Hillyard rejects Wilson’s congressional term limits challenge

While he is not opposed to congressional term limits, Sen. Lyle Hillyard says calling a constitutional convention to achieve that goal is a bad idea.

LOGAN – When the issue of term limits is mentioned in the race for the GOP nomination in Utah’s 25th Senate District, it is important to separate the apples from the oranges.

The challenger in that contest, businessman Chris Wilson, has made incumbent Sen. Lyle Hillyard’s tenure of more than three decades in the Utah Legislature into a campaign issue.

If elected, Wilson pledges to serve no more than three terms in the state Senate. Wilson’s campaign literature also touts the need for new perspectives, new leadership and a new approach to taxes and government spending.

For his part, Hillyard makes no apologies for his years on Capital Hill in Salt Lake City, where his Senate colleagues routinely defer to his expertise in budgetary matters and appropriations.

Wilson has also signed on to the congressional Term Limits Convention pledge and has challenged Hillyard to do the same.

For the incumbent Senator, that’s a whole different kettle of fish.

“I am not opposed to term limits on the federal level …” Hillyard responded when asked about Wilson’s challenge. “But I am not interested in calling for a constitutional convention of the states.”

The Term Limits Convention pledge is sponsored by U.S. Term Limits (USTL), a non-partisan group that seeks the support of state lawmakers to impose term limit restrictions on their counterparts in Washington D.C. According to Nick Tomboulides, Executive Director of USTL, a 2018 national poll revealed that 82 percent of Americans favor congressional term limits.

But the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the efforts of individual states to impose congressional term limits in 1995, ruling that only a constitutional amendment could make that change.

Since members of congress would be unlikely to pass a draft constitutional amendment to limit their own terms, USTL now campaigns to get the members of 34 state legislatures to call for a national constitutional convention to draft such an amendment.

While that idea might sound good in theory, Hillyard said that a constitutional convention has the potential be a pandora’s box of “problems and dangers.”

Hillyard is not alone in that opinion. Both liberal and conservative Supreme Court jurists have warned that such a gathering would make the U.S. Constitution vulnerable to radical and harmful changes.

More than 30 years ago, former Chief Justice Warren Burger suggested that the agenda of a constitutional convention called for a single issue could veer in other directions, particularly under the influence of special interest lobbying. The late Justice Antonin Scalia voiced similar concerns as as recently as 2014.

Hillyard added that Cache Valley residents also seem leery of the idea of tinkering with the Constitution.

“Every time (congressional term limits) has been brought up over the years in our town hall meetings, the people in attendance are strongly opposed to a constitutional convention,” Hillyard explained.

“So I’ve suggested that (the USTL) try to elect federal legislators who can amend the constitution without the problems and danger of a constitutional convention.”

Local GOP voters will choose between Hillyard and Wilson in primary balloting on June 30.

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  • LAllen June 12, 2020 at 1:46 pm Reply

    Yet another reason to vote for Wilson, he position reflects what the people are asking for. Mr. Hillyard has been an excellent state Senator no question on that but simply time for a change

  • Brucerj June 12, 2020 at 8:26 pm Reply

    I’m curious about how we determine when it’s time for a change. Should one term be enough? Is a legislator just getting his feet wet by then? Is two terms the sweet spot? Three? Who is to decide? When a particularly effective civil servant is in office, should term limits end the service or should effectiveness and ability bear sway? When a state senator or congressman has risen to the top, in experience and contacts so he/she knows how to work well to move needed legislation through, is that a liability or an asset? A previous post admitted Lyle Hillyard has been an excellent state senator. I agree. I don’t agree with everything he’s done, but I didn’t expect to. His judgment and his ability to wrap his mind around complex issues and cut through the chaff makes him a rare commodity, even among capable and bright legislators. Unless you can beat him at chess or trivial pursuit or you have even better social skills and working relationships (which isn’t easy), you may want to rethink removing someone with Mr. Hillyard’s talents.

    • Gina` Kent June 14, 2020 at 10:04 am Reply

      Well said!

  • dale clary June 14, 2020 at 3:34 pm Reply

    Mr. Wilson and the author do not understand that an Art V convention of the states (which the bill is calling for) is NOT a constitutional convention. The states select, authorize, instruct, and supervise the delegates to this convention, and those delegates cannot change the Constitution. Any proposed amendments do not become part of the Constitution until ratified by 3/4 of the states. And Justice Scalia was not talking about an Art. V convention.

    • May June 15, 2020 at 4:59 pm Reply

      Chris Wilson isn’t calling for a constitutional convention. If you’ve seen the ads popping up from the Term Limits U.S. group, it’s clear that it is a commitment to uphold term limits. Mr. Wilson is not proposing to change our constitution, rather he is just saying that term limits are important. I agree with Chris Wilson and believe in term limits, especially when we’ve had a Senator in office for almost 4 decades!

  • Don June 14, 2020 at 6:47 pm Reply

    The minute someone thinks they are the only person that can fix the state’s problems (or are told that they are by state legislative leaders), is the minute one should retire from the legislature. Every time someone talks about Val Potter, they say how effective he is able to be even though he was new to the legislature, yet with Lyle Hillyard it is that he is so experienced and no one else can have the influence he has, so we have to keep him. So which one is it?

    We hear that term limits are unnecessary, because voters can always remove them anytime they like, but then they turn around and say that we have to send back the people with more years in the legislature since that will give them more power on various committees. So which one is it?

    Lyle was in charge of the failed tax overhaul that had to be pulled before the initiative pulled it. He co-sponsored a bill almost 10 years ago to gut government transparency related to legislator electronic communication right at a time when most of their communication was going electronic – it also had to be pulled after passing. Then he couldn’t even get his Mantua speed trap law passed. What has Lyle done for us lately?

  • Don June 14, 2020 at 6:50 pm Reply

    The unfortunate issue with this article is that it takes what should be a discussion of state term limits and instead talks about federal term limits. Sure, Congress needs it, too, but that doesn’t apply to Lyle. It would be a state law change to ensure Utah politicians are term-limited. That would be a better discussion, because the doing the same at the federal level gets much more complicated. Let’s fix what we have the power to fix.

  • Jack P. June 15, 2020 at 4:22 pm Reply

    I find this article interesting; we learn that 82% of Americans support limits. That seems like an overwhelming majority, no? So then, what? Are 82% of Americans wrong? To me, Lyle is just trying to scare us. We CAN introduce term limits, especially on a state level. I’m pretty sure half of the States currently have them. Let’s not fall for this, guys.

  • Philip G July 2, 2020 at 12:32 pm Reply

    To say one supports term limits but is opposed to taking the only steps possible to achieve them is the same as saying one opposes term limits! This political double-speak and opposition to term limits led to Sen. Hillyard’s retirement as is proper.

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