I didn’t think Illinois had initiative. How can you do this?
Article XIV, Section 3 in the State Constitution allows for a very limited avenue for citizens to get constitutional amendments on the ballot. They can only apply to the legislature and then only for “structural and procedural” items. The authors of the current constitution put that clause in there to allow for the citizens to reform the legislature because it would be least likely to reform itself. The courts have limited this meaning to essentially only changing the legislature to unicameral or dealing with the number of representatives per district.
When are petitions due?
I need to file petitions by May 2nd so I need them in hand by April 19th to provide for the proper time for legal review and assembly of the package.
Does the Legislature need to approve?
No, once the required number of signatures is obtained there will be a signature verification process to ensure the signatures are real. After that point, the question will be placed on the November 2, 2010 ballot. No government official needs to “sanction” the amendment for it to be listed.
The amendment seems so massive, why so much?
The Illinois Supreme Court has greatly curtailed the power of citizens to amend the state constitution, beyond which the text and history allows. However, that’s the cards we’ve been dealt. The Supreme Court says this method to amend the constitution can only deal with making the legislature unicameral or deal with the number of members per district, so that’s exactly what we do.
During this process, however, even we were surprised how much needed to be changed simply to accommodate a unicameral body. We had to completely rewrite the impeachment process, for instance. With the abuses that the General Assembly has seen, simply going unicameral with no other changes would be a recipe for destruction so additional reforms were added to decentralize power and protect the independence of the individual legislator.
There is, unfortunately, no amendment that will stay on the ballot unless unicameral and multi-member districts is in it. This was our path to get the much-needed reforms on the ballot and legal experts have agreed that the Putback Amendment will work!
Why should the state switch to a unicameral legislature? Won’t that consolidate power?
By itself, sure, changing the legislature to unicameral would centralize power. That’s exactly why I add in more reform at the same time to both protect individual legislators and open the election process to outsiders. Legislative leaders are term limited to only 4 years. They will no longer be able to exercise iron fist control for decades. General term limits ensures that good politicians move to higher office or back to private life before they “go bad”. 25 of 177 Senators can bring any piece of legislation to the floor for an up or down vote. Redistricting will require objective criteria be used to draw maps and not politicization. The list goes on. Changing the legislature to a unicameral body requires modifications to how bills are passed, vetoes are handled, how the chamber is organized and so on. At each step, I protect the legislators and allow for outside voices to get elected. Those changes will ensure a massive decentralization of power.
Doesn’t three-member districts violate one-person, one-vote?
One-person, one-vote deals with problems of vote dilution typically due to differences in population size inside a district. In this case, everyone still has the same number of votes, they can allocate them how they see fit. In fact, this would encourage and strengthen minority representation even in districts that don’t have 50%+ minority populations. It encourages diversity in our politicians and that’s a good thing.
Why are the ballot access changes important?
Our ballot access laws are unconstitutional and the federal courts have told us such. For instance, it can take up to 10 times as many signatures to get on the ballot as an independent or third party when compared to an “established party”. You can get thrown off the ballot for using a paperclip versus a staple. These rules exist to protect established incumbents and insiders and to keep independent voices out. The right to vote doesn’t mean anything if they take away all your choices at the ballot boxes. More choices, more accountability. People should not be removed from the ballot except in cases of fraud or deception.
Doesn’t the legislature already put legislation online? Why put that in the constitution?
It is true, the General Assembly puts all current bills on its website at http://ilga.gov. The constitution even requires that ever bill be read on three separate days in each chamber before it can get its final vote (3 days in House, 3 days in Senate). Here’s the trick though, each year they introduce hundreds (sometimes thousands) of “shell bills”. A shell bill is either a literally or functionally empty piece of legislation. The read it 3 days in one chamber and pass it. They then read it 2 days in the other and it sits, usually for months. Then in the dark of the night, they amend the bill with the actual legislation and require a vote within 24 hours. Legislators couldn’t even read the bills even if they were so inclined. That’s nothing to say what the media and people can do. Every budget for the past few years has been passed this way. They negotiate it behind closed doors, drop a thousand page bill on the desk of the rank-and-file legislators in the morning, tell them how they will vote (or the consequences if they stray) and it is passed that afternoon in both chambers.
This is just another way that power is stripped from your local legislator and centralized into the hands of the imperial legislature and it’s leaders. The constitution must be brought to bear to restrict this because there is no other plausible way by which to restrict this abusive practice.
The Putback Amendment would require 7-days online before a final vote. No amendments, no games. Let the legislators, the press and ultimately the people have their say before a final vote for passage can be held.
Don’t term limits just empower lobbyists and bureaucrats?
Nonsense. You’ll hear an argument that legislators need eight years just to learn the ropes. There exists no job on the face of the planet that requires that much on-the-job training except perhaps brain surgeon. With eight year term limits, fresh blood will always try to get into the Legislature, and more importantly, there will be more competitive elections. When party insiders and legislative leaders “designate” who will hold a seat from on high, sure, a complete idiot can win election. However, with competitive elections and increased choices, the voters will pick the qualified legislator, not the connected politician. Remember, this nation put term limits on the Presidency because we discovered that it was not healthy to have a president serve for extended periods of time.
The Illinois Legislature is designed to be a part-time position. Almost all legislators have other jobs and many came from county or municipal office. This will continue and those legislators that distinguish themselves will naturally move up to the state-wide offices or into Congress. The less-than-worthy legislators will have to return to private life. The system works everywhere it is tried!
How many signatures are needed?
The strict legal minimum of signatures is around 280,000. However, due to the election law issues highlighted above, the “safe” number of signatures is around 500,000 to ensure that enough signatures cannot be challenged and the amendment is thrown off the ballot.