Utah constitutional convention meeting yields no results

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Sen. Robert Karnes, left, R-West Virginia, raises his hand during the Assembly of State Legislatures held at the Utah State Capitol Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015, in Salt Lake City. A small but unwavering group of mostly Republican state lawmakers are gathering in Utah to plan how legislatures would hold a convention to revise the U.S. Constitution. More than 80 legislators from 30 states are meeting Wednesday through Friday at the State Capitol for The Assembly of State Legislatures. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Sen. Robert Karnes, left, R-West Virginia, raises his hand during the Assembly of State Legislatures held at the Utah State Capitol Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015, in Salt Lake City. A small but unwavering group of mostly Republican state lawmakers are gathering in Utah to plan how legislatures would hold a convention to revise the U.S. Constitution. More than 80 legislators from 30 states are meeting Wednesday through Friday at the State Capitol for The Assembly of State Legislatures. (Associated Press)

Legislators from different states around the country convened in Salt Lake City beginning Nov. 11 to draw up rules for what is known as an Article V Convention.

Article V of the U.S. Constitution allows states to convene in a convention to propose new amendments to the Constitution. No amendments have ever passed from a convention before, and the Assembly of State Legislatures was not able to break the historic trend at their convention in Salt Lake.

The body of legislators ended their three-day meeting on November 13 without taking a final vote on a draft of rules for a constitutional convention because of disagreements over the proposed rules, such as the impact each state has on legislation.

With more than a few lawmakers becoming disgruntled on Thursday Nov. 12, several states decided to skip out of the final day.

Among the more than 80 legislators from some 30 states that attended the assembly were several from Utah, including Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, who serves on the organization’s executive committee.

Niederhauser said the rules were not likely to be finalized before the assembly meeting ended Friday, citing controversy over several issues including whether each state at a convention should have a single vote.

“That’s one of the main points of contention,” he said. “If you’re a big state, you don’t want one state, one vote. If you’re a small state like Utah, you do.”

Republican state Sen. Chris Kapenga from Wisconsin, a co-president of the group, said in order for them to ever accomplish their goal, they’re going to have to understand compromise.

“The next meeting, the discussion is going to have to happen,” he said. “And we’re not going to be able to walk away from a decision.”

The Assembly of State Legislatures, comprised of currently serving state lawmakers of both political parties from across the country, has been working for two years to establish the rules of procedure needed to hold a state-led amendment convention should one be called by the states in the future.

The group first met in December 2013 at George Washington’s historic Mount Vernon estate in Virginia, and has held additional meetings since then in Indianapolis, Denver and Washington D.C.

A date for their next meeting has not been finalized, but the group is planning to meet in either Albany, New York, or Philadelphia.

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