Rep. Priscilla Giddings: Should Idaho Support a Constitutional Convention?

Rep. Priscilla Giddings: Should Idaho Support a Constitutional Convention?


Idaho’s 64th legislative session is just weeks away from convening, and on the eve of a highly contested 2018 election, there are several polarizing issues waiting in the wings of the capitol. One of those issues is whether Idahoans support a Constitutional Convention for the purpose of amending our U.S. Constitution. As an elected official representing District 7, it is my goal to support issues that the people of District 7 favor.

Article V of the U.S. Constitution gives states the ability to propose and ratify amendments to the Constitution. The legislatures of 34 states would have to formally agree to convene a convention of delegates from states; those in attendance would propose amendments. It would then take 38 state legislatures to ratify the proposed amendments.

Convening a convention for the states to submit amendments that call for a balanced budget and term limits appears to be one of the only ways for the grassroots movement at the state level to force the federal government to stop overspending and reduce the number of career politicians. So why haven’t the states formed a constitutional convention yet?

The process of convening a convention is bipartisan, but there are strong conservatives and liberals on both sides of the argument. Thus an actual convention hasn’t been called in more than 228 years. Yet the idea to convene one has been lingering throughout the states for decades – Arkansas requested one in 1963. In 1983, 32 states signed up to support a Balanced Budget Amendment, but they failed to get the last 2 states. Some people fear that the process for a convention is so vague that heavily funded special interest groups could find a way to hijack a convention and force a change in its agenda, which could place the entire constitution in jeopardy.

In Idaho, a Republican central committee submitted a proposal last year for Idaho to join the 28 other states in support of a convention. At the state level, the Republican Party defeated the resolution unanimously. Then a state senator submitted a piece of legislation to support a convention without the support of the Republican Party – it failed 24 to 11 in the Senate. That prompted a representative to propose a similar resolution in the house, where it failed in the State Affairs Committee that I’m a member of by a narrow margin. I saw the legislative process work; I thought Idaho voices had been clearly heard.

Then in September, after repeated failures of getting the proposal through the House or Senate, the Idaho Speaker of the House and the President Pro Temp of the Senate unilaterally decided to spend tens of thousands of dollars of Idaho taxpayer money to send ten handpicked Idaho legislators to a practice constitutional convention in Arizona. Does that suggest that the Idaho elite want Idahoans to support the convention at any cost?

I have received many pre-formatted emails from citizens of District 7 saying they support the convention. Yet, when I have called some of those whose names were written on the emails, I found that they actually did not send the email; the emails were a high-tech fraud.

Based on the number of phone calls and emails that I have received on this issue, I am certain that there is another resolution waiting in the wings in January when the legislature convenes. My question is, do the voters of District 7 truly want me to vote for or against a constitutional convention? Please email me at pgiddings@house.idaho.gov – I really do want to know if this is the will of the people, or another attempt of the elite to force an idea on uninterested Idahoans.

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