LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska on Friday became the 17th state to call for a convention of states to consider making changes to the U.S. Constitution, putting supporters halfway to their goal of getting the 34 states needed to trigger a convention.
Nebraska lawmakers gave the measure final approval with a 32-10 vote, just three days after Wisconsin passed a similar proposal.
The 17 states that have passed them so far are generally Republican-led and heavily concentrated in the South. In eight other states, the measure has advanced through at least one legislative chamber. The Convention of States movement has ties to the tea party movement and is endorsed by many prominent conservatives.
Opponents have raised concerns about a runaway convention that could lead to in drastic changes to the nation’s founding document and the freedoms it protects.
The measure’s sponsor, state Sen. Steve Halloran, said he pushed for it out of concern for the growing national debt under presidents from both parties. He said he has heard strong support from constituents in his central Nebraska district and around the state.
“Functionally, the founding fathers intended for the states to have equal footing with Congress,” said Halloran, of Hastings. “To me, that’s important. I think it’s a state sovereignty issue.”
Like the other states’ resolutions, Nebraska’s call seeks to impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the federal government’s power and jurisdiction, and impose term limits on Congress. The Nebraska measure passed after supporters agreed to add a 5-year sunset, letting the measure expire in February 2027.
Backers also had to come up with 33 votes to overcome a legislative filibuster from opponents. Because the measure is a resolution and not a bill, it doesn’t require approval from Gov. Pete Ricketts, although the Republican governor has voiced support for it in the past.
Some lawmakers argued that the convention would widen the nation’s political divisions and could ultimately backfire on Nebraska, leading to changes that hurt the state.
“How will they balance the budget? Will they go after farm programs first?” asked Sen. Steve Lathrop, of Omaha.
Sen. Megan Hunt, of Omaha, said she was concerned that special interest groups would try to influence the process, and argued that lawmakers should focus more on protecting voting rights.
“We have a good democracy if we can keep it, if we can protect it,” she said.
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