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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Illinois Constitutional Convention

Coming up on November 4th is a chance for Illinois voters to call a Constitutional Convention for the state.

Jesse White, the Secretary of State sent out a pamphlet that everyone should have gotten, explaining why this is on the ballot, and what happens if the voters call for a convention. It also contains some pros and cons of holding the convention. I'll list them here for you, then comment.

The Pro Convention arguements:

1. A constitutional convention allows delegates to consider important substantive
issues that have failed to advance in the legislative process.
2. Changes to our state and local governments are best addressed by delegates
elected solely to review the Constitution.
3. A constitutional convention would provide the first comprehensive review
of the Illinois Constitution since its adoption in 1970.
4. Any proposed changes to the Constitution must be ratified by the voters
before they become effective.

The Against arguements:

1. A constitutional convention could cost as much as $78 million.
2. The current Illinois Constitution could be changed without a constitutional
convention, and in fact has been changed 10 times since the last
convention.
3. A constitutional convention could be controlled by special interest
groups and lobbyists, and there is no way to limit the issues discussed.
4. A convention could threaten the economy by creating an unstable business
climate.

Every one of the arguements on both sides is legitimate, however a few are missing. In fact, if you put #5 on the arguements for a convention, it would require only two words Emil Jones.
While we have made some changes over the last 38 years to the current Constitution, the truth is nothing of substance in it will change with the current leadership in our legislature.

Item 4 is the most important, no matter what a convention comes up with, the people still have to approve it.

Arguement 3 against the convention, that special interests might control the convention is really a moot point. If we've learned anything over the last 6 years in this state it's that our government is already controlled by them. How many lobbyists, and 'friends' of our politicians, and politicians have ended up in jail because they were scratching each others backs. Yes, there will be groups that lobby to have parts of their agenda included or to get someone elses excluded from the new document. Guess what, that happened when the original US Constitution was written.

Illinois needs some true reform. Our school funding method is completely disfunctional, the make up of our local governments needs to be consolidated, and transportation funding needs to have some sort of strength behind it, instead of being at the whim of a few legislators.

The current State Senate and Assembly have proven totally inept, and unable to handle any of those reforms, so the best alternative is to rewrite the State Constitution to force certain actions to happen. If legislators are incapable of doing their job, the great thing about our country is that "we the people" can find ways to make it happen anyway.

Will it be expensive? Probably, but it will most likely cost less than the free rides the Governor is giving away on the transit systems. Will there be some ugly fights about content, yes. But an open debate at both a convention, and afterwards when things need to be ratified would be welcome.

What we can't do is sit around and wait for Emil Jones and his cronies to do something. As the current fight over ethics legislation has shown, Jones isn't about doing the right thing, he's about doing what best for him politically.

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