Leery of the risk

August 3, 2018 GMT

Consider this a decidedly mixed set of opinions on the effort to have Nebraska join the list of states that have called for the convening of a Convention of States.

The state leaders of that effort were in Norfolk recently to share information about the issues, and the process itself.

Article V of the U.S. Constitution contains a provision that would allow the convening of a constitutional convention of 34 states. Any proposed constitutional amendments that would result from such a convention would have to subsequently be ratified by 38 states before they could take effect.

Twelve states already have passed resolutions indicating their desire to participate in a Convention of States. Nebraska hasn’t.

The goal of the current effort is is to mandate federal government representatives to “limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, impose fiscal restraints and place term limits on federal officers.”

With federal spending outpacing revenue and the U.S. deficit hitting $805 billion in April, supporters say they believe that the federal government is so broken that a convention of states is the needed fix.

We’re on board with the need to do something about the national debt that continues to grow. We’ve also expressed concern in the past about the reach of the federal government, although the Trump administration has had success in rolling back numerous government regulations.

And we have previously expressed support for term limits of elected officials, especially at the federal level where the power of incumbency is significant.

But is a Convention of States the way to go about addressing these issues?

The concern is that delegates to such a convention, once in session, theoretically have the ability to set their own agenda and ratify any amendment as long as it gets enough votes. The prospect of that has led more than a few to express fear of a “runaway convention.”

Supporters say that won’t happen, and that the safeguard is that 38 states still need to also ratify any amendments passed by a convention of states. Still, we’re not so sure this is a good idea. Tinkering with the U.S. Constitution is not something that should ever be done lightly.

But we do appreciate the efforts of the convention of states’ supporters in drawing increased attention to these important and pressing political issues. Perhaps that alone will spur elected officials to make a concerted effort to deal with them without having to resort to constitutional amendments.