Constitutional convention cause continues

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Convention of States picnic

The public is invited to a Convention of States potluck picnic on Sept. 29 from noon to 4 p.m. at Coeur d'Alene's Bluegrass Park, 6036 N. Courcelles Parkway. RSVP: gene.fields@cosaction.com

By BRIAN WALKER

Staff Writer

COEUR d'ALENE — Reducing "federal overreach" may be a popular political battle cry, but approving an effort aimed at getting there has remained elusive even in GOP-controlled Idaho.

Despite its conservative Legislature, Idaho isn't among the 12 states that have passed a resolution calling for a Convention of States in the first five years of the national grassroots movement.

A Convention of States is a gathering called by state legislatures to propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

Those in favor of the resolution believe states must assume their constitutionally-granted role to manage the federal government through an amendment process.

Article V of the Constitution allows such power.

For a Convention of States to become reality, however, 34 states must pass a resolution calling for it.

"We are extremely positive that this will happen," said Paul Hodson, a regional director for the movement. "It's not a matter of if people will have enough (of federal overreach), but when."

A proposed resolution didn't get out of the Idaho's House State Affairs Committee in February — it failed 10-5 — but one will be proposed again in the upcoming session, Hodson said.

"Legislators are aware of it, and we anticipate it will move through this year," he said. "There were six hours of testimony, so it's getting more visibility."

Those who oppose the resolution are concerned about a "runaway" convention — one that would produce amendments to erode rights or overhaul government.

Others who oppose the effort believe the Constitution is already an outstanding document that doesn't allow for much of the federal spending that is taking place.

However, supporters say Article V is not a means to replace or rewrite the Constitution, but a pathway to propose amendments to it.

Regarding the resistance in Idaho, Hodson said it's just taken some time for the effort to resonate with legislators.

"When you confront them with the real opportunity to take power back to the people, both the political left and right tend to fight," he said. "We've had that fight in red states and blue states. It's more a power thing than ideology."

Hodson said the project's momentum picked up steam on Monday when James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family and a longtime religious leader, supported the effort.

States that have passed resolutions calling for a Convention of States are: Georgia, Alaska, Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, Indiana, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arizona, North Dakota, Texas and Missouri.

Supporters in Idaho will hold a potluck picnic open to the public on Sept. 29 from noon to 4 p.m. at Coeur d'Alene's Bluegrass Park, 6036 N. Courcelles Parkway. Legislators and candidates are invited.

About 11,000 people have signed a petition in support of the movement.

"We want Idahoans to know they can have a voice (at the federal level)," said Janis Helfman, Idaho's director for Convention of States, adding that picnics will be held at the same time in Boise and Idaho Falls. "This is an opportunity to create relationships."

Hodson believes Convention of States is a step toward "draining the swamp" and reducing what supporters believe is corruption in Washington, D.C.

"More people are realizing you can't fix it by just electing people," he said.

Hodson said the Convention of States would aim to limit leaders' time in office, how much money they can spend and their power.

Ralph Johnson, a volunteer for the Convention of States, wrote in an email that Coeur d'Alene is considered "ground zero" for the effort in Idaho for the next legislative session.

"That is, if we can convince the Panhandle of the value of the Convention of States, then it probably pass in Idaho," Johnson wrote. "This makes Coeur d'Alene quite important for our nation at this time."

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