CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION REFERENDUM RESOURCES
The Legislative Research Unit (LRU) has compiled the documents on this Website to provide information in advance of the constitutional convention referendum to be held at the November 4, 2008 General Election. This site brings together information on the 1970 constitutional convention and earlier conventions; the last referendum on holding a constitutional convention, in 1988 (which was rejected); and current issues for consideration if a convention were held in 2010. Many of the resources on this site were not widely available to the general public.
This Website is offered to legislators, their staffs, journalists, advocates on both sides of the convention issue, and members of the general public who seek information on the Illinois Constitution and the issue whether to call a constitutional convention. Its parts can be reached by clicking on the links shown below.
Part I—History provides information on Illinois' past constitutional conventions, including the last one in 1969-1970. It includes the Introduction to the 1970 Illinois Constitution from the Record of Proceedings of that convention, which gave a history of earlier Illinois constitutional conventions. Part I also contains summaries of research papers prepared before and after the 1970 convention, and related reports by the Legislative Research Unit.
Part II—1988 Referendum describes legislative and other preparations for the first mandatory constitutional convention referendum, in 1988. It includes information on the Committee of 50 (a group established by the General Assembly in 1986 to advise on whether another convention was necessary). A list of proponent and opponent groups for a 1990 convention, and a copy of the voter pamphlet on the referendum are also included in Part II.
Part III—Current Issues gives information about the forthcoming 2008 constitutional convention referendum. It describes legislative actions and provides links to recent articles and other materials on the 2008 referendum. Proponent and opponent groups are listed, along with topics that a 2010 convention might address. Part III also contains a list of constitutional revision experts and contact information for them.
Part IV—Other States contains a Legislative Research Unit report on recent constitutional revision efforts in other states, using either automatic referenda or other means.
Part V—Bibliography provides a supplemental bibliography of printed sources on constitutional revision in Illinois.
History of Past Constitutional Conventions
Illinois' 1970 constitutional convention was its sixth convention, and its first since the unsuccessful convention in 1920-1922. This introduction to the 1970 Illinois Constitution, from the Record of Proceedings of the 1970 convention, gives a history of past constitutional conventions and attempts to call conventions in Illinois. It also summarizes major changes proposed and made by each convention.
Preparations for 1970 Constitutional Convention
This 1972 report by the Illinois Legislative Council (the predecessor to the Legislative Research Unit) describes preparations for the 1970 constitutional convention, including information on the campaign to call a convention; election of delegates; and efforts of study commissions and staff of the convention.
Illinois Legislative Council, "Calling and Holding Illinois' Sixth Constitutional Convention" (File 7-803, Feb. 23, 1972).
The Illinois Constitutional Research Committee was appointed by Governor Richard B. Ogilvie to prepare background research for convention delegates. Below is a series of short summaries of scholarly research papers on constitutional issues prepared by the Committee before the 1970 convention. In general, they comment on deficiencies of the 1870 Constitution then in effect.
Robert W. Bergstrom considered how difficult it should be to amend a state constitution, and wrote about how other states amend their constitutions.
"Self Renewal: The Amending Process in State Constitutions"
Robert W. Bergstrom suggested what kinds of provisions ought to be in each article of a new Illinois Constitution.
"The New Illinois Constitution—What Should it Contain?"
Frank P. Grad examined whether Illinois needed a Bill of Rights, and whether a constitution should guarantee workers a right to organize.
"The State Bill of Rights"
Lucius J. Barker and Twiley W. Barker, Jr. wrote about what is meant by the term "civil rights," and whether the state needed to include civil rights provisions in its Constitution in addition to guarantees of civil rights in the U.S. Constitution.
"The Guarantee of Civil Rights"
William Goodman considered whether residency requirements to vote were too restrictive; whether a constitution should prescribe election procedures; whether voters should have initiative and referendum rights; and whether state elections should be held apart from federal elections.
David Kenney considered whether the Illinois General Assembly should be a bicameral body; how many members it should have and what their terms should be; whether cumulative voting in the House of Representatives should be retained; and how the problem of drawing legislative districts should be solved.
"Representation in the General Assembly"
Samuel K. Gove and Richard J. Carlson examined whether special and local laws should be prohibited, and whether the Constitution should prescribe legislative procedures.
"The Legislature and the Illinois Constitution"
Alice L. Ebel examined whether the state needed "home rule" for local governments, and whether the organization of local governments in Illinois could meet future needs.
"Downstate Local Government"
Glenn W. Fisher considered whether taxes should be earmarked for specific purposes; whether the Constitution should restrict legislative taxing powers; and what revenue proposals would likely be presented at the Convention.
