Sunday, November 2, 2008

Is it Time for a Con Con -- Part V

Editors note: I did a lot of work researching the Illinois Constitutional Convention; I'm going to post that research that I wrote up here. It should be about five or six parts in all. I'll do a post or two a day.
Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV

Term limits
: Some people feel that there are far too many politicians in the state who have been in office for too long. If this were to gain support at a Con Con, delegates would most likely cap the number of terms an official can hold at two, or eight years. Term limits may also be placed on those officials who are appointed to their position.

Tort Reform: Although major tort liability reform legislation was passed in 1995, the Illinois Supreme Court over turned the law in 1997. Those seeking to reform the state’s tort laws, like the Illinois Civil Justice League, may use the Con Con to change the tort laws in a new constitution. The group has said as much in the past, “The League believes the reforms enacted in the Civil Justice Reform Amendments of 1995 were necessary and constitutional, and thus the League will support and lead future efforts to enact similar legislation.” Reformers may attempt to limit the ability to sue for punitive damages and how much of the damages can be shared by the victims and their lawyers.
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These will not be the only issues that will be considered prior to the referendum and if it passes, after the Con Con is called. What the Con Con will do is completely get rid of the 1970 constitution and that means anything and everything could find itself into a new constitution. And the fear is that the special interest groups, who where not that influential in the 1970 constitution, may be much more so this time around. “I think the interest groups would have considerably more influence this time than they did in the late 1960s. I think you would see strong interest group involvement in the election of delegates, and that involvement would continue into the session and on the votes on issues in the convention…And then you’d see the right-to-life and the pro-choice people. You’d probably see groups who want to advance gay marriage, and on the other side of it would be some fundamentalist religious groups,” says Lawrence.

Issues such as abortion, gay marriage, gun control, capital punishment, campaign finance, even the right to privacy, could all become focal points in a convention. “I think that there’s a real potential for a lot of mischief,” says Wayne Whalen who was a delegate in 1970. Some of these “cultural” issues could prevent a new constitution from passing. If the delegates were to take a stance on something like gay-marriage or capital punishment, it may sink the new constitution with voters. In 1970, two of the more controversial amendments were put to the voters separately, and doing that with such controversial topics may happen again during the process of writing the constitution. But of course, there is no guarantee, especially if a single special interest group was able to send a block of delegates to the convention—or if enough different interest groups were elected that they divided the pie amongst themselves.

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