Con-Con Talk

At least one local educator is telling children that a state constitutional convention (con-con) equals elimination of their beloved teachers’ pensions. Evidently the subject of special-interest propaganda, along with the dangers of driving and drugs and death-metal music, must be discussed with the offspring both early and often. So be it. I’ll also go on record once again in support of a con-con.

Short “pro-con-con” argument: “Egregious constitutional errors are not fixing themselves.” But also take a look at the following longer version, well-expressed by Springfield blogger Will Reynolds in a post titled “Bring Democracy to Illinois”:

The Illinois Constitution does not provide for democratic measures existing in other states such as: a binding referendum that allows the public to vote directly on laws; a reasonable discharge petition requirement that permits legislative action on bills opposed by leadership; fair rules to allow equal participation by third party and independent candidates; and limits on the use of the amendatory veto.

The recent gridlock and controversy in state government is not unique to the current cast of players. Popular bills bottled up without a vote in one chamber of the legislature, the lack of legislative involvement in creating the budget, and abuse of excessive executive power are stories repeated far too often during the last thirty years. These are systemic problems that will continue into the future without fundamental reform.

Wealthy special interest groups are funding an advertising campaign to oppose a constitutional convention because they know the current system is rigged in their favor. Groups who exercise their power through large campaign contributions and curry favor at open-bar receptions for legislators fear the uncertainty of unfamiliar constitutional convention delegates newly elected by the people. It takes away their advantage of the relationships they have spent years and millions of dollars developing with current state leaders. Despite the scare tactics, state workers and teachers have the most to gain from a new constitution with the prospect of guaranteed pension funding for state workers, and education funding reforms that both parties have talked about but failed to pass for twenty years.

21 thoughts on “Con-Con Talk”

  1. I just got a similar view in a letter from the head of the instructors union at NIU. Though I am not in the defined benefit form of the University Retirement System, so that I would not be much affected by most pension changes, I still think that there is no need for another expensive convention. Any needed improvements in the constitution can readily be implemented through the amendment process. This is made much easier now that the entire state is run by Chicago Democrats. State governmental gridlock is only a bad memory now that those Evil Republicans have been permanently banished to minority status.

  2. I would like the idea of a Con Con if there was a disqualifier that anyone who has ever held or presently holds a public office is not allowed to be a delegate. Otherwise, it seems that the same elected people we have now will be those that are elected as delegates. So whats the point.


  3. Any needed improvements in the constitution can readily be implemented through the amendment process.

    An amendment requires 3/5’s of the General Assembly’s approval and then be put to referendum for the voters. Given the level of cooperation in Springfield, when, where and how would anything close to 3/5 come about? Amendments are not an option. Truthspeak: If it is so expensive for a Con Con convention, I’ve seen the costs grow from $8 million to now $100 million as elections grow near, what are the costs of an amendment?

    Otherwise, it seems that the same elected people we have now will be those that are elected as delegates.

    Keyword is elected. Step One is to give citizens the chance to vote on needed constitutional changes, Step Two is for citizens to run as delegates. If we fear the same elected people we have now so much then how can we possibly not want to change the system that protects them.

    So whats the point.

    Real change instead of lip service. A once in 20 years opportunity for the people of this state to rid ourselves from the corrupt system now in place. End the loopholes. End the last 4-year-salary-hike-ticket-to-an-inflated-pension-scam we all know is going on. End the special interest buy out of our state government. Give all children an equal chance of a quality education regardless of their community’s EAV. Fix home rule. If we do nothing we’ll have status quo with the unrealistic hope that the state will fix itself with the ineptitude that put us here in the first place. Those on public pensions will lose them if we do nothing due to state bankruptcy. Perhaps we should figure what the costs of not holding a constitution convention are?

  4. At least one local educator is telling children that a state constitutional convention (con-con) equals elimination of their beloved teachers’ pensions.

    More than one, and there are many, students being told to ask their parents to vote no is not acceptable. One is too many. It is illegal. It is unethical. It is immoral. No further proof of the need for real change is needed.

