Under the Dome

NC House panel debates call for ‘Convention of the States’

A House committee spent an hour Wednesday debating whether North Carolina should call for a constitutional convention.

The House Judiciary I committee is reviewing two bills on the subject. One would rescind five existing calls for a convention made by the legislature between 1867 and 1979. The second would issue a new call for a “Convention of the States” to discuss constitutional amendments to limit the power of the federal government.

To create a constitutional convention, 34 states must submit requests, and 38 states must back any proposed constitutional amendment.

“I think there is a wide agreement among Americans that we need to place some constraints on the federal government,” said Rep. Bert Jones, the Reidsville Republican who sponsored House Bill 321. “Are we going to depend on Congress to say it’s time to limit ourselves?”

Jones’ bill would call for a convention to review constitutional amendments involving term limits for Congress, fiscal restraints and limits on “the power and jurisdiction of the federal government.”

“This is a constitutional remedy for the problems we currently face,” said Rep. Dennis Riddell, an Alamance County Republican and a co-sponsor of the bill. “I look at this as an intervention of the states, just as if you have a drug-addled family member.”

But Rep. Jonathan Jordan, a Jefferson Republican, says a constitutional convention could go too far. “It could do anything it wants, it could completely uproot our entire form of government,” he said.

Jordan sponsored House Joint Resolution 132, which drops earlier calls for a convention. “There’s a lot of housekeeping to be done, and that’s what this resolution does,” he said.

Jones said Jordan’s fears are unfounded. “To get 38 states to agree on something, it’s going to have to be something with broad, broad support,” he said.

The committee postponed a vote on both bills until its next meeting.