Analyst: Legislators love constitutional amendments -- that don't affect them
On Tuesday, voters in Illinois will vote on a constitutional amendment aimed at locking away transportation funds and preventing those funds from being spent for other purposes -- a measure that has opponents.
Some have questioned why the lockbox amendment received widespread bipartisan support when more pertinent amendments such as term limits and remapping failed to make it.
Pat Hughes, founder of the Illinois Opportunity Project, said the lockbox amendment received bipartisan support because it doesn’t affect politicians directly.
“I think it is because you’re talking about a couple of different things,” Hughes told Dan Proft on the Illinois Rising radio show. “The remap and term limit is sort of politics. It’s the nature of politics. Whereas, this road-fund situation is directly to the pocketbooks. It speaks directly to what people worry about every day: where their money is being spent, whether they are going to have good roads to drive on -- things of that nature.”
Hughes said lawmakers are more likely to vote "yes" on an amendment that will not affect their position as lawmakers.
“(As a lawmaker), I’m not going to term-limit myself, and I am certainly not going to remap myself out of my seat but, hey, if I can get some points (by giving) out contracts and everything else, well then that is a different scenario and that makes good sense to me,” Hughes said.
Many opponents have said the lockbox amendment presented a look at how legislators suddenly look toward the state constitution, especially given that a balanced budget, which is demanded by the Illinois Constitution, hasn't been passed in nearly a year and a half.
Hughes echoed that sentiment.
“Let’s say that this thing got enacted and was put into the constitution,” Hughes said on the radio show. “Is anybody going to pay attention to it? They don’t pay attention to the balanced-budget amendment. They don’t pay attention to all kinds of requirements.”
Hughes said the whole situation is reflective of the political climate in Illinois.
“What I think this really is…the legislature is so bad and has been so bad over (such) a long period of time, that people who care about things like spending and liberty are looking for…avenues to get around that,” he said. That’s really what this is.”
Voters need to focus on selecting the right leaders, Hughes said.
“Really, what they should be focusing on is their local politicians and their local people and deciding who should be in office at the legislative level or the local level,” Hughes said. “They can attack that through the democratic process. Then they can see change if that is the type of change that they want.”
Hughes said the state should tread carefully when it comes to constitutional amendments.
“My feeling…on constitutional amendments is …we want to be careful about what we do with constitutional amendments,” Hughes said on the show. “That’s supposed to be something that sort of guarantees our liberty, and then after that, the legislators are supposed to (support) the will of the people along with the governor.”