Topeka The Kansas Senate is set to vote Thursday on a measure aimed at amending the U.S. Constitution in order to rein in the power of the federal government.
Senate Concurrent Resolution 1611 would add Kansas' name to a list of states petitioning Congress to call a "convention of states" that would propose constitutional amendments imposing fiscal restraints on the federal government, putting more limits on the government's power and jurisdiction, and imposing term limits for members of Congress.
"We are a federation of states," Sen. Ty Masterson, R-Andover, said during debate on the measure Wednesday. "The federal government is an agent, given limited powers by the states. And when it gets out of hand, they're our agent, and it is within our power — and I would say duty — to come together and make appropriate changes."
Speaking on the floor, Masterson held up an annotated edition of the U.S. Constitution, one that lists all U.S. Supreme Court decisions related to each provision, arguing that the sheer size of the volume indicated to him that the federal government has grown beyond the original intent of the framers.
A convention of states is one of two ways provided in Article 5 of the Constitution for proposing amendments, the other being a resolution passed by two-thirds of both chambers of Congress.
The Constitution requires at least two-thirds of the states, or 34, pass resolutions calling for a convention, and it requires at least three-fourths of the states, or 38, to ratify any amendments the convention might propose.
Masterson said that so far, 12 other state legislatures have passed similar resolutions, the most recent being Missouri earlier this year.
But in Kansas, unlike some other states, a concurrent resolution requires two-thirds majorities in both chambers of the Legislature in order to pass, and it was uncertain Wednesday whether supporters had that many votes in the Senate.
In the Senate, that means it needs 27 votes out of the 40 members. But Minority leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, said he does not expect any of the nine Senate Democrats to vote yes.
Both Hensley and fellow Democrat Sen. David Haley of Kansas City, Kan., warned against what they called "runaway conventions" because there is no legal mechanism to control what kinds of changes a convention could propose, regardless of the original purpose of calling the convention.
And even some conservatives said they were not ready to sign on, including Sen. Dennis Pyle, R-Hiawatha, who said if the federal government has gotten out of control, it's only because of the people the voters elected.
"When people say we can't change it, or the people in Washington aren't going to change it, well, maybe that's because there needs to be a change of heart in each of us," he said. "Maybe we need to do more thorough work in vetting who we're sending to Washington."