There are many arguments against voting for a constitutional convention next month. I thought I'd try to address some of those arguments today.
Illinoisans are asked every twenty years whether they want to call a constitutional convention. I firmly believe that our gridlocked, broken state government is in such desperate need of change and reform that a "Yes" vote is blatantly self evident.
The points below are taken directly from the Alliance to Protect the Illinois Constitution's website. APIC is funded mainly by big business and labor unions.
APIC: The total cost of a convention is predicted to approach at least $80 million at a time when the state is running budget deficits and having a tough time funding schools and roads.
Response: The cost could be far lower, but that's not the point. The current constitution has a huge loophole which allows for those big budget deficits. And there is no plan to fund schools and roads because too much power is far too concentrated in the hands of a few people who have been fighting each other for years. A constitutional convention could address those absolutely crucial issues. It's worth every dime.
APIC: There is no question there has been too much inaction and infighting in Springfield. But it's the politicians, not the system,that are at fault. The best way to deal with political issues and address problems in state government is to pick new elected officials, not tinker with a proven document full of protections for people's rights.
Response: The truth is that the powerful interest groups which are funding this push against a constitutional convention have also been responsible for bankrolling those very same politicians' campaigns. Also, since the parties in power totally control the legislative redistricting process, politicians end up choosing their voters, not the other way around.
APIC: A constitutional convention opens the door to more political mischief. The General Assembly, by law, gets to decide how a constitutional convention would be run. And the constitution is unclear about who would get to pick delegates to a constitutional convention, voters or politicians in Springfield. Regardless, special interests and single-issue groups would fight hard to get their people sent to the convention to advance their own narrow agendas.
Response: The constitution is very clear about who chooses delegates: The voters. Also, it's quite ironic that the special interests funding APIC are worried about special interests getting involved in delegate elections.
APIC: Scheduling a convention for 2010 would give politicians a pass to do nothing until then to address the state's problems. There will be primary and general elections between now and the time a new constitution would even go into effect. Those elections are the best way to bring about real change and pressure elected officials into action.
Response: My own belief is that politicians will be so frightened at what a constitutional convention might do to them that they'll try and correct some of the state's problems, like, for instance, public employee pensions, before the delegates are ever seated. I think that's as likely as the other side's argument. Nothing is certain, but the anti constitutional convention folks sure act like it.
APIC: Illinois cannot afford more discord and distractions. Some groups are calling for a state convention because they want to push their own agendas. There are too many crucial everyday concerns that need attention to get stuck on a long, divisive debate on such issues.
Response: What the heck is wrong with debates? The reality is, the Statehouse too often deliberately stifles real debates on issues of concern to real voters. Plus, there are hardly any "major" groups pushing for a convention. Almost all the money and all the power is against a convention.
APIC: The uncertainty of a constitutional convention more than two years away could make it very difficult to attract and retain businesses and jobs at a time when the state's economy is already struggling. Our neighbors offer certainty and stability to businesses we would lose by asking companies to gamble on us.
Response: Illinois is currently the laughing stock of the nation when it comes to attracting and retaining businesses and jobs. A constitutional convention might offer some much-needed encouragement to out-of-state business owners that change is on the way.
I'm out of space. I'll have more next week.
Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and thecapitolfaxblog.com.