Texas leaders call for convention to challenge federal power

Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick announced on Wednesday that a push to amend the U.S. constitution would be a priority this legislative session.

Patrick is backing Governor Greg Abbott's call for a convention of states to challenge federal power.

From the state capitol, Abbott is asking the legislature to lead the charge to take back state rights. It’s a mechanism in Article IV of the U.S. constitution to allow states to make amendments. But it would be an uphill battle.

It would take 34 states to agree to convene and 36 states to ratify a proposed amendment to the constitution. But Abbott seems to believe now is the right time in politics to make it happen.

Dr. Allan Saxe, an associate professor of political science and a history buff, believes state leaders are seizing on an anti-establishment movement in the country to try to take back power from the federal government.

“They're saying we're mad at our own party. So they're saying if congress has delegated too much power to the executive branch, immigration is one of them,” Saxe explained. “Congress will not do it, so these individual states are saying if you're not going to do it, we're going to do it. Or they're going to try.”

Earlier this year, Abbott proposed nine constitutional amendments that include a requirement that Congress balance its budget and allow a two-thirds majority of states to override a U.S. Supreme Court decision.

Dallas County Democratic Party Chair Carol Donovan believes the effort is not feasible but rather is coming up again now to serve as a political diversion during a critical time in the state.

“Based on the outrage that they have expressed about gay marriage and also about women's right to make their own health decisions, it's very clear they don't like the way those things went,” she said. “This is a distraction from their real responsibilities right here in Texas — including the whole infrastructures, transportation and the water problem. What they're going to do now is throw up this red herring and talk about states’ rights when all they're going to do is strip the federal government from their rights."

Saxe said while it's feasible, the constitution does allow for Congress and states if they have the numbers to amend the document but could take a long time.

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