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West Virginia House Of Delegates Calls For Citizens United Constitutional Amendment

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The West Virginia state Capitol in Charleston.
The West Virginia state Capitol in Charleston.

The Democratic-controlled West Virginia House of Delegates voted Thursday to call on Congress to enact a constitutional amendment overturning the Citizens United Supreme Court decision.

The resolution, which passed 60-39, asks for Congress to draft a constitutional amendment which would allow for corporations to be regulated in terms of how much money they could donate and spend on behalf of political candidates, The State-Journal reported. In 2010, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations could not be regulated on campaign spending, deeming that they were covered under the First Amendment to freedom of speech when it came to campaign donations. A number of Democratic lawmakers and others have been seeking to overturn the decision.

The West Virginia debate showed bipartisan support for the idea. The State-Journal reports:

Delegate John Ellem, R-Wood, dusted off the history books and pointed out the Dutch East India Company, the first multi-national corporation, was created to do big business and had powers to declare war and to try, imprison and execute people. But, Ellem said, times have changed.

"It was a tool," he said. "Corporations existed before the 1st Amendment. They existed before our constitution. Since a corporation is a tool for commerce, I strongly believe being a tool we created, we have the power, we as the legislative body, and the Supreme Court has chimed in on it, but we have the right to impose restrictions."

A constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United is gaining steam among Democrats in Congress as well. Earlier this month, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) told a town hall meeting in his district that he supported such a measure. Last month, Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.) indicated he supported the proposal.

The West Virginia resolution is advisory in nature and tells Congress that the House of Delegates wants a measure passed. The Constitution requires proposed amendments to receive backing from two-thirds of the members of the House and Senate, or from a constitutional convention called for by two-thirds of the states, before needing to be ratified by three-quarters of the states.

The resolution does not call for such an Article V constitutional convention, which allows for state legislatures to pass resolutions calling on Congress to convene a convention to discuss new amendments. A convention can only be called if two-thirds of the states -- which is 34 states -- pass resolutions calling for a convention on the same subject. An Article V convention has never been called in American history.

CORRECTION: The original article incorrectly stated that constitutional amendments proposed by Congress must receive backing from three-fifths of the members of Congress before proceeding to ratification. Constitutional amendments need two-thirds of the members of the House and Senate.

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