Delegates gather in Indianapolis next month to lay the groundwork for a constitutional convention. Indiana is one of more than 20 states to call for a convention to consider amending the Constitution.
Senate President Pro Tem David Long (R-Fort Wayne) has backed the effort, in hopes of drafting an amendment to realign the balance between state and federal power, and, in his words, bring the national debt under control.
"I do believe the fiscal issues can unite 34 states to petition for this and 38 states to approve an amendment that comes out of the convention, whether that's a balanced budget amendment or limits on federal spending or federal debt," Long says. "Those are all realistic, I don't think partisan, issues."
He says the Indianapolis meeting won‘t deal with the wording of amendments, but with organizational issues such as how delegates are selected. Indiana has already passed a law making it a felony for the state‘s delegates to go beyond a predetermined set of issues. A number of state legislatures are currently pushing to hold such a meeting, including those in Michigan, Ohio and Florida.
Long says he envisions a constitutional convention which is narrow in scope. He believes other participating states would go along, to counter fears of a "runaway convention" open to a wide range of issues. And he notes Indiana has already passed rules for what its delegates may or may not do.
"We'll give them express instructions on what they can and can't vote upon as far as subject matter. And if they ultimately do that -- knowingly, intentionally violate their charge -- they're not only pulled out of the convention, they're guilty of a felony."
Long predicts enough states will come aboard to be ready to formally request the convention next summer. The convention would mark the first use of the constitutional provision allowing a two-thirds majority of the states to trigger a convention.
No amendments have been added to the Constitution since 1992, when Michigan became the 38th state to sign on to the 27th Amendment. That law, which did not originate from a convention, forces members of Congress to stand for election before voting themselves a pay increase.