LINCOLN — Efforts to call for a Convention of States to rein in the federal government fell two votes short in the Nebraska Legislature on Friday.
State Sen. Steve Halloran of Hastings failed to win the 25 votes needed to pull his Legislative Resolution 14 out of the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee for debate by the full Legislature. The eight-member committee is deadlocked on the measure.
The resolution would add Nebraska to a list of 15 states already calling for a convention of states as described in Article 5 of the U.S. Constitution.
Article 5 provides for such conventions as one way to propose amendments. The article requires that at least two-thirds of the states, or 34, apply to Congress for such a convention to be called.
The other method, and the only one to be used so far, is for Congress to put forth proposed amendments. Whichever way they are proposed, amendments must be ratified by 38 states to take effect.
The Nebraska resolution, like those from the other 15 states, seeks a convention limited to proposing amendments that “impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and limit the terms of office for its officials and for members of Congress.”
Halloran argued that there is overwhelming support from Nebraskans for such a convention as a way to bring about change at the federal level. He and other supporters pointed to concerns about the size of the federal debt, the number of federal regulations and the lengthy careers of federal elected officials.
“Adoption of this (legislative resolution) sends a message that we’re serious about these issues,” said Sen. Tom Briese of Albion, who added that he believes the federal debt poses one of the biggest threats to democracy.
But opponents, including Sen. Adam Morfeld of Lincoln, raised concerns about whether such a convention could be controlled. Morfeld pointed to the convention called to propose changes to the country’s original Articles of Confederation, saying that group ended up proposing a whole new constitution.
“There are no guardrails, and there are no guidelines for this,” he said, noting that the people contacting his office have been overwhelmingly against the proposed convention.
Sen. Megan Hunt of Omaha argued that a Convention of States would become a target for special interests seeking to gain advantage. She also questioned how well a convention would work in the current politically polarized environment.