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Long tackles constitutional convention

Fort Wayne Senate President Pro Tem David Long is moving forward with a package of legislation to exert states' constitutional rights and place a check on federal government overreach.

Several measures passed the Senate Committee on Rules and Legislative earlier this week and will be acted on by the full Senate next week.

Long's legislative initiative includes Senate Joint Resolution 18, exercising Indiana's ability under Article V of the U.S. Constitution to call for a "convention for proposing amendments" to the Constitution. SJR 18 calls for an Article V amendment convention specifically confined to the topics of limiting Congress' power to tax and regulate commerce.

Though the constitution allows for the maneuver, it has never happened. And two-thirds of all state legislatures would have to sign on to make it happen.

Any amendments approved by the convention would then require ratification by three-fourths of the states (38 states) to be added to the Constitution.

"The Framers of the U.S. Constitution provided a tool for states to use in the event the federal government failed to stay within the scope of its enumerated powers," Long said. "That tool is an amendment convention called for and led by the states.

"I believe we are at a time in the life of our nation that requires states to exercise this constitutional tool. The rampant growth of the federal government is encroaching not only on states' rights, but on the rights and freedoms of individual citizens across the country."

The committee also passed two companion bills authored by Long – Senate Bill 224 and Senate Bill 225 – that outline the process for selecting Indiana's delegates to an Article V amendments convention and to limit the duties and authority such delegates would have at the convention.

The move comes after Long has been the subject of pressure from state and national conservatives for blocking several bills from his caucus challenging the federal government. One unilaterally would have deemed the federal health care act unconstitutional -- a move Long said was questionable since the U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled on the matter.

Long's legislation is crafted to address the concerns of some who claim an Article V amendment convention could turn into a so-called "runaway convention."

"By limiting the subject matter allowed to be considered and reserving the right recall a delegate who attempts to act outside of that subject matter, states can pre-empt the threat of a runaway convention," he said. "I look forward to working with legislative leaders across the country to create this initiative. I believe it is timely, necessary and carefully worded to bring federal and state power back into proper balance."

To contact Niki Kelly please email her at nkelly@jg.net or follow her on Twitter @nkellyatJG.