Friday, May 30, 2008

REFORM ADVOCATES CALL ON GOV. BLAGOJEVICH TO STOP ACCEPTING CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS FROM STATE CONTRACTORS

The leaders of seven Illinois government reform organizations urged Gov. Rod Blagojevich to sign House Bill 824, which would limit pay-to-play opportunities in state contracting and called on Blagojevich to stop soliciting and accepting contributions from state contractors.

The House passed the legislation Saturday by a vote of 114 to 0. The Senate earlier approved the bill on a vote of 56 to 0.

"Illinois taxpayers are fed up with corruption in state government and the high cost of pay-to-play contracting," said Cynthia Canary, Director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. "Passage of this bill signals legislators are coming to grips with the damage that has been done to public confidence in the fairness of state government. If Gov. Blagojevich really does believe in ending 'business as usual,' he will sign this bill and direct his campaign committee - immediately - to stop soliciting and accepting contributions from state contractors."

In a letter to Blagojevich, the reform advocates noted that the five other statewide officeholders have policies against accepting contributions from contractors doing business with their offices. If signed into law, HB 824 would take effect January 1, 2009, but Blagojevich should put the policy into effect for his campaign organization immediately, according to the advocates.

The letter was signed by the Better Government Association, Common Cause Illinois, Illinois PIRG, the Sunshine Project, the Citizen Advocacy Center, the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform and Protestants for the Common Good.

A copy of the letter is attached. More information about HB 824 is available at www.ilcampaign.org.

CampaignReformLetterMay31-08.doc

The slow but steady march of reform

HB 824, to address pay-to-play, is waiting its turn in the House for a concurrence vote, but in the meantime, the House did send to the governor two smaller reform measures. SB 2190 redefines "political committees" under the Election Code to make clear that groups supporting or opposing the placement of public questions on the ballot are covered by Illinois' disclosure requirements. SB 2191 addresses the pre-election period, forbidding committees to avoid disclosure by making a series of smaller donations to participating candidates. Neither of these, in themselves, is as significant as the pay-to-play measure, but these two are certainly part of the on-going effort to improve campaigns in Illinois. ICPR supported these bills in committee, and we urge the Governor to sign them into law.

Con Con Considerations: Presentation

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.

Last in a series


The 1970 constitution provides that, at the conclusion of a Convention, "any proposed revision or amendments approved by a majority of the delegates shall be submitted to the electors [ie, voters] in such manner as the Convention determines, at an election designated or called by the Convention occurring not less than two nor more than six months after the Convention's adjournment." In theory, the delegates could approve a series of amendment or revisions, but not adjourn until the timing of an election. Moreover, the vote on their findings must be no sooner than two months after the end of the Convention, nor more than six months after the end, meaning that the Convention will likely determine whether the results are voted upon at a Special Election or a Regular Election. How should the final product be presented? As a single up or down vote, as a series of changes, or, as in 1970, a combination of the two: a totally new Constitution and a few separate votes on more controversial components?

How, and When, Should the Convention Present its Findings?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Con Con Considerations: Duration


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.

Ninth in a series


How Long Should the Convention Meet?

There are no Constitutional restrictions on how long a Convention could meet. The Convention in 1920 met for months without producing any results. While the Convention must begin within 3 months of the selection of delegates, it could theoretically continue to meet indefinitely. Is there a point at which the public or the General Assembly should step in and prod them to a conclusion?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Pay-to-Play Bill Secures Senate Passage

The Illinois Senate this morning took up and passed HB 824, the compromise measure attacking pay-to-play in state contracting. The bill had 39 sponsors at the time of the vote and passed with 56 yeas and no nays. The roll call is attached HB824%20Pay%20to%20Play%20Senate%20Rollcall%205-23-08.pdf

The roll call is also available here.

It's worth noting that all three of the Senators who did not vote on this legislation were sponsors of the original HB 1, and their non-votes likely do not indicate opposition to this compromise. This is as close to a unanimous vote as any.

The bill now returns to the House for what we hope will be a swift concurrence.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Convention Considerations: Vacancies

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.

Eighth in a series


How Should Vacancies Among Delegates Be Filled?

Consider what to do should a delegate be unable to serve until the end of the Convention. The constitution provides that only that "vacancies shall be filled as provided by law." Currently, the law makes no provision for filling vacancies at a Convention. Should party leaders be allowed to fill vacancies as they do with legislative openings (note that this option wouldn't work if delegates are chosen in a non-partisan election)? Or should there be a special election? Should alternates be chosen by voters at the same time that delegates are elected, as with national party conventions?

On the subject of vacancies, are there any circumstances where a delegate should forfeit office? What of those who may be indicted for criminal offenses; should they leave office only if the allegation reflects on their official duties? Should they leave upon conviction or sentencing? Could a Convention expel one of its own members, and on what basis? (Members of the General Assembly , for instance, may be expelled upon the vote of two-thirds of the members of that chamber.) Are there particular conflicts of interest that should cause a Delegate to abstain from voting on any matters?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Con Con Considerations: Compensation

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.

Seventh in a series


How Should Delegates (and Staff) be Compensated?

