Ohio Lawmakers Push to Join Convention of States

By Mary Schuermann Kuhlman

Half the states needed to call a constitutional convention are now on board with the idea, and Ohio could join them.

Ohio House Joint Resolution 1 proposes a convention of states to draft amendments to impose fiscal restraints on Congress, limit federal power and jurisdiction, and set term limits for federal officials.

Michael Gentithes, associate professor and faculty fellow in the Center for Constitutional Law at the University of Akron School of Law, said Article V of the Constitution does not provide a framework for a constitutional convention of states, so essentially, the group could write its own rules. 

“If you assume everyone is acting in good faith and really wants to see this convention successfully make an amendment or several amendments, then sure, it’s possible,” Gentithes contended. “But there would be a lot of opportunity for political polarization to seep its way into this process. So, it seems unlikely that this would succeed.”

He also pointed out any amendments to come from the convention would require ratification by three-quarters of the states. Last week, Nebraska became the 17th state to approve a resolution to call a constitutional convention, and the Ohio House Joint Resolution recently had its second committee hearing. 

Viki Harrison, director of state operations for Common Cause, said fringe groups from both sides of the aisle have called for a convention of states over the years, but her organization is opposed, noting the gathering could easily be influenced by powerful special interests. 

“Who’s going to choose who goes to the convention?” Harrison wondered. “We already see how outside special-interest groups, big-money donors, have so much influence in elections, so why would we think this would be any different?”

Supporters argued Article Five was written by the founding fathers as an option for states to respond should the federal government overstep its powers. Harrison countered they failed to create guardrails, leaving the Constitution open to unpredictable changes. 

“Anything that we hold dear, whether you care about education, or environmental rights or gun rights, no matter what you care about in the Constitution, if we called an Article V convention, it’s up for grabs,” Harrison cautioned.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Carnegie Corporation of New York.