Monday, May 12, 2008

Con Con Considerations: Transparency

Convention Considerations

The November ballot will ask voters whether Illinois should have a Constitutional Convention. A Constitutional Convention would be authorized to review any portion of Illinois' Constitution they wanted to -- and to propose an entirely new document, amendments to existing provisions, or additions of new materials

But the Constitution also leaves much to the General Assembly to determine. Others have taken a position on whether or not there should be a Convention, and even on what issues a Convention should address if it is called. This page is less interested in what a Convention might accomplish as in how it might work.

Fifth in a Series

Illinois law requires that governmental agencies make themselves open to the public in a host of ways. At the moment, virtually none of these apply to a Convention. Illinois' Election Code does not require that candidates for delegate disclose the sources of their funding; the Ethics Act does not require candidates for delegate to file Statements of Economic Interest; the Freedom of Information Act does not mention records generated by a Convention; the Open Meetings Act would not cover a Convention; Lobbyist Registration would not apply to professionals who seek to influence the outcome of a Convention. Should these laws apply? And how?

ICPR believes that, at a minimum, FOIA should cover records generated by a Convention, but FOIA should be a floor and not the standard for making public information about any deliberations. Many records should be made available instantaneously through the Internet. What documents at a Convention should be available to the public through FOIA and what should be posted for immediate access? And what should be shielded from public view to encourage delegates to deliberate honestly and without fear of immediate public reproach?

Similarly, the Open Meetings Act may not be the best model for the public to view all of the important proceedings of a Convention. How many delegates should be allowed to gather in private without public notice? (Recall that the Open Meetings Act typically applies to a majority of a quorum; the Open Meetings Act does not apply at all to the General Assembly). Should the proceedings be recorded? Or webcast?

ICPR believes that Campaign Disclosure, the Ethics Act, requiring candidates to file Statements of Economic Interest; and the Lobbyist Registration Act should apply to the Conventions and the delegates. Are there any modifications to these laws that would make them more responsive to public needs in this context?

How Should the Public Access Convention Records?


Squideshi said...

Excellent questions raised here. At a minimum, I think that voters should know by what rules delegates will be elected before they are asked to vote for approval of a convention. There is no use in voting for a convention, if the combine subsequently adopts rules tailored to favor election of its own candidates and significantly strengthen its own anti-reform positions.

Extreme Wisdom said...

Squideshi points out a nice "wish" about knowing rules beforehand. That isn't going to happen, and you should vote "yes" anyway.

There is only so much the so-called "combine" can do to "game" the election of delegates, and any newcomers interested in running would have to abide by the same rules in any case.

The post seems to be asking a different question as to the rules INSIDE a convention.

For my part, I'd advocate for no press and no lobbying of delegates. That may seem impossible in this day and age, but there is nothing written IN the Constitution setting rules for inside the convention.

It seems to me that the delegates have the power to decide. As some one who hopes to be a delegate, I'd argue for a press and lobbying blackout. It worked in the 1780s.

Let the commentary and lobbying begin between the closing of the convention and the ratification vote. Delegates were the ones elected, not the media or the lobbyists.

Squideshi said...

Extreme Wisdom wrote, "There is only so much the so-called 'combine' can do to 'game' the election of delegates, and any newcomers interested in running would have to abide by the same rules in any case."

They do plenty already in terms of general election law; and they're pretty darn successful at legally limiting competition, as is. There is no reason to believe that they wouldn't do the same in this case.