One Legislator's Warning: Beware the Conference of the States

By:  Robert W. Lee
One Legislator's Warning: Beware the Conference of the States

On January 16, 1995, the Utah legislature became the first in the nation to pass a Resolution of Participation in the Conference of the States proposed by Utah Governor Mike Leavitt. Representative J. Reese Hunter, a fifth-term Republican, voted for the resolution, but is now urging lawmakers in other states to oppose it. Dr. Hunter was interviewed for The New American by Robert W. Lee.

This article originally appeared in the June 12, 1995 issue of The New American

The New American: Representative Hunter, what led you to support the Conference of the States resolution in the first place ?

Rep. J. Reese Hunter: I was enthused when I first heard about the Conference. It was publicized as a gathering to strengthen state authority under the Tenth Amendment and pressure the federal government to obey the Constitution. I favor those goals, so I let Governor Leavitt know that I supported his call for the Conference. I visualized the states uniting to send Washington a firm message that the time had come to put an end to unconstitutional federal mandates, whether funded or unfunded. But as the proposal began to unfold, a number of warning signs appeared. For example, there seemed to be a disturbing number of similarities between the governor's plan and the first Conference of the States in 1787 that became the constitutional convention.

TNA: Then why did you vote for it?

Hunter: For a number of years now, I have been the chief sponsor of legislation to repeal Utah's call for a constitutional convention to consider a balanced budget amendment. Prior to the vote on the Conference of the States resolution, I was concerned that the Conference could itself be turned into a con-con. I asked for assurances that this would not be the case, and was told that while it was not "intended" to be a con-con, it was something new, so there was no 100 percent assurance. On the first day of our legislative session, the Conference resolution was brought up on a "fast track," well-oiled for immediate passage without hearings or significant debate. The argument for such haste was that Governor Leavitt, as instigator of the movement, should be first to sign a Resolution of Participation into law. It was in that rash of the moment that I voted for the resolution, as did all other members of the House and all but one senator.

Subsequently, I was able to study the issue in greater detail. I would not vote for it today. From hindsight, I would have insisted that the Conference goals be read before the vote was taken, and demanded unambiguous answers regarding the "broad, fundamental, structural" changes envisioned by the proponents of this movement. Such wholesale revision of the Constitution is the very thing many of us have feared under an Article V constitutional convention.

Click here to read the rest of the interview.

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