By Brandon Reid
Senior Assistant Editor
The Illinois House of Representatives is set to vote during the November veto session on a measure that would call for a constitutional convention.
Senate Joint Resolution 42 (SJR 42) calls for a constitutional convention under Article V of the U.S. Constitution for the purpose of amending the Constitution.
The Illinois Senate passed the measure 37-15 April 9, largely along party lines. State Sen. Christine Radogno, R-Lamont, was the only Republican to vote in favor of the resolution. Locally, State Sen. Steve Stadelman, D-Rockford, voted for the measure, while State Sens. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford, and Tim Bivins, R-Dixon, voted against it.
In a press conference prior to passage of SJR 42 from the senate, State Sen. William Delgado, D-Chicago, lead sponsor of the measure, said: “The purpose of this resolution, and similar resolutions around other states, is to convene a constitutional amendment through a convention. We need to amend this Constitution so we can reverse the Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United. That ruling gave corporations personhood and led to the creation of Super PACs, not only in Illinois, but throughout the nation. With SJR 42, Illinois can lead the movement to save democracy in America.”
During that same press conference, co-sponsor State Sen. Jacqueline Collins, D-Chicago, added: “Often in politics it’s said that in order to get something done, you have to know how the game is played. When it costs so much to run for some offices that only the independently wealthy need apply, it’s time to change the game. … I believe our most famous native son [referring to 16th president, Abraham Lincoln] would agree we must not rest until our government is of the people, by the people and for the people once again. Our democracy is not for sale.”
SJR 42 cites the United States Supreme Court’s Jan. 21, 2010, ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission as the main reason for the convention. The Citizens United ruling found that, contrary to longstanding precedents, corporations have a First Amendment right to spend unlimited amounts of money to promote or defeat candidates.
Coming on the heels of Citizens United, the Supreme Court ruled April 2, 2014, in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission that putting a limit on the amount of biennial financial contributions individuals can make to a national party and federal candidate committees is unconstitutional. Prior to the ruling, the limit an individual could contribute every two years to a federal candidate was $123,200.
A constitutional convention can only be conducted after two-thirds of state legislatures call for such a convention. None of the 27 amendments to the U.S. Constitution has been proposed by constitutional convention.
Two states — California and Vermont — have passed legislation calling for a constitutional convention. Similar measures are also pending in Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Texas.
Amendments to the Constitution may also be proposed by Congress with a two-thirds majority vote in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. This is the process used for each of the current 27 amendments.
Supporters of the effort to convene a constitutional convention to overturn the Citizens United and McCutcheon rulings have speculated that amending the Constitution may be more manageable through a convention rather than waiting for U.S. representatives and U.S. senators to change campaign finance rules on their own — rules many of them benefit from.
Whether created through a constitutional convention or a majority vote in Congress, a proposed amendment becomes part of the Constitution as soon as it is ratified by three-fourths of the states, or 38 of 50 states.
The last amendment to the Constitution, the 27th Amendment, was ratified May 7, 1992. That amendment delays laws affecting Congressional salary from taking effect until after the next election of representatives. Ratification of the 27th Amendment, which was first submitted Sept. 25, 1789, took 202 years, seven months and 12 days.
The effort to amend the U.S. Constitution via constitutional convention is being spearheaded by political action committee Wolf PAC. Formed in 2011 and announced at an Occupy Wall Street rally in New York City by The Young Terks host Cenk Uygur, Wolf PAC’s goal is to end “corporate personhood and publicly financing all elections in our country.”
Contact your elected officials
Contact your state representative prior to the November vote on Senate Joint Resolution 42 (SJR 42), which calls for a constitutional convention under Article V of the U.S. Constitution for the purpose of amending the Constitution. View text of SJR 42 at http://bit.ly/1E9YVd7 or online at http://www.ilga.gov/. Following is contact information for area state representatives:
• State Rep. Litesa Wallace, D-Rockford — District office: 200 S. Wyman St., Suite 304, Rockford, IL 61101; phone, (815) 987-7433; fax, (815) 987-7225; email, Litesa@StateRepWallace.com. Springfield office: 109 Capitol Building, Springfield, IL 62706; phone, (217) 782-3167; fax, (217) 557-7654.
• State Rep. Joe Sosnowski, R-Rockford — District office: 305 Amphitheater Drive, Rockford, IL 61107; phone, (815) 547-3436; fax, (815) 516-8434; email, email@example.com. Springfield office: 227-N Stratton Office Building, Springfield, IL 62706; phone, (217) 782-0548; fax, (217) 782-1141.
• State Rep. John Cabello, R-Loves Park — District office: 1941 Harlem Road, Loves Park, IL 61111; phone, (815) 282-0083; fax, (815) 282-0085; email, firstname.lastname@example.org. Springfield office: 205A-N Stratton Office Building, Springfield, IL 62706; phone, (217) 782-0455; fax, (217) 782-1141.
• State Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Rochelle — District office: 1221 Currency Court, Suite B, Rochelle, IL 61068; phone, (815) 561-3690; fax, (815) 561-3691; email, email@example.com. Springfield office: 222-N Stratton Office Building, Springfield, IL 62706; phone, (217) 782-0535.
• State Rep. Robert W. Pritchard, R-Sycamore — District office: 2600 DeKalb Ave., Suite C, Sycamore, IL 60178; phone, (815) 748-3494; fax, (815) 748-4630; email, firstname.lastname@example.org. Springfield office: 200-3N Stratton Office Building, Springfield, IL 62706; phone, (217) 782-0425; fax, (217) 782-1275.
• State Rep. Brian W. Stewart, R-Freeport — District office: 50 W. Douglas St., Stewart Centre Suite 1001, Freeport, IL 61032; phone, (815) 232-0774; fax, (815) 232-0777; email, email@example.com. Springfield office: 210-N Stratton Office Building, Springfield, IL 62706; phone, (217) 782-8186; fax, (217) 558-7016.
From the Oct. 15-21, 2014, issue