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Op Ed: Wisconsin legislators can stop Constitutional Convention

A statement by the Wisconsin Justice Initiative on the proposal to convene a constitutional convention to amend the U.S. Constitution.

State legislators should reject efforts to convene a convention to amend the U.S. Constitution, an extremely dangerous step that could endanger basic American rights,

Constitutional changes proposed through a convention are likely to be harmful reactions to the current political divisions in the country that will only divide the country further.

Resolutions calling for a constitutional convention are pending in the State Assembly and State Senate. The Senate’s Committee on Financial Services, Constitution and Federalism and the Assembly Committee on Federalism and Interstate Relations held a hearing about the issue on March 28 in the State Capitol.

The proposed legislation specifically calls for the convention to consider a balanced budget amendment but a State Legislature cannot control what happens or what is considered at a convention.

Some 28 states already have approved legislation calling for a convention. Convention proponents need 34.

The Wisconsin legislation calls for any delegate who votes for an unauthorized amendment to be replaced, but it’s unclear what impact that would have, if any. Replacement would occur only after a vote is cast, when it is too late to undo any damage.

It is also unclear whether convention rules would allow delegate replacements because the rules do not exist yet. We do not even know how much representation Wisconsin would have.

Scholars from across the spectrum agree that a convention, once convened, is a force unto itself. People who value freedom of speech and freedom of religion should be concerned about what could happen, those who value their Second Amendment rights should be just as worried.

We do not need a constitutional convention, First, a balanced budget amendment could cripple the country’s ability to respond to a national emergency. Second, opening the Constitution to change now would invite mischief and disaster.

The mission of the Wisconsin Justice Initiative is to improve the quality of justice in Wisconsin by educating the public about legal issues and encouraging civic engagement in and debate about the judicial system and its operation.

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