Conservative activists are pushing to deploy a never-before-used article in the Constitution to make changes to the country’s foundational legal document – not a wholesale rewrite, they say, but targeted changes aimed at clipping federal spending and power.

The national president of the Convention of States, Mark Meckler, will discuss the effort Monday at 7:30 p.m. at Rider University in Lawrenceville.

Every past change to the Constitution has been proposed by Congress, but Jonathan Viaud, the state director for the Convention of States New Jersey, said Article V would allow two-thirds of states – 34 of the 50 – to call such a meeting. So far, 12 have done so.

“It’s something that’s never actually been done, certainly not on this scale. But other efforts have been tried and have gotten very close to actually calling that convention,” he said.

Viaud said the proposed amendments could be limited to specific areas: installing fiscal restraints on the federal government, reducing its size and scope and imposing term limits on federal officials and judges.

“And the reason that we believe that this is necessary is because we just feel that Washington, D.C., is broken. The way things are running, the way our government functions is not the way the framers of the Constitution intended,” Viaud said. “So what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to bring power back to the states and the people, which is exactly where it belongs.”

Legislatures in 12 states have endorsed the idea of a Convention of States where such amendments would be proposed: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas.

Those states lean toward or are solidly Republican. New Jersey is decidedly not, with Democrats in control of the Governor’s Office, nearly two-thirds of the state Legislature and, starting in January, 13 of the state’s 14 seats in Congress.

A bill supporting the convention has been introduced in Trenton since 2014 though hasn’t gotten a hearing. Currently it has 19 sponsors, all of them Republicans.

“We know that it’s a bit of a tall task, given the makeup of New Jersey, for sure,” Viaud said.

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