Wisconsin legislature calls for constitutional convention

wisconsin-senate

Photo courtesy: AMBER ARNOLD – STATE JOURNAL

Author: Will Kenneally

STATE CAPITOL — The state senate voted Tuesday to call for a constitutional convention in one of the last session days of the year.

The near-party line vote adds Wisconsin to the list of nearly 30 states that passed similar legislation, calling for–in part–an amendment that would require the nation’s budget to be balanced.

It is unclear whether resolutions passed by other states will count toward the 34 states needed to trigger a convention. Some states passed convention resolutions decades ago and over issues other than a ‘balanced budget amendment.

The scope of the convention, according to legal scholars, could go beyond what the Senate passed Tuesday.

UW law professor David Schwartz tells WPR that there are no constitutional limits on what the convention could do. There is little precedent for dealing with the move either, as this would be the first time the country used such a measure to amend the Constitution since its ratification in 1787.

The only Republican to vote against the measure was Senate president Roger Roth. Roth proposed and later withdrew an amendment that would sunset Wisconsin’s resolution after 2024.

The Senate also passed a bill that expands mining opportunities in the state.

The bill changes requirements for precious-metal mines in the Wisconsin. In the past, companies had to prove that similar mines to the ones they proposed could be closed for a decade without causing pollution. The bill now creates a system of bonds for the mining company to file, which would cover both unforeseen and anticipated costs of running the mine during operation and after closure.

Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, says the changes do not do enough to protect the environment.

“One of the pillars that holds up Wisconsin,” Larson said from the floor, “and something that identifies us in our soul is our reverence and our appreciation for our natural environment.”

Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst, one of the bill’s authors, says the bill will promote business in Wisconsin, while maintaining local control.

“Any company that wants to come into Wisconsin [is] going to have to work with local communities,” Tiffany says. “That’s just the way it is, and the companies understand that.”

Also passing the Senate is a bill to legalize industrial hemp farming, as well as a measure allowing children of any age to participate in mentored hunts.