Sunday, October 26, 2008

Editorials on the con-con

All from To start we look at a piece that says that the current state constitution works by former Illinois Governor Jim Edgar:
llinois government may not be working, but our constitution works.

Throughout most of the nearly four decades since voters approved the state constitution, several governors and hundreds of legislators found common ground to move Illinois forward.

I worked with Democratic and Republican lawmakers to put state finances on solid footing, balance the budget, make Chicago Public Schools more accountable and help thousands of people move from welfare to work. Under this constitution, we have seen major capital improvement programs and advances that enhanced our economy and quality of life.

Our constitution, regarded as one of the best in the nation, certainly does not require the sweeping rewrite that a convention could produce. Like the U.S. Constitution, it is an enduring, broadly worded document that protects our rights, lays out a sound framework for governing and is insulated from the passions of the moment.

Consider an alternative document in California. The California Constitution allows for the initiative and referendum process that resulted in powerful interest groups convincing uninformed citizens to support laws that have a significant impact on state and local budgets. This process, touted by many constitutional convention proponents in Illinois, has put California taxpayers in a precarious financial position and left them paying the bill.
Here's a piece in favor of a con-con:
Some say we shouldn’t change the rules that control the politicians, that we should just change the politicians. We can change politicians, but politicians don’t change. Expecting all politicians to suddenly become virtuous is like expecting wolves to suddenly become vegetarians.

Some say we can’t afford a convention because it would cost $78 million, as though all election costs have to be borne by the convention, as though delegate selection and amendment voting can’t be done at regular elections. The $78 million figure comes to about $336,500 per elected delegate. Perhaps that estimate tells us why the state borders on bankruptcy.

Some say delegates may interfere with public pensions.

Concern for public pensions actually is a reason to vote for con-con, not against it. State government mismanagement, which includes failure to fund public pensions, has brought the state to the brink of bankruptcy. When the state is insolvent, so are pension funds. Our next opportunity for reform like this doesn’t come around till 2028. Failure to act now makes it unlikely there will be any pension funds by then.
I was unwilling unfortunately to really excerpt this thing but this is pretty good and worth reading the whole thing. It answers a lot of fears and concerned about convening a con-con.

Another piece not in favor of a con-con:
From the staggering financial expense to the erosion of strong protections on issues such as discrimination and tax caps, the chamber board believes the constitutional rewrite would be a costly and ineffective measure to address our state’s real problems.

The public resources that would be allocated to the constitutional convention — approximately $100 million and countless hours of our politicians’ time — could be put to better use in addressing our state’s real issues: budget deficits, school funding and crumbling infrastructure. 

If approved by voters, the constitutional convention wouldn’t be held until 2010, giving legislators a pass to do nothing until that date to address the state’s problems. The problems and challenges within our state cannot be attributed to flaws in our constitution, when in fact, the Illinois Constitution is considered by many legal scholars to be a model for other states to follow. By allowing politicians, special-interest groups and single-issue groups to rewrite our constitution, we could face the possibility that these problems would amplify. 
A piece in favor of the con-con...
Illinois voters will be presented with a historical opportunity to fix the structural problems that plague Illinois government and fix deficiencies and loopholes in our current constitution. There are problems that can only be fixed in a constitution, but the entrenched interests have come out saying a convention is unnecessary. Here is why they are wrong.

There are two arguments that a constitutional convention is inadvisable: the necessary changes can be made through other means (i.e. electing better politicians) and that there is no way to ensure that reform-minded delegates get elected. Skipping past the individual merits of these arguments for a moment, the arguments perfectly illustrate the problem. On one hand, we need to elect better politicians (I agree); on the other hand, we can’t enough elect good politicians to make a difference (I also agree). The opposition to a convention presents no solutions, just another intractable problem.
Finally this next piece basically runs down the issues of the con-con and the fact that it's on the ballot. Some of this has already been seen from time-to-time:
Whether a convention happens depends on the vote totals on the referendum question. There will be a convention if 60 percent of the people voting on the question say “yes” or if a majority of the people voting in the entire election vote “yes.” Otherwise, there will be no convention.

If voters authorize a constitutional convention, two convention delegates would be elected from each of Illinois’ 59 state Senate districts — a total of 118 delegates. Whether those prospective delegates would run for office on a partisan basis or a nonpartisan basis would be up to the General Assembly to decide as it worked out the mechanics of conducting a con-con. To be eligible as a delegate, a person must be a U.S. citizen who is at least 21 years old and who has lived in his or her state Senate district for at least two years before the delegate election.

Supporters of a “con-con” say that voting yes will offer an opportunity to fix what ails state government. Opponents say a yes vote won’t repair the problems because they’re caused by the individuals currently in government, and not by the constitution, which remains fundamentally sound.

The two sides of the debate have attracted an unusual mishmash of individuals and groups.
Some things to consider before you go to the ballot box on Nov. 4th. That is if you haven't early voted already.

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