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Attorneys debate Constitutional amendment





Approximately 80 people from Hays, Dodge City, Salina, Hill City and Hunter gathered Tuesday night at Thirsty's Brew Pub & Grill to watch two attorneys debate amending the Constitution.

The Big First Tea Party organized the program. David Schneider, Kansas state director for the Convention of States and a Fort Hays State University graduate, and Richard Fry, Olathe, sparred over the practicality of a state-led movement to edit the document.

The issue revolves around Article Five of the Constitution. It states if two-thirds of states want to enact change in the document setting parameters for American laws, they can appoint delegates to convene and debate alterations. Three-fourths of states must approve anything coming from such a conference.

Schneider said the Convention of States believes the federal government has grown to disregard the rules set in the Constitution.

"We're founded on the premise that Washington is out of control due to spending, taxing, seizing more and more power with no check on its authority through endless pages of regulations and laws," he said.

The group aims to strengthen constraints in the Constitution.

"Our goal is to rein in the federal government. So what we're seeking is a limited convention regarding limiting the federal government, the size and scope of the federal government," he said. "A convention called on a single subject, not a single amendment, not an open convention."

A balanced budget amendment, such as the one Kansas petitioned the federal government for in 1979, could be a product of a convention. It would take 33 other states to submit the same request to trigger a gathering of the states, and only 16 states have joined the movement.

Schneider said the effort is better than accepting the status quo.

"What else do we got? What other ideas are out there? What else is going to change Washington," he said.

Fry said politicians have been violating their oath to support and protect the Constitution for 100 years, and a new amendment would not discourage their practices.

"All of a sudden, we're going to give them a new piece of paper that has no history, no legal precedence ... and they're going to obey it, and they're going to obey it the way we want it," Fry said. "It just doesn't make any sense."

Fry said the Constitution was written to limit the power and authority of the federal government. He tore out pages of his pocket Constitution to demonstrate how ambiguous the Convention of States' goal was, because it could affect existing amendments.

Reclaiming the state from incumbent officials is the first step toward fixing the problem, Fry said.

"If you want to make a real change, let's get a constitutional amendment in this state and give a citizen referendum initiative and recall that applies to every politician in this state from dog catcher to the governor," he said.

More information about the movement can be found at www.conventionofstates.com.