There is now a repeat drumbeat for a U.S. constitutional convention, supposedly to correct things the sponsors believe can be improved with a few amendments, including term limits for congressmen and a balanced budget amendment. Each of these items could be added to our Constitution with a single, free-standing, one-item amendment. But the sponsors want a “convention.”
The Idaho Legislature was faced with the same issues in 1998 and 1999. Idaho was a pivotal state at that time, with only a couple of more states needed for a convention to be called. Idaho Sen. Larry Craig was pushing for a convention because he had not been able to get his single-issue balanced budget amendment passed.
Many others, including me, were afraid that a convention, once called, could not be limited to one subject, could be a “runaway,” and the entire Constitution would be rewritten by the special interests.
The Idaho State Affairs Committee, in the first session of 1999, decided to hold a hearing. Many people wanted to testify on both sides of the issue, but the committee decided to limit the testimony to two people for holding a convention, and two people against holding a convention. The committee listened to lengthy arguments from both sides, and voted to adopt Idaho Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 129, which stated “the Legislature does hereby repeal, rescind, cancel, nullify, and supersede to the same effect as if they had never been passed, any and all extant applications by the Legislature of the State of Idaho to the Congress of the United States to call a convention to propose amendments to the Constitution of the United States of America ... .’
The reason for this wording was that a search of old records revealed eight identifiable calls or memorials for a convention going back to 1907, and the Legislature was afraid there were others they could not readily find.
The resolution did furthermore ask Congress to propose an amendment balancing federal outlays and receipts, absent a national emergency, and to send it to the states for ratification.
With the passage of Resolution 129, Idaho would not join the other states calling for a convention, and the national movement collapsed.
I was one of the two persons allowed to testify before the committee against Idaho calling for a convention. A copy of my testimony is in the back of a framed copy of Resolution 129 hanging on my wall. I have not looked at my testimony for these 18 years. I am old. I must pass the banner for protecting the U.S. Constitution to younger other persons. Please pick up the banner.
Fritz R. Dixon, M.D., lives in Meridian.