Texas Gov. Abbott ‎calls for convention on Constitution, proposes amendments

Jan. 8, 2016: Gov. Greg Abbott calls for a convention of states to amend the Constitution during a speech at the Texas Public Policy Foundation in Austin, Texas.

Jan. 8, 2016: Gov. Greg Abbott calls for a convention of states to amend the Constitution during a speech at the Texas Public Policy Foundation in Austin, Texas.  (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott looked for Republican support on Friday for calling the first constitutional convention since 1787, a new priority for his administration that has blocked state laws over gay marriage, abortion restrictions and voting rights.

Abbott hopes his weight as the leader of the nation’s largest conservative state can revive momentum in an enduring, yet unattainable dream of some Republicans. Abbott’s vision includes an outline of new state protections that would nullify federal laws and weaken the Supreme Court as well as a federal balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.

One of his nine proposals would require a supermajority of seven justices — out of nine — to invalidate any state law. The plan spanned nearly 70 pages, according to the Dallas Morning News.

"The Supreme Court is a co-conspirator in abandoning the Constitution," said Abbott, the state's former attorney general and a former Texas Supreme Court justice. "Instead of applying laws as written, it embarrassingly strains to rewrite laws like Obamacare."

The nine proposed amendments include:

·         Prohibit Congress from regulating activity that occurs in one state

·         Require Congress to balance its budget.

·         Prohibit administrative agencies from creating law

·         Prohibit administrative agencies from pre-empting state law

·         Allow a two-thirds majority of the states of override a Supreme Court decision

·         Require a seven-justice super-majority vote for Supreme Court decisions that invalidate a democratically enacted law

·         Restore balance of power between the federal and state governments by limiting the former to the powers expressly delegated to it in the Constitution

·         Give state officials the power to sue in federal court when federal officials overstep their bounds

·         Allow a two-thirds majority of the states to override a federal law regulation.

Texas has been named as a defendant in major cases before the Supreme Court. The court will hear oral arguments over the state’s abortion crackdown in March. The restrictions would leave the state with fewer than 10 abortion providers, down from 40 in 2012.

Abbott unveiled his plan to a friendly audience of conservative policymakers in Austin, but outside, others called the prospect of a convention far-fetched.

"There is no remote possibility that is going to take place," said Lino Graglia, a conservative professor of constitutional law at the University of Texas at Austin. "Just to get any constitutional amendment is virtually impossible."

Abbott’s opponents were quickly dismissive about his plan. Texas Democratic Party Deputy Executive Director Manny Garcia said the governor’s priorities were misguided.

“America added 292,000 new jobs in December. But under Abbott, Texas fell to sixth in job creation, remains the uninsured capitol of the nation, wages and incomes remain far too low for hardworking families, our neighborhood schools are still underfunded, and college education is slipping out of reach,” Garcia said in a statement. “Texas families deserve serious solutions, not Tea Party nonsense.”

The American Civil Liberties Union also urged Abbott to not “mess with the Constitution.”

Over the last 40 years, 27 states have endorsed the idea of an assembly at one time or another, including Texas at a time when the state was run by Democrats. Convention proposals were also introduced or discussed in about three dozen legislatures last year. An assembly needs approval from 34 legislatures.

Shortly after Abbott took office last year, the Texas Legislature failed to endorse a more narrowly focused convention on conservative ideals. Some Republicans blamed the defeat on fears of a "runaway" convention that would take on myriad issues. Abbott said he wants Texas lawmakers to give their support next time around in 2017.

Earlier this week, Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio said if elected president he will advocate for the states to call a constitutional convention to impose term limits on members of Congress. He says creating term limits must come from a grassroots movement because members of Congress will never do it themselves.

The United States has not held a constitutional convention since George Washington himself led the original proceedings in Philadelphia in 1787.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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