NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE
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Sen. Curt Friesen

Sen. Curt Friesen

District 34

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Weekly Column

February 19th, 2016

An issue that will soon be debated on the legislative floor is one that would call for a convention of the states to propose constitutional limits on the power of the federal government.

Legislative Resolution (LR 35) was introduced by Sen. Laura Ebke last session and designated as her priority bill this year.  LR 35 would limit the convention’s agenda to constitutional amendments to impose fiscal restraints, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and require federal term limits.

LR35 calls for Nebraska to join other states in passing an application that calls for an interstate convention for the purpose of proposing amendments to the U.S. Constitution. State legislatures are granted this power under Article V of the U.S. Constitution. The language of LR35 is verbatim to applications that have been filed in other states, as any interstate convention must have a foregoing, agreed upon scope and subject for which the convention is called.

The convention will only occur after two-thirds of the states (34 states) pass the same application. Currently, five state legislatures have approved a similar measure.  Once the requisite 34 states have passed the same application, Congress shall call the convention. After the convention is called, delegates (officially called commissioners) are chosen by the states – the process for choosing delegates is decided by the legislature in each state. Each state legislature may send as many delegates to the convention as it chooses, but each state is allowed only one vote at the convention. The delegates may be given instructions on how to vote by their state legislature and are legally bound to adhere to them.

Since the convention only has the power to propose amendments, ratification takes place  following the convention. While at the convention, any amendments proposed and/or passed must fall within the preordained scope specified in the 34 matching applications passed by the state legislatures. In the case of LR35, the scope is to impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and limit the terms of office for its officials and for members of Congress.

In order for a valid amendment to emerge from the convention, it must pass with a simple majority vote. After passing the convention, the amendments – before becoming part of the U.S. Constitution – must still be ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the states (38 states). Multiple legal safeguards are in place to prevent the ratification of any amendment that deviates from the scope of the convention.

Reports acknowledge a number of well-established facts about the operation of Article V’s Convention mechanism, including:

The founders of the Constitution included this process as a way for the states to bypass Congress in getting needed amendments passed;

The process is an alternative to federal deadlock;

Congress has a no authority to veto amendments proposed at an Article V Convention; and

The President plays no role in the process.

Opponents of this measure warn of the possibility for a runaway convention that exceeds its initial scope and even endangers components of the Bill of Rights, like the Second Amendment…but it only takes 13 states to block any amendment that would be proposed from the convention and state legislatures could control who represents them.

I, along with many of you are very concerned with what has been happening at the federal level. If you look at what’s been happening over the last fifty years many of us are unhappy with the direction we are headed.  We have burdened our children and grandchildren with a $19 trillion (and growing) national debt crisis that if not addressed will consume our federal budget.  We have regulatory agencies that seem to write rules and regulations without regard to the will of the legislative branch, and a judicial branch and executive branch that continually over reaches their authority. It’s time for the states to take back some of the power they have ceded to the federal government.

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One last note…on Friday, February 26th I will be in Central City at the Venture Center, 1532 17th Avenue, from 7:30 a.m.-8:30 a.m., for a Town Hall meeting sponsored by the Merrick County Farm Bureau and the Central City Area Chamber of Commerce.  It’s an opportunity for you to stop by to voice your concerns about state issues and to hear updates on legislation.

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Sen. Curt Friesen

District 34
Room #1110
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2630
Email: cfriesen@leg.ne.gov
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