Commentary: Some ideas for a constitutional convention

This article originally appeared in the Salt Lake Tribune.

Recently, Utah state Rep. Merrill Nelson renewed the call for a constitutional convention to amend the Constitution of the United States. And a Utah Senate committee recently passed SRJ 9, calling for such a convention.

As the nation recovers from its third shutdown in under a year, Nelson argues that the federal government can be saved from its own dysfunction through an emergency intervention by all the states; an intervention hosted at an Article V Constitutional Convention.

Historically, we at the Alliance for a Better Utah have been opposed to the idea of a constitutional convention because, among other reasons, once it starts, there’s no controlling where it goes. That’s why the conservative Eagle Forum opposes a convention, too. In fact, the last time we held a convention to simply amend our governing document in 1787, they threw it out and wrote a new one!

The amendments proposed by Nelson and others before him over the years don’t give rise, in our opinion, to a call for such a convention. Overall, we think the Constitution is pretty cool as it is, allowing for sufficient interpretation to protect our rights and lead our government now and in the future.

But, as we pondered Nelson’s proposed amendments and considered the possibilities, we came to realize that throwing a so-called “ConCon” together might not be so bad. (We tend to think ComicCon might be a better name for it, but we don’t want to get sued.)

Congress really is dysfunctional. It isn’t passing any laws on issues that a broad majority of Americans support. Here’s what we hope happens at our nation’s “Second Bicentennial ConCon.”

Before we get to proposing some much-needed changes to that old piece of parchment, delegates will need to determine where to meet. Does anyone really want to try Philadelphia again? For a quick second we considered Salt Lake City, as long as we could work around doTERRA’s scheduled conventions.

But then we decided the youngest state — not the state with the youngest population — should have to be in charge of hosting the ConCon this time around. In all honesty, it’s not just because we want to argue constitutional principles on a Hawaiian beach, but if Hawaii can’t host, then we’ll just do it in California. They’re the ones with all the good ideas, right?

Now that we’d be working in comfort, let’s end these identity wars once and for all. We propose acknowledging that all people — not just all men, or all straight men, or all straight white men — are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, including life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and health care for all. (That last part is new.)

Because nothing says we can’t amend an amendment, let’s take a look at that second one. Everyone seems so intent on skipping past a “well regulated Militia,” so let’s do some regulating. It’s time to clarify that “well regulated” means universal background checks, bans on assault weapons and countrywide registration. And because “militia” doesn’t mean “individual” — and never did — if you aren’t in a national- or state-sanctioned militia, you don’t have a guaranteed right to own a weapon anyway.

We know that millennials are all about instant gratification these days, but we need to get serious about securing the blessings of liberty for our posterity and not just for ourselves. So to recognize climate change as the existential threat to our planet that it is, the Environmental Protection Agency would be granted co-equal status as the fourth branch of our federal government, with the power to take any and all necessary steps to eliminate the extraction, use, or sale, of oil, coal, gas, and any other fossil fuel.

And here’s a list of a few other ideas:

  • Citizens United is repealed.
  • Corporations are not people.
  • The president is prohibited from building a wall.
  • Dreamers are now citizens of the United States.
  • The internet is a mess, so the least we can do is implement net neutrality.
  • Roe v. Wade cannot be overturned.
  • Men can no longer regulate a woman’s body.

Have any suggestions of your own? We hope you’ll join us at our nation’s next ConCon! And don’t worry, if you’re coming to the ConCon from Utah, we’ll be sure there’s plenty of 3.2 beer.

This article originally appeared in the Salt Lake Tribune. 

Chase Thomas is executive director of the Alliance for a Better Utah,

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