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Eye On Boise

House panel kills con-con measure on 5-10 vote, after 2 days of passionate hearings

Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, holds up a pocket copy of the U.S. Constitution as he addresses the House State Affairs Committee on Friday, Feb. 9, 2018. (Betsy Z. Russell)
Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, holds up a pocket copy of the U.S. Constitution as he addresses the House State Affairs Committee on Friday, Feb. 9, 2018. (Betsy Z. Russell)

The House State Affairs Committee, on a 5-10 vote, has killed a proposal to have Idaho call for a constitution of the states to propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The motion from Rep. James Holtzclaw, R-Meridian, was to send HCR 32 to the full House with no recommendation – instead of the usual recommendation that it “do pass.” Only Reps. Holtzclaw, Loertscher, Monks, Armstrong and Manwaring voted in favor of it; all other committee members voted “no.”

Holtzclaw said, “This is just to add amendments. … I just feel like sometimes it’s OK to add an amendment – we did it 27 times, great amendments throughout the years.” He added, “I personally think that whether you vote yes or vote no, I’m sure we all love the Constitution. … Everybody is here to do the right thing, to defend the Constitution to the best of their ability.”

Committee Chairman Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, lead sponsor of the measure, held up his pocket copy of the U.S. Constitution. “I really do believe that the Constitution of the United States is inspired, men who were inspired to do the right thing,” he told the committee. “Are we less entitled to inspiration today than the founding fathers were? And I would submit that that same inspiration in fixing our nation’s problems abides within us to do. We are the ones, the state legislators are the ones who can make things happen and happen in a big way.”

“Our states’ rights are being trampled all the time,” Loertscher said. “Here’s one thing that the states can do.” He said he believes “the Constitution is hanging by a thread.”

Rep. Randy Armstrong, R-Inkom, spoke at length, deriding those who oppose the move as fearful and saying they’d have been afraid to support the American Revolution as well. “I just want you to know that by having so much fear in your heart, I just want you to recognize that you would not have been a patriot, you would not have been a patriot, simply not have,” he said. “Reject the rancid stench of fear that’s in our hearts that we cannot be a Tory, that we can be a patriot.”

Rep. Christy Zito, R-Hammett, said, “I don’t fear any of this. How I see this is we value our Constitution, we feel it is something we must protect and defend and we have taken oaths to do so.” She said, “We have laws come out of Washington, D.C. all the time that infringe upon our rights. It’s not the Constitution that makes that happen, it’s the people that we choose to send there. … The power of the people is in the power of the vote, not in changing the Constitution.”

Rep. Lynn Luker, R-Boise, asked, “Would I like to amend the Constitution the way I think it should be amended? Sure I would. But will that happen? No.” He cited the “passionate people on both sides” who showed up to testify in two days of lengthy hearings. “But by my count, the people that got up here and testified were probably 4-1 against having a convention,” he said. “The email I’ve gotten has been even more lopsided.”

Citing comments from specific people who testified over the two days, Luker said the nation is now in “an unsettled time,” and said, “I do not have confidence that same inspiration will flow as it did in the days of the writing of our Constitution.”

Those voting “no” were Reps. Luker, Crane, Palmer, Barbieri, Harris, Giddings, Zito, Scott, Smith and Jordan.

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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