AUSTIN, Texas (CN) — Texas this week became the 11th state to call for a convention of states to amend the Constitution, when the state House approved a joint resolution to be sent to the president and Congress.
The resolution, which Gov. Greg Abbott tagged as “emergency item” in February, calls for the states to convene to propose constitutional amendments to impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the terms of federal officials, and limit federal legislative overreach.
The state House on Wednesday approved Senate Joint Resolution 2, by state Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, after a short debate.
State Rep. Rick Miller, R-Sugarland, who carried the resolution in the House, said during debate Wednesday that he thinks the “125,000-plus” supporters of a convention of the states in Texas — which has around 15 million eligible voters — “will be really happy” with the resolution.
“We believe that the federal government is out of control,” Miller said. “They’ve made it perfectly obvious that they’re not going to rein themselves in.”
He said the resolution sends a “strong signal” to the federal government that the states are rising up and taking action.
Article V of the U.S. Constitution gives states the power to call a convention of states, if two-thirds of the states call for it. They must agree on the subject matter for the convention, however, so there can be no substantive differences in the individual applications.
Thirty-four states are needed for a convention. Miller said Wednesday that 10 to 12 other states are “ready to fall once Texas leads the way,” and 10 other states have passed similar measures.
Texas’s resolution, however, differs greatly from resolutions from other states, many of which focus on limiting the power of big money in elective politics. Texas’s proposal, in contrast, takes aim at limiting the power of the federal government.
Abbott said after passage that the measure “reinforces Texas’ status as a champion of limited government and individual freedom.”
“Today marks an important step toward restraining a runaway federal government and returning power back to the states and their respective citizens as our founders intended,” Abbott said. “The Texas Legislature has heard and responded to the voices of those they represent.”
State Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, told Miller that he too had concerns about what’s happening in Washington.
“I’m seeing news reports of plans out of the White House and the Congress that would further explode the federal deficit, so I think those concerns need to be addressed,” Turner said.
But he said that for those things to change, state legislators should use their influence to encourage the state’s congressional representatives.
“We need to be talking to them and demanding that they take action on the issues that are important to people in this state and this country,” Turner said. “I think things like [SJR 2] are window dressing for masking the real issues and the dysfunction in Washington, D.C.”
Turner also proposed an unsuccessful amendment to the resolution that would have asked the convention to remove officeholders who have colluded with foreign governments during elections.
“Our country has been rocked these last several months with revelations of foreign governments interfering in our national elections for purposes of electing President Trump to office, and many questions remain about whether or not officials with the Trump administration colluded with Vladimir Putin and the Russian government to aid in his election,” Turner said.
“We have an obligation to make sure that our elections are sacrosanct and protected from outside foreign influences.”
State Rep. Celia Israel, D-Austin, said she knows that many people who feel disenfranchised would be interested in revising the Constitution.
“I would be remiss, as a member of the LGBT community, if I didn’t also point out that there would be a lot of us who would be very interested in fully defining equality, in being fully accepted by this country’s constitution,” Israel said.
She asked Miller if he agreed that could improve the Constitution.
He responded: “I don’t think that’s a possible amendment that could be made at a convention of the states and I don’t need to address that today.”
Since the state Senate already approved the measure after a lengthy debate in March, and it does not require the signature of the governor, it will be filed directly with the Texas secretary of state.