Our Opinion: A potentially dangerous convention
Monday, February 21, 2011
A proposal by a state lawmaker to call a constitutional convention allowing states to repeal federal laws has drawn mixed reactions – including from us.
State Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, has advanced a resolution urging Congress to call a constitutional convention. The aim of the convention would be to draft a constitutional amendment permitting states to repeal federal laws.
We share Barnes’ concern that our federal government increasingly has deviated from its own concept of federalism.
Federalism is defined in the U.S. Constitution’s 10th Amendment, which reads: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
The practical effect of the amendment is it empowers states to act essentially as policy-setting laboratories. Policies that prove effective and efficient then can be copied by other states or even the federal government – but only if authorized by their respective constitutions.
Barnes’ proposal received a cool reception not only among Democrats, but also among conservative Republicans, who fear wide-ranging ramifications from a constitutional convention.
Eagle Forum, founded by conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly, opposes all efforts to call a constitutional convention, citing concerns such a gathering “could rewrite our U.S. Constitution.”
Barnes contends the wording of his resolution would limit the purpose of a constitutional convention, but others remain unconvinced. Schlafly characterizes a constitutional convention as “a plunge into the unknown.”
The uncertainly caused lawmakers to postpone any vote on Barnes’ resolution while they study potential ramifications.
We concur with the delay.
We have serious reservations about a constitutional convention and would need to be assured — beyond any doubt — the convention would not prompt wholesale revisions of our Constitution.
Rather than seeking a constitutional convention, we would prefer states resolve to urge their representatives in Congress to stop unauthorized interference with state governments and adhere to the concept of federalism.