constitutional amendment


Gov. Bruce Rauner wants the legislature's help in making two big changes to the state's constitution, but the Illinois House Speaker isn't on board. It's one of various causes of gridlock at the state capitol.

For the second time in as many weeks, the Illinois House today held a special hearing known as a committee on the whole, centered on part of Gov. Bruce Rauner's "Turnaround Agenda" -- this time, centered on what business interests call "tort reform." Critics say it's tort deform.

Amanda Vinicky

Many of Illinois' top politicians will pay their respects to the late Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka at a memorial service today (Wed., Dec. 17). Topinka died last week at the age of 70, shortly after having a stroke. Even as she's being mourned, political jockeying is underway to determine who'll next take her job.

Topinka passed away a month before she was to be sworn into her next term as Comptroller -- the position in state government responsible for paying the bills.

wttw Chicago Tonight

Illinois voters have until seven tonight, when the polls close, to help decide the state's future.

Let's begin with the top of the ballot, with two proposed constitutional amendments. One would create protections for voters against discrimination; the other would give crime victims more rights, like a guarantee they be notified when a perpetrator is released.

Amanda Vinicky

Illinois voters on Tuesday won't just have the chance to decide on who'll be their next governor or state representative. They'll be asked if Illinois should change its constitution. And to weigh in on a trio of non-binding questions legislators could use to guide decisions down the line.

It's one thing to pass a law. Politicians do that all the time; Illinois passed 500 last year alone.

But constitutional amendments are different. They're relatively rare, and harder to get through (and once changes are made, they're difficult to undo).

Lisa Madigan
Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

This story first appeared as Illinois Issues' State of the State column in the October 2014 edition of the magazine.

Hannah Meisel

Illinois' ability to change retirement benefits of government workers is limited because of a provision in the state Constitution. But what about trying to make that a non-issue, by doing away with that clause?

Article XIII, Sect. 5 of the Illinois Constitution is direct: pension benefits, it says, "shall not be diminished or impaired."

Nevertheless, a law passed last year cuts benefits for current workers and retirees. Whether that squares with the Constitution is currently the subject of a lawsuit.

Brian Mackey 2011 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

   Twenty-fourteen was going to be a banner year for direct democracy in Illinois. At one point, it was possible voters would be asked to weigh in on as many as seven different ballot questions, including four constitutional amendments. But as the election draws near, two of those ideas are off the table: Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner’s push to impose legislative term limits failed to meet the requirements of the Constitution, and a separate attempt to change the way House and Senate districts are drawn failed to gather enough valid signatures.

Amanda Vinicky

  Backers of a plan to institute legislative term limits in Illinois are putting public pressure on the state Supreme Court to get involved, and soon.

Republican candidate for Governor Bruce Rauner calls it "tragic" that the Illinois Supreme Court, as he put it, "went into delaying mode" instead of immediately taking up a case over the term limits initiative.

But Rauner, who has spearheaded the effort, stopped short of calling the court's choice political.

Bruce Rauner

Even though Illinois' general election is months away, a controversial ballot question could be answered by the end of this week. Friday is the deadline for a term limits initiative to make it on the ballot.

Republican's nominee for governor, Bruce Rauner, has made instituting term limits for legislators a central plank of his campaign.

That would require a constitutional amendment. Rauner funded an effort to collected a half million signatures, so that the question could go before voters this fall.

Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

  Even as a lawsuit could nullify them, the state board of elections has begun a tedious — but necessary — task of preparing a pair of proposed constitutional amendments for the November ballot. The two citizen initiatives aim to strip lawmakers of the power to draw their own maps and to limit their terms in office.

A dozen-or-so workers sit at tables at the board of elections building in Springfield.

Sliding, one at a time, more than 105,000 pieces of paper through scanners," said Rupert Borgsmiller, director of the Illinois State Board of Elections.

Amanda Vinicky

  State elections authorities are beginning to go through 37,535 sheets of paper, filled with voters' signatures. An organization trying to change how Illinois draws legislative districts dropped off the monster petition Thursday in Springfield.

The petition made its way from Chicago to Springfield in a custom-made metal box, strapped down in a semi; it took more than a dozen workers and volunteers to carefully unload it.

Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

  A lawsuit seeking to keep two citizen's initiatives from ever coming before voters has been filed. Although the case makes no mention of how it will affect minority voters' rights, sources say organizers took pains to reach out to ethnic groups.

Two potential constitutional changes are at issue: one limiting how long legislators can be in office, the other stripping them of the power to draw their own districts.

The suit challenging them was filed by Mike Kasper, an attorney closely aligned with House Speaker Mike Madigan; the powerful Democrat is against both plans.

Amanda Vinicky

  Even as Democrats killed off one proposal to institute term limits in Illinois, another is moving ahead.

First, the one that for all practical purposes is dead: it was a last minute push by Republican legislative leaders to limit the governor and other executive officers to two terms.

Getting rid of well-known incumbents could be a way for Republicans, who've had a hard time winning statewide office in recent years, to make inroads.

Madigan Vs. The Maps

Apr 24, 2014
Speaker Michael Madigan
Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

House Speaker Michael Madigan is harshly criticizing of a plan that would strip him of control over how Illinois draws its legislative maps. The group backing the change has its own harsh words for Madigan.

How legislative districts are drawn sounds wonky. And it is. But it's also really important as boundaries of a district can help determine which party will win a seat.

Because they control the General Assembly and governor's office, Democrats have largely gotten to control the map-making process in Illinois, including the most recent map, drawn in 2011.

Host Jamey Dunn and guests Charlie Wheeler (UIS) and Patrick Yeagle (IL Times) discuss two constitutional amendments headed for the ballot: voting rights & victim rights, the death of Madigan's millionaire tax, Senator Manar's school funding proposal, and Rauner and his run in with Bill.

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Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

This week, a discussion of a pair of constitutional amendments on the ballot this fall, the city of Chicago gets a pension overhaul, and Gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner deals with an unwelcome endorsement.

Speaker Michael Madigan
Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

The Illinois House has approved a proposal to add protections for voting rights to the Illinois Constitution.

The measure is sponsored by House Speaker Michael Madigan himself.

In explaining why he thinks it's necessary, he recalled the federal Voting Rights Act, and the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision to "modify" parts of that law.

"That modification by the Supreme Court has apparently brought on efforts in other states to enact legislation that some of us would consider to be voter suppression," Madigan says, pointing to voter ID laws.


  Voters may still get the chance to decide if they want to limit how long legislators can serve ... but no thanks to legislators themselves.

Although elections have been compared to popularity contests, as a whole, "politicians" aren't all that popular.

Which may be way polls show voters find the idea of term limits so appealing.

Unless, of course, you're a legislator.

Senator Darin LaHood, a Republican from Peoria, nonetheless introduced a term limits plan.

Amanda Vinicky

  Gov. Pat Quinn is leaving the door open to running for governor three times, but even that would not put him on pace to set a record as the state's longest-serving chief executive.

It may seem a bit premature to think about. Though it's expected Quinn will be Democrats' nominee in 2014, he could well be unseated and never clinch a full, second term as governor.

But when a reporter asked about it, Quinn refused to say if this will be his last time running.

"I think you have to pass a term limit amendment, then that starts the clock," he said.