MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Republican-controlled Wisconsin Assembly approved a resolution Tuesday to call a convention of the states to consider making changes to the U.S. Constitution, despite arguments against from Democrats who called such a move dangerous.
Wisconsin would become the 16th state to pass such a resolution should the state Senate also pass it. Because it is a resolution, and not a state law, it does not require the signature of Democratic Gov. Tony Evers to be enacted.
It is not clear whether or when the Senate would vote on the measure.
Congress must receive requests from 34 states to convene a convention of the states. Congress can also refer amendments to the states by a two-thirds vote of each chamber. Both methods require at least 38 states to ratify an amendment before it can take effect.
The convention process has never been used to amend the Constitution.
The Assembly passed it 60-38. Two Republicans, Amy Loudenbeck and David Murphy, joined with all Democrats in voting against it.
Democrats and other opponents argue that calling a constitutional convention could get out of control, leading to far-ranging revisions that could drastically reshape the nation's founding document.
“What this does is gut the federal Constitution,” said Democratic Rep. Chris Taylor, of Madison. “You're not going to control what delegates do here. ... Everything is up for grabs.”
The measure builds upon a similar resolution the Republican-controlled Wisconsin Legislature passed in 2017 that allowed for calling a convention to consider a balanced budget amendment. The latest one is more expansive.
The proposal passed Tuesday allows for the convention to consider three things: imposing fiscal restraints on the federal government; limiting the federal government’s powers and jurisdiction; and imposing term limits for members of Congress and other federal officials.
There are no term limits on state lawmakers who were voting on calling a convention to consider amending the U.S. Constitution to impose term limits on federal offices. Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said he had no problem discussing the idea, but he opposes term limits on both state and federal lawmakers.
Other Republicans said they supported term limits, in addition to forcing new budget restraints on the federal government.
Republican Rep. Barbara Dittrich said she’s heard from voters who support amending the Constitution to put term limits in place.
“I know this is not popular with friends on both sides of the aisle, so I will be getting the equal opportunity disagreement on the fact that we need term limits,” she said. “Just like laundry, we get stinky when we sit around too long in our jobs.”
Thirty states have passed resolutions calling for a constitutional convention to pass a balanced budget amendment. Fifteen states have passed the more expansive one being considered currently in the Wisconsin Legislature.
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