"Taxation and the Constitutional Convention"
Orville Alexander discussed whether the state should provide for public schools in its Constitution; whether a state board or an elected state officer should oversee public schools; and whether the Constitution should prohibit state aid to private schools.
"Education and the Constitution"
David S. Ruder considered whether the 1870 Illinois Constitution had discouraged corporations from locating in Illinois; whether the legislature should be prohibited from enacting special laws for corporations; and whether business regulation belonged in a Constitution.
"Legislating by the Constitution: Corporations"
Irving Gordon and Edmund W. Kitch explained why the 1870 Illinois Constitution had sections on warehouses, banks, and railroads, and why such provisions were no longer necessary.
"Legislating By the Constitution: Banking and Transportation"
Studies in Illinois Constitution Making
Janet Cornelius, Constitution Making in Illinois, 1818-1970 (1972).
The Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois authorized a series of monographs, Studies in Illinois Constitution Making, which examine the convention and deal with some questions about state constitutional revision. Its primary goal was "to recount—in breadth and detail—the events, personalities, strategies, conflicts, and resolutions which resulted in a new basic law for Illinois." The monographs, which are book-length studies, are available through interlibrary loan from many Illinois university and college libraries.
Cornelius updated her A History of Constitution Making
in Illinois, which she had prepared for the Constitution Study Commission before the convention. That publication was also used by delegates to the convention. In Constitution Making in Illinois, she discussed the convention's relationship to previous constitutional revision to show the parallels and contrasts in Illinois constitution making since statehood.
Elmer Gertz, For the First Hours of Tomorrow: The New Illinois Bill of Rights (1972).
Gertz, chairman of the Bill of Rights Committee of the convention, gave descriptions of his fellow Committee members and what issues were most important to them. He also summarized the work of the Committee, majority and minority opinions of the issues, and debate of proposed sections at the convention.
Ian D. Burman, Lobbying at the Illinois Constitutional Convention (1973).
Burman discussed the role lobbyists played at the convention, what factors seemed to stimulate or discourage their participation, and what strategies they tried to use to influence delegates. He interviewed almost 90 lobbyists, delegates, and legislators both before and after the convention.
Rubin G. Cohn, To Judge with Justice: History and Politics of Illinois Judicial Reform (1973).
Cohn, staff counsel for the convention's Judiciary Committee, gave a history of the pre-convention Illinois judicial system, and described Committee members and their work.
Alan S. Gratch and Virginia H. Ubik, Ballots for Change: New Suffrage and Amending Articles for Illinois (1973).
Gratch and Ubik, staff to the Committee on Suffrage and Constitution Amending, examined the Committee's deliberations and decision-making process. For insight into the motivations of Committee members, they sent a questionnaire to each. They asked members about their decisions to run to become a delegate, their political allegiance, their preference to work on the Committee, and their political aspirations. They also described the Committee's successes and failures, and lessons learned from their experience.
Joyce D. Fishbane and Glenn W. Fisher, Politics of the Purse: Revenue and Finance in the Sixth Illinois Constitutional Convention (1974).
Fishbane and Fisher, who both worked for the Committee on Revenue and Finance, described the process by which the convention wrote the revenue and finance articles of the Constitution. They provided insight to the political decision-making process by describing delegates' goals and the some aspects of the process itself.
Jane Galloway Buresh, A Fundamental Goal: Education for the People of Illinois (1975).
Buresh, administrative assistant to the Education Committee, described her observations of the Committee's work. Her research included interviews with Committee members, during which she asked questions about their backgrounds, the influence of witnesses and lobbyists, and whether their positions on education issues had been changed by the convention.
David Kenney, Jack R. Van Der Slik, and Samuel J. Pernacciaro, Roll Call! Patterns of Voting in the Sixth Illinois Constitutional Convention (1975).
The authors described and interpreted the voting behavior of convention delegates in an effort to correlate specific constituency and delegate characteristics with patterns of voting.
Joanna M. Watson, Electing a Constitution: The Illinois Citizen and the 1970 Constitution (1980).
Watson worked as a journalist and part time staff of the Local Government Committee. She described the campaigns for the convention, convention delegates, and ratification of the Constitution. She also analyzed voting patterns on the ratification question.
Resolutions to Amend the 1970 Constitution
As of April 18, 2008, a total of 889 resolutions had been introduced in the General Assembly proposing to amend the Illinois Constitution of 1970. Only 16 have been presented to the voters, of which nine have been approved.
