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Friday, September 19, 2008

Vote yes for Illinois Con-Con

Pursuant to the Illinois Constitution, Article XIV, Section 1:

(a) Whenever three-fifths of the members elected to each house of the General Assembly so direct, the question of whether a Constitutional Convention should be called shall be submitted to the electors at the general election next occurring at least six months after such legislative direction.
(b) If the question of whether a Convention should be called is not submitted during any twenty-year period, the Secretary of State shall submit such question at the general election in the twentieth year following the last submission.

So, on November 4, 2008, Illinois voters will be asked the following referendum type question:

This proposal deals with a call for a state constitutional convention. The last such convention was held in 1969-70, and a new Constitution was adopted in 1970. The 1970 Illinois Constitution requires that the question of calling a convention be placed before the voters every 20 years. In 1988 the electors rejected the call for a constitutional convention, with 75% voting against calling a convention and 25% voting in favor of calling a convention. If you believe the 1970 Illinois Constitution needs to be revised through the convention process, vote “YES” on the question of calling a constitutional convention. If you believe that a constitutional convention is not necessary, or that changes can be accomplished through other means, vote “NO” on the calling of a constitutional convention.
YES | NO | For the calling of a Constitutional Convention (see, 7 page PDF brochure produced by the Illinois Secretary of State)

When I first heard this was coming up, about a year ago, my initial reaction was "No way! The special interest groups will hijack the process and the kinds of things we'd like to get rid of will be all the more deeply entrenched in the system. And worse." Since then, I've gone back and forth several times on whether to vote yes or no.

The State Journal-Register recently ran a poll on this topic with the following results:

concon_sjr_survey.jpg

Someone has started an Illinois Con-Con blog with some excellent ideas that make a convention seem less sinister:

  • A Vision for Illinois Democracy....
  • First Proposal: Unicameral General Assembly: "Bicameralism, or having two distinct legislative bodies, at the state level is an outdated institution. The 'Great Compromise' that devised bicameralism at the Federal level was done to balance the small/big state dilemma when 13 colonies were forging a new union. It is not apparent to me why this legislative structure was then carried over to State legislatures. We don’t have this for City Councils and County Boards. [...]"
  • Second Proposal: Slightly Larger General Assembly: "Today's GA has 118 House members and 59 Senators for a total body of 177 members. With Illinois' 12+ million citizens this means that we average over 70,000 citizens per General Assembly member. This ratio makes Illinois one of the highest 6 or 7 states for citizens per state representative. That's not a good ratio to have. [...]"
  • Third Proposal: Mixed-Member Legislature

So far, there are only those four entries. Read the whole thing. Even though it's short, the author obviously put a lot of thought into it.

Here is a short list of articles (with comments) I've been accumulating, most of which are from the CapitolFaxBlog. Speaking of which, it hasn't escaped me that the people who are against having an Illinois Con-Con have organized and are paying for advertising on the CapitolFax Blog in an effort to sway the vote away from yes. As one commenter said, "Well, the anti-conventions ads that have been running here at Capitol Fax have convinced me it is a bad idea." (Link) Me too.

Many things are wrong in Illinois government. The corruption. Legislators who vote with their party leaders when certain matters are obviously against the interest of their constituents. Legislators who are more afraid of falling out of favor with the party leaders than working for the interests of their constituents. Legislators who are dependent on party leaders for re-election. The way districts are drawn. The multiple layers of bureaucracy. The way people are taxed. The way schools are funded. And the list goes on in favor of reasons to change the way things are. I realize that a constitutional convention won't necessarily cure these ills, but we'd be fools not to try.

And, so, I'm voting yes for an Illinois Constitutional Convention on November 4, 2008.

