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).
Chronology of 1970 Constitutional Convention
Illinois Commission on Intergovernmental Cooperation, "Chronology of Events Surrounding the 1970 Constitutional Convention," Intergovernmental Issues (April 1988) p. 4.
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
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.
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 Referenda
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).
List of Registered Lobbyists from the 1970 Constitutional Convention
Proceedings of the 1970 Illinois Constitutional Convention
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).
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
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:
|City||Date||Chicago||March 31||Peoria||April 19||Urbana||April 26||Carbondale||May 5||Chicago||May 12||Wheaton||May 12||Springfield||May 19||Rockford||May 26||Collinsville||June 3|
The Illinois Commission on Intergovernmental Cooperation (ICIC) wrote summaries of oral testimony taken at each meeting.
The question whether to call a constitutional convention was on the general election ballot in 1988. To be approved, it needed either a three-fifths affirmative vote of those voting on that question, or a majority of those voting at the election. The question lost by a vote of 900,109 (24.8%) for and 2,727,144 (75.2%) against. Among almost 4.7 million votes in the election, 58% were voted against the question. Almost 23% of voters at the election did not vote on this question.
Referendum Results by County
This document shows county vote totals on the referendum. Its percentage vote is based on those who voted on the question.
Article 14 of the 1970 Illinois Constitution requires that the question whether to call a constitutional convention be submitted to the voters 20 years after the last time such a question was submitted to the voters. The last time the question was put to voters was at the 1988 general election, so the question must be put to voters at the November 4, 2008 general election.
In March 2008, House Joint Resolution 111 (Fritchey-Froehlich-Fortner et al.—Harmon-Hunter-Sandoval) created a Joint Committee for the Constitutional Convention Proposal. The Committee, consisting of two members each appointed by the four legislative leaders, was to prepare voter education materials relating to the question of calling a constitutional convention. The Committee was required to prepare a brief explanation of the question of calling a convention; brief arguments for and against a call; and the form in which the question will appear on its separate ballot at the election.
House Joint Resolution 137 (Fritchey-Lang-Fortner-Froehlich—Raoul), adopting the Committee's report, was approved by both houses on May 31, 2008. Arguments in favor of holding a convention are:
(1) a convention could address important issues that have failed to advance in the legislative process;
(2) delegates to a convention could propose ideas to consolidate state and local government units;
(3) voters should have the opportunity to review the Constitution every 20 years; and
(4) voters will have the opportunity to vote on any proposed amendments, countering the influence of special interest groups and lobbyists.
Arguments against holding a convention are:
(1) convention expenses could be high, with estimates as high as $78 million;
(2) the Constitution can be amended without holding a convention;
(3) special interest groups and lobbyists could influence delegates, and a convention could be dominated by current controversial issues; and
(4) a convention could negatively impact the state's economy, by worrying business leaders about changes in the tax structure.
House Bill 5701 (Hannig-Ford-M.Davis-Turner—Trotter-J.Collins-Martinez-Hunter-Schoenberg), as amended by Senate Amendment 2 (Trotter), appropriates $4 million to the Secretary of State for printing and mailing the voter pamphlet.
The Secretary of State began distributing the Con-Con voter education materials (voter pamphlet) in mid-September 2008. English versions of the pamplhlet were sent to most voters. Spanish and Chinese versions were sent to selected language-defined minority areas. A Polish version is available on-line. All versions of the pamphlet can be viewed and/or downloaded here. The pamphlet will also be made available at public libraries.
House Resolution 25 (Fritchey-Joyce-Froehlich-W.Black-Fortner et al.), adopted in June 2007, urged the support of voters on the question whether to call a constitutional convention.
If voters do approve a call for a constitutional convention, the General Assembly, at the next legislative session, must provide for electing two delegates from each legislative (Senate) district. Qualifications to be a delegate are the same as those to be a legislator. The General Assembly is also to designate the time and place of the convention's first meeting, which must be within 3 months after the election of delegates. Election of delegates apparently could occur on either regular or special election dates as determined by the General Assembly.
Estimate of Costs for a 2010 Constitutional Convention
This LRU Research Response projects possible costs of a future constitutional convention. It suggests possible schedules for delegate nomination and election; holding the convention; and voting on any constitutional amendments proposed by a convention.
Legislative Research Unit, "Costs of Holding a 2010 Constitutional Convention" (File 11-076, April 9, 2008)
Recent Articles and Reports In the final chapter of "The Illinois Report 2008" (entitled "Is There a Con-Con in Illinois' Future?"), James D. Nowlan, Samuel K. Gove, and Richard J. Winkel offer arguments for and against holding a constitutional convention. They express concern that holding a convention during this "period of anger toward the present political climate could result in a document filled with popular items . . ." that might not serve the state well in the future.
See IGPA, "Is There a Con-Con in Illinois' Future?," The Illinois Report 2008.
(Linked with permission. Copyright © 2008 The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. "The Illinois Report 2008" is produced by the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois; Robert F. Rich, Director. Opinions expressed by the authors are not necessarily those of the Institute or the University.)
In early 2008, IGPA conducted a poll asking Illinois residents about support for a constitutional convention, recall, and term limits. The poll found that 39% of respondents supported holding a constitutional convention, 18% were opposed, and 43% were undecided. Full results of the poll can be found here.
