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Mississippi Senate OKs bid for constitutional convention

March 21, 2019

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The Mississippi Senate on Thursday approved a plan to join other states in asking for a national convention to propose amendments to the U.S Constitution, with supporters saying it’s the best hope for limiting federal power, spending and debt.

The Senate voted 32-17 to adopt a resolution calling for a convention of the states to take up amendments imposing fiscal restraints on the federal government and limiting the federal government’s powers.

“The convention’s plan is to rein in federal power,” said Bruce Cook, a Jackson County resident who is deputy state director for Convention of States action. “That’s the whole point, is to return power to the states.”

Unlike some other states, Mississippi’s legislation instructs delegates to any potential convention to vote against proposals for term limits.

The proposal heads to the House, which approved a similar measure last year on a 76-42 vote. It had never come up in the Senate before Thursday.

For the past 229 years, constitutional amendments have originated in Congress, where they need the support of two-thirds of both houses, and then the approval of at least three-quarters of the states.

But under a never-used second prong of Article V, amendments can originate in the states. Two-thirds of states — currently, 34 — must call for a convention. Then three-fourths of states, or 38, must approve any amendments.

The Convention of States group says Mississippi could become the 15th state to adopt its call, after Arkansas and Utah acted earlier this year.

The effort in Mississippi is backed by tea party groups, with some supporters saying they’ve given up on regular electoral politics as a way to cut spending, deficits and debt.

“The republic cannot hold together in the face of unprecedented debt,” said Sen. Chris McDaniel, an Ellisville Republican. “It will destroy us.”

While supporters say instructions will prevent the possibility of a “runaway convention” that could make unwanted changes, opponents disagree.

“We don’t know what might happen if we get into a convention of states,” said state Sen. John Horhn, a Jackson Democrat.

Lynn Evans of Common Cause Mississippi calls the move “an effort to weaken and damage the Constitution of the United States.”

Opponents also warn that reduced spending could particularly damage Mississippi, where federal subsidies made up 43 percent of the state budget in the 2016 budget year, the highest in the nation according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. An earlier study showed overall federal spending in Mississippi made up as much as one-third of the state’s overall economy.

In 2015, Mississippi lawmakers debated a call for a constitutional convention under a different scheme, which sought to limit the conclave to a single vote on a balanced budget proposal, and to provide for automatic approval of the pre-agreed amendment by the states that adopt the compact.

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Emily Wagster Pettus contributed.

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Follow Jeff Amy at: http://twitter.com/jeffamy .

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