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Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Here's what the Illinois Legislature deserves: Amend the Constitution now

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Tribune

So, do you still think a state constitutional convention was a bad idea?

When voters had a rare opportunity last year to call a constitutional convention to fix the stinkpot that is Illinois government, an array of special interests, scholars, editorial boards and even some reformers insisted it was a bad idea.

The problem wasn't the state constitution, but the people in charge, they said, an odd thing to say because many of those people beating that drum were the very people who were in charge. Whatever their inconsistencies, their elaborate PR campaign worked and Illinois' frequently duped voters overwhelmingly rejected the constitutional convention. And then waited for the reform "movement," spawned by the outrages of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, to work its magic.

And waited and waited and waited.

Now the legislature has demonstrated again that it can't or won't rustle up the kind of reform Illinois needs. And all those voices that spoke against a thoroughgoing reorganization of state government appear to have been, at best, suckered, if not complicit with the three-ring circus that has been under way in Springfield.

With a straight face, Gov. Pat Quinn and House Speaker Michael Madigan, both Democrats, patted themselves on their backs for their wunnaful reforms, while failing to do the things that most need to be done, such as stripping the legislative leadership of its iron grip on campaign money and how it's doled out to Senate and House candidates. This is the club they use to bully legislative sheep into doing the leaders' bidding, and helps explain why corruption, "pay to play" and other misdeeds get the wink and nod. Nor did they do anything about the politicized method of redrawing legislative districts every 10 years, a system that is guaranteed to keep the sheep marching to the tune called by the leaders.

There's plenty more that Quinn and the legislature must do. But why bother enumerating them here? They'll be ignored thanks to a system of political inbreeding that has spawned generations of moral idiot savants who have brilliantly manipulated the government as prescribed by the constitution for their own reward. For all the scorn heaped locally and nationally on Blagojevich, he wasn't the problem. He merely was the progeny of a corrupt system.

The constitution won't permit another citizen-initiated constitutional convention for another two decades. But the constitution does give us citizens one opportunity: We can amend the constitution regarding legislative "structural and procedural" matters, without getting legislative approval.

The constitution provides that voters equaling 8 percent of the number that voted in the last gubernatorial election can initiate legislative amendments. In other words, about 270,000 voter signatures could place an amendment on the ballot in the 2010 general election.

What should the amendment or amendments do? There are too many appealing ones to go into here, any one of which would remove the smirk from the faces of the legislative leaders gloating over how they snookered us again. But work has to begin immediately; petitions have to be filed with the secretary of state at least six months before the general election. That might seem to be a long time from now, but reformers must confront these clowns head on now; tell them, "We tried to do it your way. Now it's our turn."

1 comment:

Roy Lipscomb said...

Dennis,

I rarely agree with you, but on this issue I'm with you all the way.

But I can see a huge obstacle to mounting a campaign on this issue: It's not being pushed by any group with a high profile.

You can help defeat this obstacle by keeping your readers up-to-date on this issue, and by offering to link together the grass-roots citizens that are ready to roll up their sleeves.

For recruiting, it will help to have some target proposals we can sink our teeth into.

You teased us with the remark,
"What should the amendment or amendments do? There are too many appealing ones to go into here..."

How about giving two or three? Maybe, the ones you think will give us the most bang for the buck?

Or can you point us to a site that offers such proposals?

Thanks for highlighting this issue.