Legislative Research Unit, "Legislative Resolutions to Amend the Illinois Constitution of 1970" (File 11-077, May 1, 2008).
Reasons for 20-year ReferendaSamuel K. Gove summarized Illinois' four constitutions since statehood in 1818, paying special attention to the changes in the 1970 Illinois Constitution.
This LRU Research Response describes debates of delegates at the 1970 constitutional convention on the issue of the 20-year referenda on calling a constitutional convention.
Legislative Research Unit, "Reasons for 1970 Constitution's Provisions for 20-Year Referenda on Holding a Constitutional Convention" (File 11-075, April 24, 2008).
Proceedings of the 1970 Illinois Constitutional Convention
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The over 8,000 pages of the 1970 convention's transcripts can be downloaded to a Macintosh or PC-compatible computer and searched by several methods. To download, click here (174 MB).
Part II—1988 Referendum
Legislative Efforts Before 1988 Convention Referendum
In 1986 the General Assembly passed Senate Joint Resolution 101. Among other things, it directed the Joint Committee on Legislative Support Services to convene a "Committee of 50 to Reexamine the Illinois Constitution." It provided that the Committee would be a voluntary organization consisting of the Governor, the President of the 1970 convention, scholars, educators, government officials, legal experts, and public opinion leaders. The Committee was directed to reconvene all available members of the 1970 convention to assess how well the 1970 Constitution secured the rights and welfare of Illinoisans. Senator Philip J. Rock, who sponsored the resolution in the Senate, stated on the floor that the Committee would lay some of the groundwork for examining whether to call a constitutional convention.
The Committee, along with the Illinois Commission on Intergovernmental Cooperation (ICIC), in September 1987 held a two-day meeting of 63 surviving delegates to the 1970 convention. (ICIC was abolished in 2003 and all its duties were assigned to the LRU.) The delegates were divided into four groups to discuss five topics: (1) state-local relations and finance; (2) the judiciary; (3) individual rights; (4) legislative-executive relations; and (5) improving government. Their discussions were facilitated and recorded by volunteer faculty members of Sangamon State and Southern Illinois Universities; 24 members of the Committee of 50 attended as observers. The group discussed ways in which the Constitution was working as intended, and how it could be improved. Overall, the former delegates did not believe that a constitutional convention in 1990 was necessary. They adopted a resolution stating:
We are generally well pleased with the product of our labors of 1969-1970 and believe that such changes as may be desirable can be handled by legislation, interpretation, or the amendment process.
In February 1988, Senator Dawn Clark Netsch introduced Senate Bill 1655 (Netsch et al.—Madigan-Cullerton-Flowers-Williams), which became law in June 1988 (Public Act 85-1022). It directs the General Assembly, when the question whether a convention should be called is required to be submitted to voters, to prepare a voter pamphlet containing a brief explanation of the call; a brief argument in favor of the call; and a form in which the call will appear on a separate ballot. Legislators opposing the calling of a convention (or if none oppose it, anyone designated by the General Assembly) must prepare a brief argument against the call.
These statements, and the form in which the call will appear, are to be filed with the Secretary of State at least 1 month before the general election at which the question of calling a convention will be submitted to the voters. The Secretary of State must publish the question in at least one newspaper in each county; at least two newspapers in any county with more than one newspaper; and at least six newspapers in any county of at least 1 million. The Secretary of State must also mail a pamphlet containing the statements and form to each mailing address in the state.
In May 1988, Senator Netsch introduced Senate Joint Resolution 127 (Netsch—Cullerton). As amended by Senate Amendment 2 (Senate Executive Committee), it called for creation of a Joint Committee for the Constitutional Convention Proposal. The resolution was adopted by the Senate in May, and by the House in June. The Joint Committee consisted of eight legislators—two appointed by each of the four legislative leaders. It was to "direct the preparation" of the voter guide required by Public Act 85-1022. The resolution required the Joint Committee to file a report containing the text of the voter pamphlet with the General Assembly by June 24, 1988. It also called on the General Assembly to adopt the report by majority vote and certify it to the Secretary of State.
On June 30, 1988 Senator Netsch introduced Senate Joint Resolution 161 proposing to adopt the report of the Joint Committee for the Constitutional Convention Proposal. The resolution was adopted July 1, 1988. It contains the text for the voter pamphlet. Its four arguments in favor of holding a convention were:
(1) A convention could address important issues, including constitutional changes that have been proposed but not approved by the General Assembly.
(2) A convention would not necessarily revise the entire Constitution.
(3) Periodic review of the Constitution is desirable.
(4) The costs of a convention could be held to about $5 million.
