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In the News: Push is on to get Nebraska to join the call for a convention of states

The following excerpt was written by Martha Stoddard and published on Omaha.com.

 It’s hardly news that many Nebraskans believe the federal government is out of control.

Now some hope to rein in federal power and spending through a mechanism provided for in the U.S. Constitution but never used in more than 225 years.

They want Nebraska lawmakers to join a call for a convention of the states, which could be done by passing a resolution introduced by State Sen. Laura Ebke of Crete. A matching proposal is pending in the Iowa Legislature.

The goal of the convention would be to propose constitutional amendments curbing federal power, imposing federal fiscal restraints and putting term limits on federal officials.

“I want to see Nebraska stand up and say ‘Enough is enough,’ ” said Mark Davis of Rulo, Nebraska. “People just really want the federal government to stay out of their lives.”

Davis is a leader with Nebraskans for Self Governance, which is affiliated with the Texas-based Citizens for Self-Governance and its Convention of States project.

The project was launched in 2013 with support largely from conservative Republicans.

Their proposal is based on Article V of the Constitution, which sets out two ways to propose constitutional amendments.

The usual method is for Congress to put forth amendments, if two-thirds of both houses propose it.

The alternative is to have a convention of states craft amendments. The legislatures of two-thirds of the states, or 34, must apply to Congress for such a convention to be called.

Whichever way they are proposed, amendments must be ratified by 38 states to take effect.

Eric Berger, a constitutional law expert at the University of Nebraska College of Law, said the numbers mean that the chances of ever holding a convention of states, let alone amending the Constitution, are slim.

But debate about calling a convention could spark important discussions about the strengths and weaknesses of the Constitution, he said.

The debate also serves to highlight concerns about federal power and federal-state relations.

“To some extent, it’s a bit of political theater,” Berger said.

Whatever the odds, Richard Duncan, another constitutional expert at the NU law college, welcomed the idea of a convention to rein in federal power.

He argued that the nation has strayed from the original intention of the writers of the Constitution, under which the states formed a federal government but kept significant powers to themselves.

“The time has come to rein in this leviathan federal government,” Duncan said. “I’m a Nebraskan first and an American second.”

Four states so far have approved the Convention of States language calling for a federalism convention: Georgia, Alaska, Florida and Alabama.

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