What is a constitutional convention and why do Idaho's lawmakers want one so badly?

Posted at 4:45 PM, Feb 05, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-05 19:14:03-05

A bill calling Idaho to a constitutional convention is back inside the Statehouse this year. The House State Affairs Committee will hold a full legislative hearing on the billTuesday morning. 

Last year, a similar bill was shot down on the Senate floor, but legislators have brought it back, which some say would address the federal government's abuse of power. 

Article Five of the U.S. Constitution describes how the Constitution may be altered: either by the approval of amendments introduced by Congress or by a convention of the states called for by two-thirds of state legislatures

The constitutional convention, or "con con", bill would distinguish Idaho as one of the states ready to send delegates to a constitutional convention. The goal of such convention would be to put forth amendments creating checks on the powers of federal government and federal spending and to set term limits for members of Congress. 

"Their belief is that such amendments will never come out of Congress because Congress doesn't want their terms limited; they want to keep spending and they want to keep their power," Jasper LiCalzi, College of Idaho Chair of the Department of Political Economy, said. 

LiCalzi said these bills have been popular in the Idaho Legislature as they appeal to some constituents who want their legislators to have a role in curbing national debt or federal power. 

The issue is polarizing as some worry opening up the Constitution could lead to too many changes to the country's supreme law. 

"People who believe that use the example of the original Constitution, which was only supposed to come up with amendments to the Articles of Confederation, but, instead, came up with a whole new government," LiCalzi said. 

What does this mean for Idahoans? Well, not much, yet. 

"If this would go through and everything would get done, you'd have term limits so that members of congress couldn't serve as long as they want," LiCalzi said. "Idahoans, you have term limits this November. If you don't like them serving this long, vote against them."

The House State Affairs Committee will begin testimony on House Concurrent Resolution 32 at 8:00 a.m., Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018.