INDIANAPOLIS | Frustrated by what they perceive as federal government overreach on taxes and regulation, the Republican-controlled Indiana Senate on Tuesday approved three measures calling for a limited U.S. constitutional convention.
Article V of the U.S. Constitution requires Congress call a constitutional convention when two-thirds of state legislatures request one. Senate Joint Resolution 18, which now goes to the House, formalizes Indiana's request.
Senate President David Long, R-Fort Wayne, sponsored the resolution. He said a convention is needed to re-balance the powers of the federal government with the rights of the states.
"States' rights are in danger of disappearing altogether, and we have it within our power to stop it from happening with a process that is legal, that is constitutional and that, if done correctly, will be effective," Long said.
For more than 50 minutes, senators debated whether a constitutional convention is truly needed and could be limited to just taxes and regulation without endangering other parts of the constitution, such as the Second Amendment right to bear arms.
Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, said since there's never been a state-demanded constitutional convention there's no precedent to follow, no relevant case law and given Congress' role in calling a convention, possibly no limits as to what amendments could be proposed.
"I would call this a trip into the wilderness, it truly is, we have no idea what might happen," Lanane said. "The idea of a runaway convention is real; it could happen."
But state Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Buck Creek, whose district includes part of Jasper County, said the danger of a runaway convention is slight because any proposed amendments still must be approved by three-fourths of state legislatures to be added to the constitution.
Whereas, he said, the danger of doing nothing to stop the federal government from stepping on the powers reserved to the states and people under the 10th Amendment is very real.
"Over the years, through a variety of court decisions, that 10th Amendment power ... has been eroded such that we no longer have the ability to operate as 50 different and unique states," Hershman said.
The call for a convention was approved 32-18, with every Northwest Indiana Republican voting for the convention and every region Democrat voting no.
Two additional measures to set the duties of convention delegates and their method of selection (Senate Bills 224, 225) were also approved and now go to the House.