Thanks to Rich Miller (subscribers-only, so if you don't subscribe to Capitol Fax, sign up) for the raw audio of a press conference launched by an Alliance to Protect the Status Quo -- I'm sorry, the Alliance to Protect the Constitution -- that are looking to spend $3 million of business and union money to oppose an opportunity for citizens to elect a group of people to debate potential improvements to Illinois government.
The question is on this ballot this November to call a constitutional convention where amendments could be presented to the electorate for their approval or rejection.
The basic message of the Alliance to Protect the [Current] Constitution is that people should just elect new legislators if they want improvements to the government.
They just don't acknowledge the serious shortcomings with the document, including but not limited to:
1. A mandated flat-rate income tax
2. A lack of any right for kids in poor districts for a quality public education (this is the heart of 'education funding reform' and the only way that kids in poor districts in most states ever got the state to pay for their schools in a substantive way).
3. A redistricting regime among the worst in the world. If one party doesn't dominate government and draw a partisan map, we literally flip a coin to determine which party draws the partisan map.
These three issues alone merit a full discussion and debate in a constitutional convention and thus justify a yes vote this November.
Because on the first two at least, legislative efforts by some excellent legislators (not "those mopes" as one of the members of the Alliance called them) came up short. The amendment process is not working.
There are lots of other shortcomings in our constitution that need attention.
4. A fully partisan judicial branch. Who really thinks it's a good idea for independent judges to have a party label by their name and to get elected in a party primary?
5. A broken property tax assessment system.
6. A constitutional requirement that vacancies in office be filled by appointment instead of special election.
And there are other issues that I think are improvements but others might not
7. Multi-member districts and cumulative voting rights in the Illinois House
8. Way too much authority in the Office of the Governor (at the very heart of the lack of any consensus on the capital bill) to withholding funding for duly appropriated budget items at his or her discretion. If we found a way to institutionally share power in distributing funding (like the 'lockboxes' that Speaker Hastert and President Poshard were floating), then one major hurdle to a capital infusion would be solved, permanently. (Because someday in the future, there will be some other Governor of whatever party that isn't trusted by legislators).
If you want a constitutional amendment to improve Illinois government, then voting yes is the best way to get one.
If you want the status quo, then voting no is the best way to keep it.
It is essentially the politics of fear versus the politics of hope.
And what are they afraid of?
Maybe a power of recall. Maybe a power of a statewide initiative (that's what the Chamber is afraid of). Maybe some nebulous concern about weakening some part of the bill of rights -- which part wasn't ever clarified.
And who would get the power under a recall or statewide initiative? Oh, that's right. We would. The citizens.
And who would we trust not to weaken our own civil liberties? Oh, that's right. Us.
Only the electorate could amend the constitution. The delegates to the convention could suggest amendments. But only the electorate could approve or reject them.
The boogeyman is coming and he is going to have a $3 million campaign behind him to scare you into voting against giving yourself more power over improving your state government. Don't hide under the blankets. Vote yes.