Nowlan has a slightly different take, suggesting that, if the Pension Clause had not been adopted, “the public employee unions would have had as their main pri- ority in each legislative session in seeing that the pension systems were indeed well funded.” Instead, he says, “the unions have from time to time supported spending money to increase current compensation over spending that same money in the pension asset base.” In contrast, Lousin observes that underfunding of pensions had been going on for decades prior to the adoption of the Pension Clause in the 1970 Constitution. Other Provisions The 1969-1970 Constitutional Con- vention also approved numerous other significant constitutional reforms and innovations, including prohibition of discrimination in employment practices and the sale or rental of property on the basis of race, color, creed, national ancestry, sex, or disability; forbidding the denial of equal protection of the laws on account of sex; expanding the governor’s power to veto legislation passed by the General Assembly; and numerous measures to promote transparency in government. A more comprehensive list of the reforms and innovations proposed by the Consti- tutional Convention may be found in the accompanying sidebar. Cicero acknowledges that these and other provisions of the 1970 Constitution were positive achievements, but questions whether they were “worth holding a con- stitutional convention for. I’m not sure.” Ladd says that the new Constitution “was a significant change from 1870. Whether or not it improved government is another question.” In their address to the people at the time they presented their proposed constitution to the voters, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention acknowl- edged that the scale of their product “was modest. It was not to be an attempt to remake the world.” Overall, Lousin states, since “this is a very conservative state,” the 1970 Constitution was a “reasonably con- Education, the Environment, and Transportation
servative” charter, noting that “over 80% of its provisions are either identical to the 1870 Constitution or mild revisions of it.” Nevertheless, in addition to specific mandates and authorities, Cicero, Ladd, and their fellow delegates made sweeping statements of policy. Ladd, who was one of at least eight delegates to the Consti- tutional Convention who were still in their twenties, says that “a lot of us were young and aspirational and full of opti- mism for the future and wanted to give government the tools it needed to work and I think that was basically the thrust of that convention.” As a result, the 1970 Constitution is filled with lofty aspirations, starting with the Preamble, in which the delegates declared that, among their goals was “to eliminate poverty and inequality; assure legal, social and economic justice; [and] provide opportunity for the fullest development of the individual.” In the Constitution’s Education Article, the del- egates declared that, “A fundamental goal of the People of the State is the educational development of all persons to the limits of their capacities” and pledged that, “The State has the primary responsibility for financing the system of public education.” The 1970 Constitution’s Environmental Article stated that “[t]he public policy of the State and the duty of each person is to provide and maintain a healthful environ- ment for the benefit of this and future gen- erations,” and that every Illinoisan could enforce his or her “right to a healthful environment . . . against any party, gov- ernmental or private, through appropriate legal proceedings.” On a related note, the delegates also declared that, “Public trans- portation is an essential public purpose for which public funds may be expended.” Other Hot-Button Issues At the same time the delegates were paint- ing with these bold strokes, however, they chose to avoid deciding upon some of the Constitutional Convention’s hottest issues, including how state court judges should be selected, how members of the state House of Representatives should be elected, whether the death penalty should be abolished, and whether the legal voting age in Illinois should be lowered from 21
to 18. Passions ran strongly on both sides of each of these questions, and a consensus eventually developed that resolving any of those questions in the charter upon which they were working likely would scuttle any possibility that a constitution would be adopted by the convention or ratified by the people. John Alexander, who was a 27-year-old delegate from downstate Virden and was one of the convention’s three vice presi- dents, wrote that, “Leaders of the 1970 convention tried to author a relatively noncontroversial document that would meet with voter approval.” The delegates knew that a proposed constitution abolish- ing multi-member districts for the House of Representatives, authorizing appoint- ment of judges in Cook County, permit- ting an income tax and limited home rule for Chicago and Cook County had been defeated by the voters in a landslide in 1922, and wanted to avoid the same fate. Lousin notes that Illinois constitutional conventions have traditionally made sepa- rate submissions to the voters along with the constitutions they proposed since the 1848 convention. As a result, the Constitutional Conven- tion left it to the voters to decide how each of these issues should be resolved. The delegates submitted their proposed charter for an up-or-down vote, followed by four separate propositions: • Should the members of the state House of Representatives be elected from single-member districts or continue to be elected from districts each represented by three members through a system known as cumulative voting, under which a voter could give three votes to one candidate, one and a half votes each to two candidates, or one vote each to three candidates? This unique system was introduced by the 1870 Constitu- tion, and typically resulted in a district being represented by two members from its majority party and one member from the minority party. • Should state court judges continue to be elected, as they had been since the 1848 Constitution, or appointed by the gover- nor from nominees submitted by Judicial Nominating Commissions?