BOISE — State legislation designed to prepare Idaho for a states’ constitutional convention to look at revising the U.S. Constitution gained support Monday from Idaho Senate President Pro Tempore Brent Hill, R-Rexburg.
Three of eight present members of the Legislature’s Senate State Affairs Committee expressed opposition and voted against Senate Bill 1350 before the legislation was promoted on a voice vote to the Senate floor, with a “do pass-recommendation.”
SB1350, if it becomes law, would set up a process for the Idaho Legislature to select seven delegates to send to a potential constitutional convention of U.S. states.
With the disclaimer that “this is not a call for a constitutional convention,” Hill said there was nothing in committee testimony Monday that would have influenced him to vote against SB1350.
“I heard very little, if anything, to really tell me how it does harm,” said Hill, who voted in favor of the measure. “At this point, I don’t think it (SB1350) does harm. And it might help.”
Citing remarks he said were made by late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, offered up a vastly different view of the effort to officially ready Idaho to participate in a possible constitutional convention.
“(Scalia) said, after indicating that it was ‘a horrible idea,’ his words, not mine, he added: ‘This is not a good century to write a (U.S.) Constitution,’” Davis said, footnoting an excerpt of a Scalia speech to the Federalist Society. “Kind of my feelings.”
SB1350 would allow the Legislature to appoint seven delegates to attend a limited Article V constitutional convention in the event that one is called. That convention could occur with the approval of the U.S. Congress after applications by 34 states.
Idaho hasn’t submitted an application to participate in a constitutional convention.
Utah resident Don Fotheringham opposed SB1350 in Monday morning testimony before the Senate State Affairs Committee.
“What you’re trying to do here today is become greater than the (constitutional) convention of 1787,” Fotheringham told state legislators. “You’re trying to become greater than the government, making power of the people. And you do not have government-making power. I know, I’ve got the Idaho Constitution right here: It says you don’t. You only have statutory, or lawmaking power.”
Fotheringham said there are attempts by “paid lobbyists” to try to change the U.S. Constitution.
“And they’re very well paid,” Fotheringham said.
But others testifying Monday blasted the federal government for running up a multi-trillion dollar national debt and said the national entity needs to be reined in through a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Idaho Falls resident Brian Gross said safeguards exist that make it difficult for states to change the U.S. Constitution.
“How many more controls are necessary before this legislative body will wield its constitutional authority to rein in the out-of-control federal government?” Gross said.
But Fotheringham conjured up 18th century framers of the U.S. Constitution and asserted that the idea embodied in SB1350 is laughable.
“George Washington and (James) Madison and (Alexander) Hamilton and (Benjamin) Franklin would laugh at you,” Fotheringham told state lawmakers. “What are you trying to do? We the people created this country.”