Monday, July 09, 2007

If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It. But What If It Is Broke?

Failure of Illinois government in 2007 could pave way for Con-Con OKin 2008; Wouldn't that teach them!

There is no way of telling how many citizens - and voters - of Illinois are paying any attention to what is happening in our state government in Springfield this July.

We're approaching the mid-point of summer, vacations are getting underway, temperatures are climbing and the guess here is that very few Illinoisans are paying attention to the complete breakdown of government leadership we are experiencing in Illinois in 2007.

Headlines on two separate stories included in our Springfield Watch section below include the words "constitutional crisis" and "constitutional controversy."

Illinois Government is not working - at least that part of the government that is under the control of the state's top elected leaders.

We're not alone in viewing the governor of Illinois as a complete disaster. We won't go as far as State Rep. Joseph Lyons, D-Chicago, who called him a "mad man" and "insane" over the weekend. Lyons is a Democrat, the same as the governor, and probably voted for him last November. So, it seems likely, did House Speaker Michael J. Madigan, also a Democrat and one of the saner voices in Springfield this year. Gov. Rod Blagojevich described him as acting like a "right-wing Republican" in one of his rants.

A true card-carrying Republican, Rep. Michael Bost, R-Murphysboro, called for impeachment proceedings to begin against Blagojevich.

It may be going to far to call it a "constitutional" crisis just yet as it's the personalities involved -- particularly the governor -- rather than the Illinois Constitution, that is causing the problem.

But if Illinois voters -- at least those who are paying attention and are getting furious -- decide that something has to be done and that maybe the Constitution is part of the problem or, more likely, that changes in the Constitution could be used to prevent similar silliness in the future, there is not a better time for action.

In November, 2008, at the next General Election, Illinois voters will be asked if the state should convene a constitutional convention to revise or even re-draw the 1970 Illinois Constitution.

And a new constitution could be written in a way to remove legislative -- and gubernatorial -- control over some major issues.

A few that are mentioned over and over include:

* Education funding;
* The role of gambling in Illinois;
* Moral issues, such as same-sex marriage; abortion, parental notification prior to abortions for teens;
* Funding for public transportation;
* The size and composition of the General Assembly itself: return to multi-member districts; reduce the size by considering a unicameral system (one chamber) as in Nebraska;
* Reduce the size of the Executive branch: eliminate elected lieutenant governor;
combine comptroller and treasurer (and eliminate?).
There also are several issues that are close to the agenda and interests of the Illinois Civil Justice League:

* Selection of judges: merit selection rather than election;
* Public financing of judicial elections;
* Giving the legislature the authority to impose limits on damages OR
* Prohibiting the legislature from establishing limits on damages.
It would not take a lot of time or effort for fertile imaginations to develop a substantially longer list of potential constitutional issues and there are many special interest groups on all sides of every issue who would be ready to mobilize in a hurry.

It's true that a "Constitution" should be a framework for government, not encumbered with many specific issues that should be left to the elected legislators and implemented by the elected executive branch.

But when the system doesn't seem to be working -- and it clearly is not working right now -- voters have a tendency to get uneasy and in 2008, they are going to have the chance to take a first step toward making some major fundamental changes in governance in Illinois.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. But if it IS broke, there are lots of interests that would be happy to jump in and fix it.

Cross-posted by Ed Murnane at Illinois Justice Blog.


grand old partisan 5:00 PM  

The problem with the Illinois Constitution is that it allows the personality conflicts of 3 men to gridlock the entire state government.

It seems like everyone in Springfield is eager to do something, except for the "leaders:" Blago, Jones and Madigan.

Extreme Wisdom 9:24 PM  

Gridlock is possibly better than movement in the wrong direction, and could probably happen under any Constitution.

One clause that could be added to a new Constitution would be that in cases similar to today's failure, the previous year's budget is automaticly reauthorizated, with inflation and population growth built in as the only increases allowed.

This creates the incentive for good "gridlock," as it allows a robust coaltion to "freeze" government growth.

Regardless, the old Constitution is a piece of crap, and it doesn't need fixing, it needs trashing.

Start over.

Smaller districts, more Representation, open ballot access for alternatives to the two corrupt party structures, and recall, ballot initiatives, and aggressive penalties for any gov. official's failure to comply with a beefed up FOIA law.

It is time to give Illinois back to its citizens, and take it away from piggish party hacks.

Anonymous,  11:09 PM  

I saw a souvenir stamp sheet from Mongolia, and for a moment I thought the stamps on the sheet were honoring our Governor, House Speaker and State Senate President.

But then i took a closer look and realized the stamps depicted the Three Stooges instead. An honest mistake on my part.

Believe me, I am looking forward to voting for a ConCon in November 2008.

Extreme Wisdom 9:12 AM  

Fed Up,

The Con Con will be polling about 60-65% up until about 4-6 weeks out.

Then the craven cabal of "left/right" Dem/Rep scare mongers will fund a campaign to stop it and drive down its numbers.

Remember, it needs 60%+ to pass.

If you are for it, start organizing and promoting now. Be ready for the onslaught.

Identify your favorite Non Party Aligned delegate. Start now.

Rob Nesvacil 12:25 PM  


Doesn't Texas (with its generally weak executive and limited lege) have something like what you described (if by a certain date a new budget is not agree upon the prior year's budget automatically repeats)?

Extreme Wisdom 6:18 PM  


I looked into it, and the Texas Const. is a mess. I couldn't find anything.

I'll bet every state has a problem with these ridiculous Constitutions that read more like the "Annotated Code of Goodies" that they do like the elegant and still unsurpassed US Const.

For my part, the only thing missing from all Constitutions is a clause limiting every governmental entity's spending/budget to inflation + Population growth, only to be broken by a 2/3rds vote.

This would probably put a decent brake on Wars, pension abuses AND the bloated salaries of Todd's and Rod's connected and pay to play buddies.

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