ST. GEORGE — A resolution calling for an Article V constitutional convention narrowly passed the Utah Senate Wednesday.
Should the resolution survive the remaining weeks of the Legislature and the governor’s desk, it will add Utah to a list of states that have called for a national convention to amend the United States Constitution. Article V of the constitution allows this action, hence the name.
Officially designated Senate Joint Resolution 9, the measure is sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City. While addressing the Senate Wednesday, Vickers said calling a convention to amend the constitution was an issue of great concern to people who both supported and blasted it.
“You listen to both sides and they think the world is going to end if it passes or doesn’t pass,” Vickers said. “I think it’s a tool we need to use to make change in our country.”
While the resolution supports calling a convention, it does so with support for three issues only: putting fiscal restraints on government spending, limiting federal power and jurisdiction and creating congressional term limits.
Concerns constituents had over the resolution were made manifest in several blue notes that interns had pieced together as a cape and crown Vickers wore on the Senate floor.
Vickers said he wore the “coat of many blue notes” to provide a moment of levity into an otherwise controversial issue for some.
Opponents of the idea of a constitutional convention have said they worry it would do more harm than good.
“I think this is a very dangerous call to call the entire Constitution of the United States into a conference where we could lose more freedom than we gain,” Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City, said before voting against the measure.
In contrast, Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, supported the resolution.
“There’s a lot of people who say this will either save or destroy the republic,” Thatcher said. “What we’re doing now doesn’t work, and maybe calling an Article V convention will help change things.”
Whatever amendments would be passed in such a convention would be require approval by three-quarters of the states, Thatcher said.
The resolution passed the Senate in a 16-12 vote and now heads to the Utah House.
The call to support an Article V convention visited St. George in 2017 when Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan gave a presentation on the matter at the Dixie Center. At the time he was joined by local legislators such as Don Ipson and Lowry Snow.
Vickers said he’s supported the call for a convention for a few years now, and was the Senate sponsor of a 2017 House resolution calling for Utah to join the convention effort.
“Article V is a tool in the constitution that gives us an opportunity to try and drive change,” he said.
If Utah passes the resolution, it will join at least 13 other states in supporting an Article V convention.
As more states pass legislation advocating for an Article V convention, Vickers said he hopes it sends a message to Washington, D.C. that people are serious about change.
As for fears that such a convention could harm the constitution, Vickers echoed Thatcher’s sentiment that any amendments proposed by the convention would have to be ratified by three-quarters of the states.
“There’s a high bar,” he said.
When asked about whether or not anyone had found his donning the “coat of blue notes” to be an inappropriate move, Vickers said no one had and that his colleagues actually thought it was pretty funny.
Groups that have come together to oppose the resolution include The liberal-leaning Alliance for a Better Utah and conservative-leaning Utah Eagle Forum.
Ed. note: This article has been updated with comments from Sen. Evan Vickers.
- Read full text of bill: Utah 2019 Senate Joint Resolution Calling for a Convention to Amend the United States Constitution
- Contact legislators
- Bill sponsor: Sen. Even Vickers | House sponsor: Rep. Merrill Neslon
- Southern Utah Sens. Evan Vickers, Don Ipson, David Hinkins and Ralph Okerlund | Listing of all senators.
- Southern Utah Reps. Travis Seegmiller, Bradley Last, V. Lowry Snow, Walt Brooks, Rex Shipp, Merrill Nelson and Phil Lyman | Listing of all members of the House of Representatives.
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