Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Business Roundtable puts out excellent background material on the 2008 constitutional question

The Illinois Business Roundtable (a sort of Chamber of Commerce) released some really excellent research on the 2008 question as to whether we voters should exercise our option to improve our Constitution through calling a convention.

The full report is available from their website here.

Really great stuff on the previous three constitutions and the conventions that led to their successive replacements.

Their conclusion, however, is rather tepid, which is that they aren't interested in a convention. Their reasoning is that because the legislature could be solving big picture issues (like creating good schools in poor areas, or ending the reverse Robin Hood regressive taxes we impose, or modernizing our elections), we don't need to amend the constitution. We just need the legislature and the governor to get to work.

In my view there are structural deficiencies to state government (particularly the excessive authority vested in the Office of the Governor, regardless of who happens to hold the seat) that only a constitutional amendment can solve, and thus a convention is an excellent tool to get some amendments on the 2010 ballot.

But more to the point, the notion that simply because a convention isn't absolutely required due to a clearly deficient constitution, we ought to reject the opportunity that a convention provides to create another avenue to improving Illinois government is wrong-headed.

Any chance we get to improve Illinois government we ought to take.

Those chances don't come around very often.

And when we get a chance to change our government in fundamental ways -- to let the people be heard in another venue and a different context -- that's a chance we need to embrace.

It's the politics of hope over the politics of fear and cynicism.

The position of hope is to say yes, let us take this opportunity to make things better.

The position of cynicism and fear is to say no, it will never work or the special interests won't bend or, more fundamentally, we can't ever really change anyway. So just give up and give in.

We'll never get good schools for poor children in Illinois.

We'll never give more voice to regular people in our elections and in our legislature.

We'll never have the politics that is a model for the nation instead of a political liability for presidential candidates.

I reject that defeatist thinking.

I'm sorry the Roundtable embraces it.

And I hope the people of Illinois join the next President of the United States in saying yes, we can.

And voting yes for the chance to change.


fedup dem 9:10 AM  

Someone needs to inform the bozos of the Illinois Business Roundtable that it is time to come back from Fantasyland.

"We just need the legislature and the governor to get to work." If they believe that will happen under our current setup, then you can probably find them right now over at the Wrigley Field box office, waiting in line for World Series tickets!

Yellow Dog Democrat 11:32 AM  

Dan, I'm just curious, where do you think the Constitution grants the Governor excessive authority, and how would you fix it?

I honestly don't remember any "balance of power" problems under previous Governors, although I think Fritchey has made any interesting argument about eliminating the amendatory veto.

Dan Johnson-Weinberger 2:25 PM  

The amendatory veto is a mistake. That's too much authority for the executive branch.

Another problem is the spending power. If the Executive branch doesn't like a part of the budget then the line-item veto (which can be overridden) is the right remedy. But now, the Governor can simply not spend the lawfully appropriated money and there is nothing anyone can do about it. Representative John Bradley calls this a constitutional crisis. It's a unilateral power by one branch to not spend part of the budget which is another way of unilaterally making law. That's a constitutional structural flaw.

Thanks for the question YDD

And by the way, I'm not sure what the remedy is. Maybe any constitutional officer can release lawfully appropriated funds. I don't know. But the status quo isn't working well.

Anonymous,  3:40 PM  

You had me till you brought up the politics of hope over fear & cynicism. Then you made me vomit. You go right on ahead to that ConCon talking like that and the polite people will nod and then shut the door in your face when they go into the side room to hammer out the real deals.

steve schnorf 4:05 PM  

In my long career, I've yet to see a situation that can't be made worse by the inspired efforts of sincere people.

Anonymous,  6:03 PM  

How'd public housing turn out? Or welfare?

Chico,  1:10 AM  

The Iraq war was started and promoted by and large by the inspired efforts of people who sincerely thought they were doing the right thing. Maybe you're an Iraq supporter though, I don't know, but I'm not.

Dan Johnson-Weinberger 2:50 PM  

I don't think I'd agree with your assessment of the Iraq War as driven by sincere people trying to do the right thing. And Steve's comment that sincere people can also make things worse doesn't suggest to me that we ought to stick with the status quo. The sincere people who put together every provision of the 1970 constitution certainly could have come up with some provisions of the constitution (like the flat tax requirement or the amendatory veto) that is worse than what we had before or what we might come up with in 2008.

Extreme Wisdom 12:06 AM  

One needs only to read the following from the IBRT...

Despite concern with the current functional capability of state government, many of today’s issues are neither the cause for nor remedied by constitutional change. Illinois current constitutional framework is adequate, open, and not hostile to resolving the serious issues that confront the state today.

What a load of nonsense!

First, we should all realize that we live in a state where the Constitution has a "balanced budget clause", along with $106 bn in unfunded liabilities.

A look at Lake Forest school spending compared to 3 miles north in North Chicago, is all you need to see that the "Equal Protection Clause" is a joke.

Dan's point about the amendatory veto is well-taken, in that it basically allows the governor to initiate, and then pass legislation, basically daring the GA to override it.

Give me a break people. The 1970 Const. is one of the worst drafted documents one can imagine. Every aspect of it extracts power from the citizens and turn it over to the political class, which, contrary to the IBRT's nonsensical ramblings, is immune from citizen control.

A con con might not work. The status quo does not work.

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