Illinois Constitution

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.

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.

Gov. Pat Quinn
Brian Mackey/WUIS

Gov. Pat Quinn says he does not support an opponent's proposal to amend the Illinois Constitution.

Republican venture capitalist Bruce Rauner is not only campaigning to take Quinn's job, he's also leading an effort to change the Illinois Constitution to make it harder for lawmakers to override a governor's veto.

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey/WUIS

Of the four Republicans running for governor, venture capitalist Bruce Rauner is the only one who's never before served in government. But he's already looking to change it, and in significant ways.

Rauner is heading a petition drive to institute term limits, to make it harder for legislators to override a governor's veto, and to reduce the size of the General Assembly. His plan adds a handful of members to the Illinois House, but takes away 18 senators.

Rauner says that'll make elections more competitive.

Dana Heupel
WUIS/Illinois Issues

If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?

Most of us have imagined our answers to that question. But when it is posed to a collection of distinguished men and women who helped write the current Illinois Constitution 40 years ago, their responses become real possibilities for future public policy.


The Democratic dominance that has spawned political paralysis in Springfield can, in no small terms, be chalked up to dumb luck. A scrap of paper randomly plucked from a stovepipe hat six years ago gave Illinois Democrats the power to draw a legislative map that greatly facilitated the party's current stranglehold over state government.