The Illinois Business Roundtable, in its "Illinois' Proposed Constitutional Convention: A Context for the 2008 Constitutional Convention Call' (February 2008), recommends that voters reject a constitutional convention. The report, provided here with permission, describes previous Illinois conventions and constitutional convention provisions in other states. It also describes how the Illinois Constitution can be changed through the legislative amendment and citizen initiative processes, and other states' provisions on those processes. Finally, it addresses some issues that supporters of a convention think could be resolved at a convention.
The Civic Federation, in its "State of Illinois Constitutional Convention Fiscal Issues" (April 2008), provides an overview of some state and local fiscal issues that could be considered by a constitutional convention, and some possible reforms. Proposals, which do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Civic Federation, include imposing a legislative supermajority requirement for budget approval; limiting tax and spending increases; changing the state income tax structure; and eliminating the constitutional guarantee for public pensions.
In "Con-Con revisited," a November 2007 article in Illinois Issues (online edition), Pat Guinane discusses whether the current political climate is suitable for writing a new constitution. He describes interest groups' opinions on whether a convention is needed.
In an Illinois Issues (online edition) article from December 2007, "Wayne Whalen on Con-Con," Bethany Jaeger posts the results of her interview with Wayne Whalen on his thoughts about the differences between conditions before the 1970 convention, and current conditions. He answered questions about what issues he would expect to be top issues if voters approve a convention.
Illinois Constitutional Revision Experts
Samuel K. Gove
Institute of Government and Public Affairs
University of Illinois
1007 W. Nevada Street
Urbana, Illinois 61801
Samuel K. Gove is director emeritus of IGPA. He is also professor emeritus in the Department of Political Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has been active in constitutional revision efforts in Illinois, including helping to plan and hold the 1970 constitutional convention, and serving on the Committee of 50 to Re-examine the Illinois Constitution in 1987.
The John Marshall Law School
315 South Plymouth Court
Chicago, Illinois 60604
Dawn Clark Netsch
Northwestern University School of Law
357 East Chicago Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60601
(312) 503-8535 (phone)
(312) 503-2035 (fax)
Dawn Clark Netsch is a professor emeritus of law at Northwestern University. She served as a delegate to the 1970 constitutional convention, was elected to the Illinois Senate in 1973, and was State Comptroller from 1991 to 1995.
James D. Nowlan
Institute of Government and Public Affairs
1007 W. Nevada
Urbana, Illinois 61801
Professor Nowlan is a senior fellow at IGPA and an adjunct professor of public policy at Knox College. He was a state legislator during the time of the 1970 constitutional convention, and served on the House Constitutional Implementation Committee after the convention.
Professor of Political Science
University of Illinois at Springfield
PAC 484, UIS
One University Plaza
Springfield, IL 62703 (217) 206-6572
Dr. Redfield is a professor of Political Studies at the University of Illinois at Springfield, and serves as the interim director for the Institute for Legislative Studies—part of the Center for State Policy and Leadership at UIS. He is co-author of Lawmaking in Illinois and a contributor to the Almanac of Illinois Politics. He has presented the results of his research on campaign finance and political ethics in numerous reports and articles, and two books.
Wayne W. Whalen
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, LLP
333 West Wacker, Room 2100
Chicago, Illinois 60606
Mr. Whalen is a lawyer in Chicago, where he is involved in corporate, financial, and business practice. He was a delegate to the 1970 constitutional convention, and chaired its Committee on Style, Drafting and Submission. He was also appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court to its Blue Ribbon Committee to review and recommend revision of the Court's procedures for supervising and disciplining Illinois lawyers.
State Constitutional Revision in Recent Decades
This LRU Research Response describes commissions and other groups that have studied and made recommendations on constitutional revision, and the outcomes of constitutional revision efforts in Illinois and other states. It gives special attention to the 14 states that have automatic referenda on holding constitutional conventions.
Legislative Research Unit, "State Constitutional Revision in Recent Decades" (File 11-071, April 17, 2008).
This bibliography contains selected citations from Professor Ann Lousin's original bibliography, "The 1970 Illinois Constitution: The First Two Decades," which was published in the Northern Illinois University Law Review, vol. 8, p. 845 (spring 1988). Provided with permission. These citations include books, articles, and Attorney General's Opinions related to the 1968 call for a constitutional convention.
One particularly useful reference is George D. Braden and Ruben G. Cohn, The Illinois Constitution: An Annotated and Comparative Analysis (University of Illinois Institute of Government and Public Affairs, 1969), which provided an analysis of each section of the 1870 Constitution to help delegates to the 1970 convention draft a new Constitution.
The LRU has the statutory duty to "collect information concerning the government and general welfare of the State, examine the effects of constitutional provisions and previously enacted statutes, consider important issues of public policy and questions of state-wide interest, and perform research and provide information as may be requested by the members of the General Assembly or as the Joint Committee on Legislative Support Services considers necessary or desirable." (25 ILCS 130/10-2)
The information on this Website was compiled by the following LRU staff members:
Patrick D. O'Grady, Executive Director
David R. Miller, Deputy Director for Research
Melissa Cate, Research Associate
Taran Ley, Head Librarian
Robert L. Bayless, Senior Staff Scientist
Jonathan Eastvold, Research Associate
Jennifer Ehlers, Office Administrator
We would like to express our sincere gratitude to the authors who granted their permission to cite their work here and others who provided helpful comments and suggestions along the way.
If you are aware of any additional information that should be included, please contact us at ConCon@ilga.gov or call Melissa Cate at (217) 782-6851.
Posted: May 2, 2008
Last updated: September 15, 2008