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Supporters tout resolution calling for constitutional convention of states

SALT LAKE CITY — Supporters of a constitutional convention of the states are urging Utahns to contact their state senators and ask them to vote in favor of HJR3.

Former U.S. Sen. Thomas Coburn, R-Okla., joined local lawmakers Friday at a rally in support of legislation to invoke Article V of the Constitution and call the states to convene and amend the Constitution to address federal overreach.

"As a physician, I don’t treat symptoms. I treat disease," Coburn said. "And the disease is we no longer have a limited federal government."

Rep. Merrill Nelson, R-Grantsville, the sponsor of HJR3, said he believes the states could perform many of the federal government's functions without help, specifically calling for no federal involvement in education.

Sen. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, the bill's sponsor in the Senate, lamented his own frustrations at seeing federal delegates promise and aspire to reform government, only to return home to their constituents with nothing to show for it.

"Bureaucracy kills the opportunity to do anything," Vickers said.

He suggested that attempts at reform could only effectively be done by the will of the assembled states.

Nelson said he would hope to see any number of proposed amendments at the convention, including congressional term limits and reforms to the president's power to use executive orders.

The president, he said, is not a king and has no authority to issue law.

"That power belongs to the people, and we have delegated it to Congress," Nelson said.

Last week, the measure passed through the House following spirited debate with a 45-29 vote.

"If you agree as I do … that the federal government is too big, too intrusive and too expensive, and you believe and trust in the Constitution … (and) in the founders, in the remedy they gave us to protect their work and our liberties, then the proper remedy is a vote of yes," Nelson said prior to the vote.

House Democrats strongly opposed the resolution.

"It would be a convention of the rich and powerful," Rep. Sandra Hollins, D-Salt Lake City, said during debate on the House floor.

Hollins, who is African-American, expressed concern that the original language of the Constitution was not written with all Americans in mind.

Rep. Edward Redd, R-Logan, was among the 15 Republicans who joined their Democratic colleagues in voting against the resolution in the House.

"The Constitution is not broken," Redd said. "The problem is we’ve elected people to Congress as a nation over the last hundred years, or how long it's been going on, that are not following the Constitution."

HJR3 currently is awaiting a hearing in the Senate Government Operations and Political Subdivisions Committee. The committee will decide whether it is sent to the full Senate for consideration.

If the resolution passes, 34 other states would have to join the effort to justify a constitutional convention. From there, resulting amendment proposals would need the approval of 38 states.