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Supporters revive call for states’ convention

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Advocates of a move to bypass Congress and advance U.S. constitutional amendments to state legislatures for ratification are renewing their effort to add North Carolina to the list of states making a convention call.

Competing resolutions in the N.C. House seek to authorize an Article V convention of the states and rescind and invalidate previous endorsements. Supporters are bringing political commentator and former congressman Allen West to a rally planned Wednesday at the state legislative complex.

Convention of States Action, an advocacy group supporting the convention call, has planned its Capitol Day for 10:30 a.m. outside the Legislative Office Building, 300 N. Salisbury St. on Halifax Mall.

All 27 current constitutional amendments have been ratified following congressional approval, but the Constitution’s Article V allows states to propose amendments on their own. The advocacy group Convention of States Action says exercising that option is necessary to pass amendments that limit federal power because Congress won’t act to rein itself in. Backers say a balanced-budget amendment, term limits for congressmen and senators and state-level checks on federal authority would be proposed.

Article V authorizes a states’ convention upon application from two-thirds of the states, or 34. Delegates would propose amendments that must then be ratified by at least three-fourths of the states, or 38.

On March 27, Mississippi became the 15th state with an active convention call. The state House there voted 69-46 to adopt a resolution authorizing Mississippi’s participation in a states’ convention.

North Carolina lawmakers last considered joining the movement in summer 2017. The N.C. Senate passed a convention of states resolution, but the House didn’t bring the matter to a floor vote before the last biennial legislative session expired. Rep. Dennis Riddell, R-Alamance, has revived the effort with House Joint Resolution 390, filed March 19 and referred to the rules committee. Co-sponsors include Rep. Larry Strickland, R-Johnston.

An opposing piece of legislation, House Joint Resolution 160, filed Feb. 25 and assigned to the same committee, seeks to rescind any North Carolina calls for a convention. Rep. Jeffrey Elmore, R-Wilkes, filed that resolution with co-sponsors including Rep. Jean Farmer-Butterfield, D-Wilson.

Some constitutional scholars say delegates to a states’ convention would not be bound by resolutions that limit the range of issues under consideration, creating the potential for a “runaway convention.” Joint Resolution 160 echoes that sentiment, concluding that “there is no need for, rather there is great danger in, a new constitution or in opening the Constitution to sweeping changes, the adoption of which would only create legal chaos in this nation.”

Jim DeMint, a former U.S. senator from South Carolina and Convention of States Action backer who lobbied Tar Heel lawmakers in June 2017, says that fear is overblown.

“The chance of a runaway convention that produces amendments that 38 states ratify — really, there is no chance,” DeMint previously said.

West, the keynote speaker at Wednesday’s rally, is a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel who was elected in 2010 as Florida’s first African-American Republican congressman since 1876. He is the author of two books and a speaker and writer who appears as a contributor on Fox News.

“Thank goodness the founders had the wisdom to provide us with Article V of the Constitution, which gives us the right and power to hold an amending convention for the purpose of proposing amendments to restrain the scope and power of the federal government,” West said in a statement.

Tom Coburn, a former congressman from Oklahoma, and Mark Meckler, president of Convention of States Action, will also speak during the event. Advocates for a convention call plan to meet with lawmakers after the rally and lobby them for support.

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