Texas Republicans push for convention of states on Constitution


Gov. Greg Abbott has called for a convention to limit federal power.

Thirty-four states must call for such a convention for one to take place.

Texas would call for a convention of states to propose constitutional amendments limiting the federal government’s power if resolutions proposed Tuesday by Republican state lawmakers are adopted in the next legislative session.

To mark the occasion, Gov. Greg Abbott led a pep rally-like event at the Capitol on Tuesday with activists with the tea party-aligned group Citizens for Self-Governance, who then fanned out to visit lawmakers’ offices and make their pitch for a convention.

A convention initiated by the states hasn’t occurred since the Constitution was adopted. Thirty-four states must call for a convention for one to take place.

“The Constitution is broken,” said Abbott, who published a book in April that is part autobiography and part manifesto for those who support such a convention. “After November, there are now 33 Republican governors in the United States of America. We can get this done.”

If the Legislature adopts the resolution introduced Tuesday by state Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, and state Rep. Rick Miller, R-Sugar Land, Texas would be the ninth to do so in the terms proposed by Citizens for Self-Governance, which is calling for the convention for amendments related to three issues: establishing congressional term limits, imposing fiscal restraints and limiting federal jurisdiction.

RELATED: In ‘Broken But Unbowed,’ Gov. Greg Abbott melds personal and political

Through a separate campaign dating back to the 1980s, 28 states, including Texas, have passed resolutions calling for a convention focused specifically on passing a constitutional amendment requiring Congress to adopt a balanced budget.

Disputes over the process for holding a convention have never been tested in court, so many details are uncertain, including whether states’ resolutions can expire, whether the resolutions can actually limit a convention to addressing specific issues and whether resolutions adopted for different reasons can be combined to reach the 34-state minimum.

Abbott unveiled his plan for nine constitutional amendments in a January speech. They include allowing the balanced-budget proposal and others like establishing paths for overturning federal regulations and U.S. Supreme Court decisions and to prohibit the federal government from regulating activity within a single state. Congressional term limits wasn’t among his proposals.

Despite red-state resistance to the policies of the Obama administration, Abbott’s plan hasn’t taken off. And with a Republican president taking office and with both chambers of Congress in GOP hands, conservatives’ enthusiasm for amendments that tie the hands of the federal government might wane further.

Critics have questioned whether a “runaway convention” could push amendments unwanted by conservatives who initiated the meeting, such as eliminating the Second Amendment or regulating campaign finance. Others have questioned why Republicans would attempt to dramatically alter the Constitution after eight years of saying President Barack Obama has ignored it.

GET THE DAY’S LATEST NEWS: Click here to sign up for our Afternoon Updates email

While it appears unlikely a convention will meet anytime soon, Abbott’s push for Texas to call for one is looking more promising.

In 2015, a resolution passed the Texas House but not the Senate. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who leads the Senate, has included the measure, Senate Bill 21, among his top 30 goals for the next session. “I have pledged my support to push this priority forward,” Patrick said in a statement Tuesday.

Article V of the Constitution lays out two ways to propose amendments: Congress can do so with two-thirds votes in both houses; or two-thirds of the states can call for a convention to propose amendments. In both cases, three-quarters of the state legislatures must vote to ratify the proposed amendments.

All amendments since the adoption of the Constitution, however, have originated in Congress. To go the other route, a minimum of 34 states would have to call for the convention, appoint delegates and agree on proposed amendments. Then, 38 state legislatures would have to vote to ratify the proposals.

The American Legislative Exchange Council — a corporate-funded nonprofit that convenes conservative state officials across the country to coordinate policy agendas — has for years pushed for a convention on the balanced-budget amendment and more recently endorsed a broader convention like the one proposed by Citizens for Self-Governance. Democrats have criticized the council for being a conduit for Republicans to receive marching orders directly from corporate donors.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Texas News & Politics

UPDATE: 2 in custody after reports of ‘suspect with gun’ near U.S. 183 in Liberty Hilll, officials say 
UPDATE: 2 in custody after reports of ‘suspect with gun’ near U.S. 183 in Liberty Hilll, officials say 

10 p.m. update: Two people have been taken into custody after authorities responded to reports of a suspect with a gun on U.S. 183 near Liberty Hill, Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody tweeted Friday night. The sheriff’s office has not issued an all-clear yet, Chody said. “We are being cautious,” he said. U.S. 183 was shut down...
Former employee made threats at St. David’s North Austin Medical Center, officials say

A former employee made threats at St. David’s North Austin Medical Center on his last day working at the hospital, hospital officials confirmed Friday.  “We take matters like this very seriously, and we immediately notified local law enforcement,” said hospital CEO Tom Jackson in a statement Friday. “Working with law enforcement...
Police: Driver at Dell campus hit car, stole it after victim fled
Police: Driver at Dell campus hit car, stole it after victim fled

A man is accused of hitting another driver in a parking lot at the Dell campus in Round Rock and then stealing the driver’s vehicle, according to an arrest affidavit. Luis Nunez-Alonso, 38, of Austin, was charged with robbery, a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in jail. The incident happened on June 27, 2017, but Nunez-Alonso...
Group gathers at bombing victim’s school to ‘Push for Peace’
Group gathers at bombing victim’s school to ‘Push for Peace’

9:30 p.m. update: There was a time to weep and a time to dance at an event Friday evening to honor those killed and injured in three mail bomb explosions in Austin this month. Hundreds of people gathered at East Austin College Prep, the school where 17-year-old Draylen Mason studied. Mason was one of two people killed in the explosions. Some portions...
Three men sought in New Orleans sexual assault case may be in Austin area, police say
Three men sought in New Orleans sexual assault case may be in Austin area, police say

Three men suspected of sexually assaulting a woman in New Orleans may be in the Austin area, police said Friday. New Orleans police said the men — James Palmer, David Campbell and Niall Carr  — live in Texas. A woman told New Orleans police she was sexually assaulted on Nov. 25, 2017, in New Orleans after she met a man on Bourbon...
More Stories