Thursday, October 27, 2011

We Must Prepare for a Constitutional Revision

It is imperative that all of us, the Illinois Education Association, the Illinois Federation of Teachers and other major stakeholders are prepared for a possible constitutional revision, perhaps in the spring or veto session in 2012. The Constitution of the State of Illinois may be changed by calling a constitutional convention for revision and then placed on a separate ballot at the next general election, by amendment proposed by a three-fifths vote in each house and then placed on a separate ballot at the next general election, or by an interpretation of the courts.

It is conceivable that a legislator who is not running for re-election and who is under the inauspicious and officious influence of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago and other legislators will write and propose an amendment to the Illinois constitution before exiting the General Assembly, thereby challenging the "Pension Clause" once again.

ARTICLE XIV, SECTION 1. CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION
(a) Whenever three-fifths of the members elected to each house of the General Assembly so direct, the question of whether a Constitutional Convention should be called shall be submitted to the electors at the general election next occurring at least six months after such legislative direction.
(b) If the question of whether a Convention should be called is not submitted during any twenty-year period, the Secretary of State shall submit such question at the general election in the twentieth year following the last submission.
(c) The vote on whether to call a Convention shall be on a separate ballot. A Convention shall be called if approved by three-fifths of those voting on the question or a majority of those voting in the election.
(d) The General Assembly, at the session following approval by the electors, by law shall provide for the Convention and for the election of two delegates from each Legislative District; designate the time and place of the Convention's first meeting which shall be within three months after the election of delegates; fix and provide for the pay of delegates and officers; and provide for expenses necessarily incurred by the Convention.
(e) To be eligible to be a delegate a person must meet the same eligibility requirements as a member of the General Assembly. Vacancies shall be filled as provided by law.
(f) The Convention shall prepare such revision of or amendments to the Constitution as it deems necessary. Any proposed revision or amendments approved by a majority of the delegates elected shall be submitted to the electors in such manner as the Convention determines at an election designated or called by the Convention occurring not less than two nor more than six months after the Convention's adjournment. Any revision or amendments proposed by the Convention shall be published with explanations, as the Convention provides, at least one month preceding the election.
(g) The vote on the proposed revision or amendments shall be on a separate ballot. Any proposed revision or amendments shall become effective, as the Convention provides, if approved by a majority of those voting on the question.

ARTICLE XIV, SECTION 2. AMENDMENTS BY GENERAL ASSEMBLY
(a) Amendments to this Constitution may be initiated in either house of the General Assembly. Amendments shall be read in full on three different days in each house and reproduced before the vote is taken on final passage. Amendments approved by the vote of three-fifths of the members elected to each house shall be submitted to the electors at the general election next occurring at least six months after such legislative approval, unless withdrawn by a vote of a majority of the members elected to each house.
(b) Amendments proposed by the General Assembly shall be published with explanations, as provided by law, at least one month preceding the vote thereon by the electors. The vote on the proposed amendment or amendments shall be on a separate ballot. A proposed amendment shall become effective as the amendment provides if approved by either three-fifths of those voting on the question or a majority of those voting in the election.
(c) The General Assembly shall not submit proposed amendments to more than three Articles of the Constitution at any one election. No amendment shall be proposed or submitted under this Section from the time a Convention is called until after the electors have voted on the revision or amendments, if any, proposed by such Convention.

(Note that there are four sections in Article XIV, Constitutional Revision).

Consider that Michael Madigan’s statement, “Let the courts decide,” might be deemed as the easier choice. This is a regularly-used method for issues regarding the interpretation of the language of an article in the constitution. Though all constitutional issues are heard in the appellate court, they are appealed and decided in the Supreme Court.

Article XIII, Section 5 (the Pension Clause) has been challenged several times since 1970. For a complete analysis, read Eric M. Madiar

Other Sources:
The Constitution of the State of Illinois
Understanding the Illinois Constitution
Pension Education: Legislative Amendment

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