NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Tennessee lawmakers on Thursday joined four other states in calling for a national convention on amending the U.S. Constitution to bring about limits to federal power - what one supporter touted as the "atomic bomb of politics."
The resolution sponsored by Republican Rep. Sheila Butt of Columbia passed on a 59-31 vote in the House. The Senate previously voted 23-5 in favor of the measure. The governor does not have veto power over resolutions passed by the Tennessee General Assembly.
Tennessee joins Alabama, Alaska, Florida and Georgia in approving the measure. A total of 34 states would need to pass the resolution for the convention to be called.
Republican Rep. Judd Matheny of Tullahoma, a supporter of the measure, said the resolution should serve as a signal to the federal government that state legislatures are serious about wanting a greater say.
"This is the atomic bomb of politics," Matheny said. "The federal movement must know the states have mobilized, and we have put an atomic bomb on a plane and it is flying over the District of Columbia. And if they don't listen, then we're going to get done what needs to get done."
Butt said the convention would be limited to focusing on putting additional fiscal and jurisdictional restraints on the federal government and to urge term limits for members of Congress. But opponents voiced concerns that a constitutional convention could quickly overstep those bounds and seek to changes to religious and gun rights.
"They're going to do things contrary to what we believe in Tennessee," said Rick Womick, R-Murfreesboro. "You've got 50 other players in this game and they're not going to be thinking like us in Tennessee. They're not going to send legitimate delegates with legitimate qualifications to these conventions.
"We're going to be outnumbered," he said. "As far as I know, Colorado's going to send folks that are going to be high."
House Democratic leader Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley questioned the rationale for trying to overhaul the Constitution.
"They put everything at risk here," Fitzhugh said. "This thing doesn't need to get legs. This is the fabric of our nation that would be fooling with."