Posted by Marie at September 19, 2008 4:24 PM

Comments

I agree that the list of reforms possible with a Con-Con is exciting! Even if we only got 3 or 4 of the major ones; term limits (even just for the leadership positions), computer generated non-partisan redistricting, the right of recall and a balanced budget amendment with teeth, (let's write a provision that debt can not be deemed as revenue and that if no balanced budget is achieved by the due date then the GA must remain in session without pay, that should get the job done!) many Illinois citizens would be dancing in the streets at the success! The list of possiblities is tremendous; property and sales tax relief and tax swaps, school funding reform, ballot access and election reform, it just goes on and on. I only wish those Unions weren't blocking this effort so significantly, they are playing into the hands of the staus quo,(whether deliberately or coincidently, you decide?) But I can only hope that the rank and file can see through the fear mongering, no one is going to go after the pension protections in the Constitution, if would be the death of any new Constitution coming out of the Convention so what would be the point?
Wakeup Union members, you are being used to protect the powers that be!

Posted by: Dr. Lora Chamberlain at September 19, 2008 11:22 PM

"Computer generated non-partisan redistricting"?

If this is based on population and natural boundaries whenever possible, I think I'd vote for it no matter what other junk amendments they hung on it.

Posted by: Rob Author Profile Page at September 20, 2008 5:40 AM

After serving o many committees for many decades, I KNOW that the best way to get things done is not large groups. With a Con-con, we would spend all that money, and be lucky to get one item clearly passed. You remember the old joke aboutthe giraffe being created by a committee. We have important issues to deal with, but not a Con-con.

Posted by: Billie Thomas at September 21, 2008 7:50 PM

Con Con! Back in the '60s--let me get out of my rocking chair to spin this yarn--one of my uncles put us to work one week putting up posters for a liberal North Side Chicagoan named John Kearney. (Quite a character: http://www.wjinc.com/main.asp?SectionID=4&subsectionID=4&articleID=4643). I will confess that I didn't really understand what the constitutional convention did back then.

Posted by: Dan at September 22, 2008 11:45 AM

This is a tricky topic, because many pro Con-Con advocates portray unions as money-hungry bullies throwing their influence around. However, most of these unions are made up of honest, hard working people who rely upon their unions for financial stability and the future. The Firefighter's union is why I have a roof over my head, health care, and an education. My municipal pension is why I forgo higher paying but less stable careers.
On the other hand, the Illinois government is certainly flawed, if not completely broken. If I had any faith in the politicians of Illinois to act in the best interest of their constituants, I would vote yes. However, I fail to see how a constitution created by a broken system could be any better than what we have now. What we really need is a state of educated, savvy voters, who will elect the BEST candidate, not the best talker. Or just move to Wisconsin.

Posted by: Maggie at October 8, 2008 10:00 AM

Vote No to Con Con. I will make it as easy as this: Lots of money will be spent for no good reason with little to show, and legitimate safety nets for hard working individuals can be seriously jeopardized. I agree with the above voter, we vote them into office and then we complain about their actions. Do more research next time before you blindly vote in our "leaders."

Posted by: Josh at October 8, 2008 1:19 PM

Vote NO on con con. The way to "throw the (corrupt) bums out" is by voting. A new convention would cost the taxpayers millions, tie up valuable time and open up a feeding frenzy on fire, police and teacher pensions. Use VOTING to get rid of corrupt politicians. Protect pensions and lets not let a con con put Springfield on hold at taxpayers expense.

Posted by: jerry C at October 13, 2008 1:21 PM

Please vote NO on con-con. As a teacher, this process would absolutely be detrimental to my pension -- as well as the pensions of colleagues and friends who are police and firemen. These professionals are NOT the people you want to leave high and dry after they retire.

Posted by: Sarah at October 16, 2008 2:03 PM

I will be certainly be voting yes on Con-Con. Our Illinois political system couldn't be more corrupt, and we can't wait another 20 years to pass for the chance to change things. I like many of the ideas here. For me a key element is creating some form of binding referendums. We're one of the only states that don't allow its citizens to petition its government in this way. The fear-mongering by the entrenched political and business powers will say we don't want a California style referendum system; however, California's lenient system for enactment is hardly the only model. They have easily the loosest rules for enacting referendum. Once Illinois voters get sensible binding refendum rights, we won't have to wait every 20 years to beg the corrupt politicians to consider reforming themselves.

Posted by: Jeff Burdick at October 19, 2008 12:35 PM