Holding a constitutional convention has surface appeal in a state whose leaders refuse to compromise.
An Illinois House member from Springfield – Rep. Tim Butler – has an interesting, but not persuasive, suggestion for fixing Illinois.
He contends that it’s time to hold another constitutional convention to revise the Illinois Constitution voters adopted in 1970. His proposal was motivated by complaints he’s heard from constituents who argued that the state’s framing document is insufficient to allow the state to move forward, whatever that means.
People sometimes have a tendency to view process as the key to political success. At the same time, they view their favored process as the best method of achieving that success, which usually means the adoption of whatever proposal they wish to see adopted.
Good process is, of course, important. But what really matters is the people who are in charge of the process.
Illinois’ current political and budgetary stalemate isn’t the result of the process outlined in the state Constitution. It represents the failure of those in charge – Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic legislative leaders, House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton – to work out a compromise budget and reform package.
One could argue that the Constitution allows legislators to gerrymander their districts, and that contributes to the current stalemate. One would be correct to do so.
But governors and legislatures have settled their differences in previous years in the face of the gerrymandering problem. So budget compromise is achievable, even if those in charge have so far failed to achieve it.
So, too, with many other problems the state faces, either through the legislative process or the constitutional amendment process.
One more thing – who would serve as delegates to the proposed constitutional convention? Wouldn’t the exact same forces at war in the General Assembly make up, in one form or another, the delegates to the convention?
A highly political atmosphere is no time to be writing a nonpartisan document that frames the operations of state government.
Rep. Butler’s interest in this issue is understandable. But there’s no magic bullet for avoiding political stalemate like the one Illinois faces now.
There is, however, a solution, and it’s not a new Constitution. It’s good, old-fashioned bargaining in which both sides are willing to give something to get something in the service of the common good.
The (Champaign) News-Gazette