LINCOLN — Nebraska lawmakers quickly killed a resolution Monday that would have added Nebraska to a list of states seeking to rein in federal government spending and regulations.
State senators voted 25-18 to send Legislative Resolution 35 back to committee after debating the measure for a little over an hour. The vote means that the resolution will not return to the Legislature's agenda this year.
The resolution sought to have Nebraska call for a convention of the states to amend the U.S. Constitution, with the intent of curbing the power and spending of the federal government and putting term limits on members of Congress. Opponents argued that such a convention could lead to undesirable changes to the nation's guiding legal document.
The Constitution requires that at least 34 states agree to call for a convention before one can be held. Five states — Tennessee, Alabama, Alaska, Florida and Georgia — have passed resolutions in support of the effort. Resolutions are pending in about 30 states.
Sen. Laura Ebke of Crete, a former American government instructor, made the resolution her priority for the session. She held 33 meetings across the state last year to inform citizens and senators about the purpose of a constitutional convention.
Her top concern, she said, is a federal debt that tops $19 trillion. That debt will be a burden on future generations, Ebke predicted, and it will worsen without a federal balanced budget amendment.
"We are sending the message that the federal government needs to be smaller and more fiscally responsible," she said.
But the resolution ran into opposition from Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha, who argued that a convention could lead to unforeseen amendments to the Constitution. Chambers promised to filibuster the resolution during all three rounds of debate if it advanced, which would have totaled 12 hours of discussion.
Some senators who said they agreed with the sentiment of the resolution voted Monday to send it back to the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee, perhaps because they didn't want to spend more time on the measure. Others expressed concern over a potential runaway convention.
Ebke, who said she was surprised at the vote's outcome, pointed out that any proposed changes to the Constitution would have to be ratified by three-fourths of the states. Meeting such a high standard of agreement should have addressed concerns about unintended consequences, she argued.
"We shouldn't live in fear of the incredibly unlikely," she said.
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