Hundreds join constitutional convention effort

October 12, 2008 8:14:20 PM PDT
Hundreds gathered for a rally Sunday afternoon on the near South Side to push for reform in the state of Illinois following years of scandal.Participants want to make changes by approving a state constitutional convention in Springfield.

With all of the publicity surrounding the presidential election, it is easy to forget there are several other things on the November 4 ballot in Illinois, including a referendum for a constitutional convention. It is something that appears automatically on the ballot every 20 years.

"On November 4, I will vote yes!" one woman said to the crowd.

Several generations of Chicagoans and religious and political leaders rallied together to urge voters to vote "yes" on the referendum before the rally wrapped up early Sunday evening. The convention works by sending two delegates from each Senate district to Springfield. In all there would be 118 delegates.

"Delegates are voted on and sent to a convention, and they choose among themselves how best to change the constitution and what is best for the citizens of Illinois," said Steven Dunning of United Power for Action and Justice, a community group that helped to organize the event.

Constitutional convention supporters say now is the time to retool the constitution because of years of corruption in Springfield, and also because of the way certain things are funded.

"We need to change the educational article to make the state responsible for funding public education. That is not the case in Illinois. We need to change the revenue article. We don't have a progressive income tax," said Democratic Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin.

The League of Women voters strongly opposes a new constitution. It believes the current one is a good one. In addition, the League says the same politicians that the people are upset with in Springfield will be in charge of the constitutional convention.

"The terms are loose and vague. One of our points is that it is the current legislature that is not working that well that would make up the rules that would set up who would be elected to the constitutional convention as delegates," said the League's Paula Lawson.

The League also says the constitutional convention would be extremely expensive. They say it would probably cost about $80 million. It was on the ballot 20 years ago in 1988 and was voted down in 1988.

The last time the constitution was retooled was in 1970.


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