The constitution directs the General Assembly to "fix and provide for the pay of the delegates and officers" of a Convention, and to provide for "expenses necessarily incurred." And that is all, except that it isn't. How much should delegates be paid? Should they be paid a salary or a per diem, or both? Should service at a Convention count towards a state pension, and if so, in which system? Should payments received as a delegate affect the amount of one's pension, if a delegate is already vested? And what of staff? What kind of staff should be provided to delegates, who should manage the staff, and should their service count towards pensions, too? Who should determine staff salaries, manage any grievances that may arise, and assure that any open government laws that may apply are followed?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Con Con Considerations: Location


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.

Sixth in a series


Where Should the Convention Meet?

In addition to how the public can access the delegates and their records, it is also worth asking where the delegates should meet. The State Capitol is an obvious choice, but if the future is anything like the recent past, it may be hard to schedule meetings of the legislature and the Convention in the same building at the same time. Should an off-site location in Springfield be considered, like the Prairie Capital Convention Center or the Old State Capitol? Should the Convention be held in another location, like Vandalia, or even Chicago?

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?

Friday, May 09, 2008

Con Con Considerations: Petition Signatures

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.

Fourth in a series


Electing the Delegates

The Constitution provides that there shall be two delegates elected from each Senatorial District and directs the General Assembly to make that happen. How that should happen would be up to the legislature.

How Many Signatures Should Delegate Candidates Collect on Petitions?

Partisanship has a decisive impact on the number of signatures a candidate must gather to place their name on the ballot. The constitution provides that delegates will run in Senate districts. Currently, candidates seeking the nomination of an established party for a State Senate seat need to gather signatures of voters
in the district equal to 1% of the number of voters in the last election, with a minimum of 1,000; in most Senate districts, the requirement is 1,000 signatures. Candidates seeking to run without a party affiliation need a number of signatures equal to at least 5% of the number of voters in the last election. In no district is that fewer than 1,300 names and it can range to over 4,000.

The point of requiring candidates to gather petition signatures is to demonstrate that a candidate has credible support in the district. But candidates need only demonstrate support; the campaign is for reaching out across the district.

If delegates are to be elected with partisan affiliations, then should the signature requirements mirror those for State Senate? If delegates are to be elected in non-partisan elections, then what requirement is sufficient to demonstrate support but not so high as to discourage credible candidates? Even if the delegates are chosen without party labels, should the petition signature requirements be on par with that of party primaries?

Monday, May 05, 2008

Con Con Considerations: Bulleting

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.

Third in a series


Electing the Delegates

The Constitution provides that there shall be two delegates elected from each Senatorial District and directs the General Assembly to make that happen. How that should happen would be up to the legislature.

Bulleting isn't much in the popular imagination since the adoption of the Cutback Amendment in 1980, but the constitution provides for two delegates from each senate district, and when the legislature had multi-member districts, voters had the option of casting all of their votes for the same candidate. The practice was called bulletting, and it allowed voter minorities in a district to concentrate their votes to ensure that their voices were heard.

Should Voters Be Allowed to Bullet their Votes?

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Con Con Considerations: Special Election, or Regular?

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. All proposals from a Convention would have to be approved by voters at a subsequent election in order to take effect. Governmental powers, taxing authority, separation of powers, the rights of those accused of crimes, and of victims; any or all of this could be on the table.

Our current state constitution requires that voters answer this question at least every 20 years. It takes a majority of votes cast on the question, or 3/5 of all ballots cast, to call a Convention. If there is a Convention, then two delegates will be chosen from each of the 59 State Senate districts.

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. ICPR has not adopted a position in support of or opposition to a Convention, but instead offers these questions about the nuts and bolts of running a Convention in order to prompt discussion and solicit consideration.

Second in a Series


Electing the Delegates


The Constitution provides that there shall be two delegates elected from each Senatorial District and directs the General Assembly to make that happen. How that should happen would be up to the legislature.

The constitution provides that the voters shall answer the Convention question yes or no and that the General Assembly should then make arrangements for the election of delegates. It does not say when that election should be: at the 2010 regular gubernatorial election or at a 2009 special election.

There are a couple of considerations here: the regular 2010 elections will likely generate a predictable number of voters: fewer than in presidential years, but more than would probably turn out for a special election. The legitimacy of the 2010 election is not seriously in doubt. But the 2010 election will also have many other matters, and voters will be asked to evaluate dozens candidates for the six statewide offices and one U.S. Senate seat, plus all 19 Congressional seats, all 118 state House seats, and at least two dozen state Senate seats. Each voter will also likely see several candidates for judicial, county and other local offices.

By their nature, special elections, with usually only one or two matters, rarely draw significant voter interest. Fewer voters tend to get to the polls, and while the legitimacy of special elections is rarely questioned, if the numbers are too low, that may call into question the legitimacy of the result as an expression of popular will. There are also significant fixed costs associated with elections, for balloting equipment, renting polling places, and paying judges and monitors. And yet, voters in a special election have fewer distractions and can devote more time to each issue on the ballot. Too, a special election would allow delegates to get to work much sooner.

When should delegates be elected, at a 2009 Special Election or the 2010 General Election?