State Politics

Llama, Jim DeMint lobby NC House to call for a constitutional convention

The Convention of States Project brought a llama to the legislative complex on Tuesday to lobby for a constitutional convention.
The Convention of States Project brought a llama to the legislative complex on Tuesday to lobby for a constitutional convention. ccampbell@newsobserver.com

Former U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint and a llama visited the legislature Tuesday to push for a convention of the states to propose constitutional amendments.

DeMint, a Republican from South Carolina, is among the best-known supporters of the Convention of States Project, which wants the N.C. House to vote on the issue before this year’s session ends. Supporters also brought along a llama wearing a hat and a red, white and blue bow, which posed for pictures outside the Legislative Building and attracted attention to the cause.

In April, the Senate passed a resolution calling for a convention of the states in a 29-20 vote, but the House hasn’t taken any action.

There hasn’t been a constitutional convention since the first one in 1787. If two-thirds of the states call for a convention, Congress has to call the meeting. Proposed amendments would have to be ratified by 38 states before they become part of the Constitution.

DeMint said North Carolina should become the 13th state to pass a resolution.

“What we're looking for is a way to restrain the federal government,” DeMint said. “There is no way to stop Washington except the way the founders gave us.”

Term limits and a requirement for a balanced budget are among the goals of constitutional convention supporters. DeMint said he’s hopeful enough states will pass similar resolutions by next year to create a “tipping point.”

“Very few congressmen and senators are even relevant to the process,” DeMint said. “State legislators can push back in a way that can change the country.”

Republican Reps. Bert Jones of Reidsville and Dennis Riddell of Alamance County are sponsoring the effort in the House. Jones said he plans to bring DeMint to a House GOP caucus meeting while the senator is in Raleigh.

“We are very much hoping that we can have a vote and pass this resolution before we leave here to make North Carolina the 13th state,” Jones said. “We might have to make the call to pull the trigger on a vote here in the next few days, and the vote might be very close.”

Later Tuesday, a House committee scheduled a hearing on the convention of states bill for Wednesday morning.

In the Senate, Democrats opposed the effort. Sen. Floyd McKissick of Durham said in April that he worries a convention with “everything up for grabs” could put people’s rights in jeopardy.

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