Legislator continues push for convention of states

SHERIDAN — The ongoing conversation about a Convention of States is likely to continue this legislative session, with Sen. Bo Biteman, R-Parkman, again leading the charge.

Biteman said, during last week’s Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce Eggs and Issues breakfast, he intended to bring forward legislation calling for a Convention of States to propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

“We’re going to keep fighting for it,” Biteman said. “I think it’s the only way to stop Washington, D.C.…It’s  up to the states to assert our sovereignty.”

The Convention of States is one method of proposing constitutional amendments outlined in Article V, Biteman said. The other — requiring the vote of two-thirds of the houses of Congress — has been responsible for the 27 constitutional amendments approved thus far in the nation’s history.

According to Article V, more than two-thirds of states — a minimum of 34 — must call for a convention before one can move forward. Currently, 17 states have passed Convention of States resolutions starting with Georgia in 2014. The project has gained momentum recently, with both Wisconsin and Nebraska passing COS legislation in the last week-and-a-half.

Clint Stussi, a Sheridan resident and supporter of the convention, said the convention has three primary goals: limiting federal government power, encouraging fiscal responsibility and imposing term limits on elected officials.

Biteman said he hopes the convention could also approve an amendment requiring bills to have only a single subject, as is done in the Wyoming Legislature.

“In Wyoming, we can’t bring a huge omnibus bill with a hundred different things in it that has to pass or else the government shuts down,” Biteman said. “That would be stupid. But that’s what Washington does every year…They throw everything into one omnibus has-to-pass bill, and they take it to the wire. Everyone throws pork into it, it’s a big mess and that’s why we have the government we have.”

This isn’t the first time Biteman has proposed Convention of States legislation. During the 2021 session, the Wyoming State Senate narrowly voted down Biteman’s resolution on a 14-16 vote.

“Convention of States in Wyoming has always had a tough road,” Biteman said. “It pretty much splits the conservatives right down the middle. Some support it. Some don’t. I don’t know if it will pass this year, honestly.”

During the discussion in 2021, Biteman argued the legislation provided a way “to drain the swamp” of federal government. However, others like Sen. Charles Scott, R-Casper, said a convention was not necessarily a solution to the country’s problems.

“We know what a majority here would want to do… but we’re a very divided country,” Scott said during the debate on the Senate floor in 2021. “If you want to get something done at a constitutional convention, you’re going to have to make some compromises. And what I ask you to think about is what compromises will be made…I ask you to think about that as you vote on this.”

While Convention of States Action, the nonprofit pursuing the passage of Convention of States legislation across the country, has described the proposed legislation as “a nonpartisan solution to a bipartisan problem,” the project has been primarily supported by Republican states thus far. Of the 17 states that have passed legislation so far, only Georgia, Arizona and Wisconsin were blue states in the 2020 presidential election.

The project — described by Convention of States Action as a “fast-growing liberty movement against the tyranny of Washington elite and bureaucratic swamp” — has been supported by prominent Republican politicians including Rand Paul, Sarah Palin, Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee and Jeb Bush.