assembly’s wishes. Delegates would also be paired with an alternate delegate that would take over if the original delegate were to go against legislative intent.

“We really have tried to box delegates in so they can’t go rogue,” Long said.

SB 224 passed 39-11.

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

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