A resolution that would serve as the state’s application for a convention of the states was returned to committee during general file debate Feb. 22.
LR35, introduced by Crete Sen. Laura Ebke, calls for a convention of the states, authorized under Article V of the U.S. Constitution. Congress would be compelled to call a convention of the states if a two-thirds majority—34 states—pass identical resolutions.
Ebke said LR35 would limit discussion at a convention to three issues: imposing fiscal restraints on the federal government, limiting the power and jurisdiction of the federal government and limiting the terms of office for federal officials and members of Congress.
“I spent last summer and fall traveling around the state holding 33 town halls so citizens could learn more about the process [of calling for a convention of the states],” she said. “It is a cause I believe in. I see a $19 trillion national debt with $100 trillion plus in unfunded obligations that our children will have to pay off. I worry about their future.”
The convention would deal only with proposed amendments, which would be sent to the states for ratification. It would require a three-fourths majority—38 states—to ratify an amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers said there would be no way to limit the scope of a convention of the states. He filed a motion to recommit the resolution to the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee.
“[Delegates] could rewrite the entire Constitution. They could change our form of government from representative to parliamentary,” he said. “Why in the world should this Legislature count on other people to be more prudent than our members and undo the damage that would be done by passing [LR35]?”
Lincoln Sen. Matt Hansen supported the motion to recommit the resolution, saying it proposes a messy solution to a messy problem.
“Fundamentally, if we feel Congress is too gridlocked and too partisan to be effective, I have no notion that [the convention] would be any more cohesive or less partisan,” Hansen said. “I don’t think it’s good governance to offer up that huge concession of power without more clarity.”
Opposing the recommit motion, Henderson Sen. Curt Friesen said a convention would be a first step in addressing citizens’ frustrations with Congress.
“It’s time for a convention of the states to deal with the anger that’s out in the country and the uncontrolled spending,” he said. “It would put pressure on Congress to do something because we don’t expect them to limit their own authority. They don’t do it and they won’t do it.”
Senators voted to recommit LR35 back to the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee on a 25-18 vote.