  5. Our state government is completely and utterly dysfunctional to the point where our elected officials don’t even meet with each other. Anybody opposed to a con-con is either part of the corruption or is a lunatic. Yes Jim Edgar, you are included.

    The “it’s expensive” argument is baseless. We’ll easily burn through as much money with a dysfunctional government in less than a year than what is needed to run a simple convention.

    The wording of the ballot question is beyond ridiculous and they should have forced everyone to reprint new ballots instead of this added notice business. Furthermore whoever came up with that wording should have footed the bill for the reprinting.

    Maybe if the teachers were more concerned about using this as an opportunity to pursue equitable school district funding instead of fear-mongering for their damned dinosaur pensions which nobody else outside of government on the planet gets or wants to have to rely on then we would be achieving some progress.

  6. Mac
    I need further explanation.

    Every 2 years an average citizen runs for the loacl state rep position against Bob Pritchard and Pritchard wins by a landslide because among other things his political backers or machine ( not at all trying to be critical of Pritchard)

    The point I am trying to make is that if he runs to be the local delegate how can an average Joe beat him for the delegates race when he can’t be beat for the state rep race.

    That is what I mean by won’t we just be electing the same people

    Not sure if this makes sense.

    P S I sent you a email blast I got the other day about the taxing of retirement pensions as a result of the Con Con did you get that


  7. Pevo… I did get your email forward. Thanks for sending it to me. Pritchard has not been in Springfield that long (he replaced the late Dave Wirsing in 2003). IMHO, he won against Brown and Sauer because he was the better candidate. Because he is opposed to the Con Con, and has mouthed the propaganda of those behind the wording of the ballot question, he should not be considered as a delegate. He would not be unbeatable by any means. There are angry voters out there about to be made furious when the tax assessment shenanigans are pulled on them. There will not be a status quo politician left standing. The dumbing down is over.

  8. Ummm, the next domino is falling:

    How in the world will regular citizens be able to participate in Con Con if there is one? I see two problems:

    1.) I am with Pevo questioning how a regular person could try and campaign against a well-known person. Senator Brad Burzynski has an NIU law student running against him. I know I read everything I saw in the news about the election but I cannot even remember the guy’s name. Gailly? Galley? Do delegates run as independents (like the city) or do they run under political parties? What regular people are going to have enough money to fund a delegate campaign?

    2.) OK, say delegates get elected, then what next? This is something I do not know. Do the delegates then spend a week in Springfield hammering out a new constitution? Spend a month in Springfield hammering out a new constitution? Spend six months there until the job is done? Other than the current dysfunctional band of misfits who already occupy the statehouse, what real person can be away from their job long enough to serve?

  9. Anonymous: The same can be said for well-known/familiar Sparrow vs the ‘Regular Joe’/unfamiliar Van Buer. Are we better off or worse?
    Point is… whomever we vote in seems to quickly disappoint us.

    I’m thinking we need some MAJOR constitutional changes here to turn things around….

  10. Anonymous… Yup, I’m embarrassed to say I voted for Wogen. I read his post card after voting. If I would have read it before voting I would have probably written my name in or skipped that choice altogether. Steve was a familiar face on the council. Things would be worse.

    And so, accoeding to Kay’s link, the IMRF’s investments did not perform as expected. But their performance is essentially Illinois Constitutionally promised, backed by, ummmm, well, property taxes, if they must. New rates must be set before Dec 31. Did I mention how furious taxpayers are going to be with the tax assessment shenanigans coming? The Great New Madrid Quake of 1811 might be considered a tremor compared to the grassroots upheaval coming. Status quo’s gotsta go :-)

  11. A story:
    I follow these blogs and think I understand what Mac and Yinn want to accomplish at a con con.

    At a recent meeting I met politically active people some of whom want to run for the con con and want to accomplish things that I believe Mac (and perhaps Yinn) strongly oppose.

    The flaws in the constitution are there (though no constitution guarantees quality elected people) But people want to revamp the constitution in dramatically different ways.

