Debate goes back and forth on resolution calling for convention of states

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — In a public hearing on the House chamber floor, numerous West Virginia citizens voiced support and concern for a resolution sitting in the House urging Congress to call a convention to propose a Constitutional amendment on congressional term limits.

The state Senate passed the resolution, S.C.R. 4, 20 to 10 with four absences in the first two weeks of the 2020 regular legislative session.

Ted Boettner, the Executive Director of West Virginia Center on Budget & Policy said during the hearing in front of the Committee on the Judiciary a convention is a threat to the Constitution.

Tim Boettner

He said that a convention could be confined to one issue.

“Since there is no clear procedure to limit the process, scope or outcome of a Constitutional Convention,” Boettner said.

“It could write its own rules, set its own agenda, and it could choose a new ratification process. That’s because no other body, including the courts, have clear authority over a convention.”

Those in favor of the resolution, including West Virginia State Director for US Term Limit Aaron Dukette, say the resolution is narrowly focused on the term limits issue.

The text of the resolution passed in the state Senate on January 22 states “to set a limit on the number of terms that a person may be elected as a member of the United States House of Representatives or as a member of the United States Senate.”

“Those who oppose term limits, I don’t have much to offer (Wednesday),” Dukette said at the hearing.

“81 percent of West Virginians polled in a McLaughlin Poll in 2018 said that they want this resolution passed to achieve the end of term limits on Congress.”

West Virginia citizen Betty Rivard spoke against the resolution, saying special interests have poured in money to make this happen.

“There are no quick fixes to changing our United States Constitution,” she said. “It deserves the careful and deliberate and time tested congressional process that protects the essence of our democracy.”

Boettner also expressed patience to those who want change with term limits.

“While many West Virginians may be angry and frustrated today, we should be careful that our anger and frustration may cause us to take steps that permanently change the country and diminish its promise,” he said.

To have such a convention, which has never happened despite being defined by Article V of the U.S. Constitution, must have two-thirds of all states pass similar resolutions.

The Mountain State would become the 16th state to do so if the House approves the resolution.

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