Con Con Considerations: Transparency
The November ballot will ask voters whether Illinois should have a Constitutional Convention. A Constitutional Convention would be authorized to review any portion of Illinois' Constitution they wanted to -- and to propose an entirely new document, amendments to existing provisions, or additions of new materials
But the Constitution also leaves much to the General Assembly to determine. Others have taken a position on whether or not there should be a Convention, and even on what issues a Convention should address if it is called. This page is less interested in what a Convention might accomplish as in how it might work.
Fifth in a Series
Illinois law requires that governmental agencies make themselves open to the public in a host of ways. At the moment, virtually none of these apply to a Convention. Illinois' Election Code does not require that candidates for delegate disclose the sources of their funding; the Ethics Act does not require candidates for delegate to file Statements of Economic Interest; the Freedom of Information Act does not mention records generated by a Convention; the Open Meetings Act would not cover a Convention; Lobbyist Registration would not apply to professionals who seek to influence the outcome of a Convention. Should these laws apply? And how?
ICPR believes that, at a minimum, FOIA should cover records generated by a Convention, but FOIA should be a floor and not the standard for making public information about any deliberations. Many records should be made available instantaneously through the Internet. What documents at a Convention should be available to the public through FOIA and what should be posted for immediate access? And what should be shielded from public view to encourage delegates to deliberate honestly and without fear of immediate public reproach?
Similarly, the Open Meetings Act may not be the best model for the public to view all of the important proceedings of a Convention. How many delegates should be allowed to gather in private without public notice? (Recall that the Open Meetings Act typically applies to a majority of a quorum; the Open Meetings Act does not apply at all to the General Assembly). Should the proceedings be recorded? Or webcast?
ICPR believes that Campaign Disclosure, the Ethics Act, requiring candidates to file Statements of Economic Interest; and the Lobbyist Registration Act should apply to the Conventions and the delegates. Are there any modifications to these laws that would make them more responsive to public needs in this context?
How Should the Public Access Convention Records?