    My question (to all side): are you better off with the current constitution (and the admittedly difficult ability to amend single parts) then you would be if we had a con-con and those with opposing views to yours prevailed in the rewrite.

    hope I’m coherent. I’m on cold medicines that leave me befuddled

  12. Yinn: increased taxes through progressive income tax

    some strengthening of government in ways that I didn’t really pay attention to.

    they support home rule

    hope above helps a bit
    herb who also likes his precious pension since academics in illinois don’t have any social security (no choice on our part)

    Beyond the acquaintances, I’ve picked up stories of folk who dislike the socially progressive nature of the constitution with regard to diversity issues and want to weaken those provisions.

    To be blunt: there is much in the constitution I would like to change and if left on my own to do it would do so, but am afraid in these wedge issue, polarizing times what could happen.

    cold is worsening and I’m in a real fog so hope I don’t sound to sharp, just yucky.


  13. It looks like there are two delegates per Legislative District:

    I will guess that “Legislative District” means per rep, as in Pritchard’s district not the larger senate district.

    Take a look at Section 3. I think this means if some really motivated people throughout the state can get 8% of the citizens who voted for governor to sign a petition for an amendment, then that could be put up for a vote, without waiting for Springfield to develop an amendment.

  14. What many people here want to do is to reform Illinois government, which it desperately needs, but they do not think through what might happen at a constitutional convention. Who currently controls Illinois state government? The Daley Machine. So, it is also likely that the same bunch will have control of the convention as well. Consequently, you can kiss goodbye anything that would threaten their control such as initiative and recall. You can also forget such current rights as self defense, the right to a pension if you are a state worker, and likely also to your rights to your own income and property.

    The fundamental problem in Illinois has not changed for the better since the 1862 constitutional convention. Already at that time, the rest of Illinois was worried about being ruled from Chicago. That fear has long since become the status quo. Illinois is simply too diverse to be ruled equitably from one city. This has long been the case. Initially, after the Late Unpleasantness in the 1860s, there was considerable ill feelings between the southern part of the state and the northern part of the state. To counter this, an ex-mayor of Chicago, Joseph Medill set up the system of cumulative voting for the 3 member house districts in the General Assembly that was put into the 1870 state constitution. This ingenious system had its problems, but it was a reasonably effective means of keeping the state together. It was made optional in the 1970 constitution, and Pat Quinn led the charge to eliminate it. After 1963 we also were subjected to the Supreme Court’s usurpation of power that forced all state legislatures to be apportioned on the basis of population n Baker v. Carr. The General Assembly and state governance in general have arguably gotten worse since then.

    Any reform measure that does not address the main issue, which is the oppression of the entire state by Cook County and the Daley Machine, will not do much, if anything to improve Illinois government. I do not see this happening in any Daley controlled state constitutional convention. So long as the state remains in this condition, where the majority rules, and the majority resides in Cook County, the other 101 counties will continue to get the short end of the stick, with no end in sight.

    The only way I can see to remedy this would be to break up Illinois into 2 or more states. This is not without precedent. Vermont was made up of parts of New York, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. Maine seceded from Massachusetts. Tennessee was broken free from North Carolina. Kentucky and West Virginia seceded from Virginia. In fact, Illinois was initially considered to be a county in Virginia until the Northwest Ordinance was passed in 1787. My modest suggestion is to propose this in the General Assembly and see what happens.

  15. Steve

    Good post.

    I tend to feel that those that control the state govenment now will also control the Con Con.

    How’s this for a small factoid. A few of us who worked on the Dan Hynes campaign for senate got together several weeks ago. Does anyone remember that when Obama who the Dem primary for senate he only won 2 of the 102 counties in the state. Hynes won 100 of 102 counties. Guess which 2 counties


  16. Ummm… if status quo is maintained does that not mean that the Daley Machine is in control? How does Do Nothing change anything?

    Here was the ballot question for the Illinois Constitution Convention of 1970:

    For the calling of a constitution question. YES NO

    Here is the ballot question for the 2008 elections:

    Explanation of Proposed Call

    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.

    For the calling of a Constitutional Convention YES NO

    “Stupid is what stupid does.” — Mrs. Forrest Gump.

    Vote YES on the ballot question that tries to talk you into voting NO.

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