Arguments against holding a convention were:
(1) The current Constitution is sound, and revision can be accomplished through the amendment process. Also, many issues raised by supporters of a convention are legislative, not constitutional.
(2) The number and type of issues raised at a convention cannot be limited.
(3) The cost of a convention could be $31 million.
(4) A convention could destabilize the state economy, especially if the tax limitation provisions in the Constitution are altered.
Cost Estimate for Possible 1990 Convention
ICIC was designated to provide staff support to the Committee of 50. The April 1988 edition of its publication, Intergovernmental Issues, included an article estimating costs of a 1990 constitutional convention.
The ICIC staff estimated costs of a 1990 convention by applying an average annual inflation rate of 7% to the actual costs of the 1970 convention. ICIC assumed that a 1990 convention would follow procedures like those of the 1970 convention, rather than predicting that a new convention would not be as long as the 1970 one because the entire Constitution would not be rewritten.
Scholarly Background Papers Commissioned for the Committee of 50 by ICIC
"Constitutional Developments in Illinois"
John M. Garvey examined additions to the Bill of Rights in the 1970 Illinois Constitution, and argued that the following issues would likely be debated if a constitutional convention were held in 1990: the death penalty; the right to keep and bear arms; abortion; a guarantee of a healthful environment; and a guarantee against invasions of privacy (in the context of arguments about mandatory drug and HIV testing at the time).
"The Bill of Rights of the 1970 Illinois Constitution"
John Jackson summarized the provisions of the 1970 Illinois Constitution on voting and constitutional revision, along with proposed amendments submitted to voters since 1970.
"The Suffrage, Elections and Constitutional Revision Articles of the 1970 Illinois Constitution"
Paul M. Green summarized legislative redistricting before and after the 1970 Illinois Constitution, and important U.S. court cases and laws on redistricting after approval of the 1970 Constitution.
"Legislative Redistricting in Illinois: An Historical Analysis"
Jack Van Der Slik described provisions of the Legislative Article of the 1970 Illinois Constitution, and argued that the following issues would likely arise if another constitutional convention were held: the Governor's veto powers, especially the amendatory veto; the length of terms of House members; and possible extension of the initiative and referendum powers to authorize amendments to other articles besides the Legislative Article of the Constitution.
"The Legislative Article of the 1970 Illinois Constitution"
William R. Monat described major changes in the 1970 Illinois Constitution's Executive Article, including having candidates for Governor and Lieutenant Governor run on the same ticket; an elected Comptroller replaced the elected Auditor of Public Accounts; and ceasing to choose the Superintendent of Public Instruction by election. He argued that the Governor's amendatory veto power would be the provision most likely to be criticized at a constitutional convention.
"The Executive Article of the 1970 Constitution"
Nancy Ford examined judicial reform issues at the 1970 constitutional convention, including "merit" selection of judges, judicial retention, and discipline of judges. She argued that a constitutional convention would be unlikely to change selection methods of judges because there was not enough voter support for "merit" selection.
"The Judicial Article of the 1970 Illinois Constitution"
James M. Banovetz and Ann M. Elder analyzed Illinois'
home rule system and issues that might come before a convention—including strengthening or abolishing home rule, and requiring the state to reimburse local governments for state mandates that were not requested by local governments.
"The Local Government Article of the 1970 Illinois Constitution"
J. Fred Giertz described the most important features of Illinois' administration of its public finances. He also argued that the issue of reimbursing local governments for state mandates might well be a subject of a convention.
"The Public Finance Articles of the 1970 Illinois Constitution"
Donald Sevener compared the Education articles of the 1870 and 1970 Illinois Constitutions, and suggested that the following issues might arise during debates of a 1990 convention: whether the State Board of Education should be elected or appointed; whether the Constitution should address higher education issues; whether a single board of education should oversee the entire education system from primary through higher education; what responsibilities the state has to vocational, older, or other nontraditional students; and whether the Constitution should require the state to pay a specific percentage of the cost of public education.
"The Education Article of the 1970 Illinois Constitution"
Comments on the 1988 Referendum by 1970 Convention Delegates
This document is a summary of the meeting of over 60 delegates to the 1970 constitutional convention. Former delegates discussed issues identified in the background papers described above. They concluded that a convention was not necessary. The report lists participants, participating members of the Committee of 50, and staff members.
Illinois Commission on Intergovernmental Cooperation, "The 1970 Illinois Constitution: An Assessment by the Delegates" (1987).
Public Hearings of Committee of 50
The Committee of 50 also held nine public hearings from March to June 1988 at the following locations: