Proposal for convention of the states discussed

The Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee discussed a resolution Feb. 1 that would serve as Nebraska’s application for a convention of the states.

Introduced by Crete Sen. Laura Ebke, LR6 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 the convention’s scope would be limited to proposals imposing fiscal restraints on the federal government, making government smaller and implementing term limits for members of Congress and other elected officials.

She said a simulated convention of the states held in 2016 reassured her that a real convention of the states would produce thoughtful, restrained proposals.

“When you look at the group assembled, we were largely in favor of the process, but we couldn’t agree on the details of what should be sent out,” Ebke said. “If anything actually comes out of a proposed convention, it would be something that resembles a consensus rather than any kind of drastic action.”

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.

Mark Meckler, president of Citizens for Self-Governance, supported the measure, saying the federal government controls 65 percent of each state’s budget, on average.

“When polled, 72 percent of Americans think the federal government is too big and does too much,” he said. “We’re asking you to stand in the shoes of the founders, to fulfill the obligation they gave you to restrain the federal government when it exceeds its bounds.”

Plattsmouth resident Steve Riese also testified in support of LR6. He said imposing fiscal restraint on the federal government through a balanced budget constitutional amendment is an issue of national security.

“The runaway [federal] debt is a significant and even existential threat to our nation,” Riese said. “The relationship between our economy and our security is enormous and complex. The weakening of our nation will not happen at a single point, but here and now through unrestrained spending.”

OpenSky Policy Institute Executive Director Renee Fry opposed the measure. She said federal funds account for nearly 31 percent of the state budget and any limits imposed on that spending could have devastating effects.

“LR6’s fiscal restraints could cause incredible damage to our state and national well-being,” Fry said, adding that a loss of federal funding for programs like K-12 education likely would increase property taxes for Nebraska landowners.

The committee took no immediate action on the resolution.

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