Many people have asked why I'm such a big supporter of a constitutional convention. I mean sure, I'm an officer with the Better Government Association and a champion for the cause of political reform in Illinois (I know - why would anyone support such a crazy idea!). But I'm also a died in the wool Democrat and Bears fan who would rather see Cade McNown named Bears QB for life rather than put progressive rights at risk by some right wing jihad against gay marriage and the right to choose.
Frankly, I'm sick and tired of the dysfunction in Springfield. I know, I know. Lots of people are sick and tired of the dysfunction in Springfield. But Dave, my friends ask, isn't it just a case of three men engaged in a perpetual testosterone contest trying to prove that theirs is bigger?
Well yes and no. Sure, we've seen enough destructive, juvenile behavior to fill an abnormal child psychology textbook. But it's more than that. The system itself cannot seem to compensate for the "bad actor" syndrome and the reforms I seek would provide essential checks on these unbridled abuses of power.
While there are many reforms I'd like to see, my biggest pet peeve is the absolute power exercised by our legislative leaders in refusing to allow votes on bills they don't like. For those that aren't familiar with the bizarre ways of Springfield, let me explain.
When a bill is passed by one chamber and sent to the other, the leader of that body has absolute control over what happens to that bill. What committee will it be assigned to? Who will be the sponsor in that chamber? And will it be called for a vote or forever assigned to the purgatory of the dreaded "Rules" committee?
This has led to manipulation most vile. The most obvious is that popular and desperately needed bills are often kidnapped and held permanently hostage. The most recent example that best illustrate this point is HB1, the comprehensive ethics reform bill.
So what's the answer? Well I asked this same question of Lt. Governor Pat Quinn a while back and he told me about this amazing bit of democratic reform that is now law in Massachusetts. It seems they had a similar problem there, but rather than let the open wound that is the current system fester until it developed gangrene, they treated the problem with a common sense bit of reform.
Now in Massachusetts, if there is an important bit of legislation that leaders don't want to call for a vote, citizens have the right to petition the legislature and force a vote to be held. While I don't quite share all of Lt. Governor Quinn's enthusiasm for citizen democracy, this is one simple, yet elegant reform whose time has come.
Now hang on a second, you might say. Can't we just amend the constitution to get this reform? That's a fantastic theory right until you find out that the only way to put a binding constitutional amendment on the ballot is for both chambers of the legislature to pass the amendment by 3/5. And exactly whose power would most be trimmed by this change? As my old Jewish uncle might say in his thick Yiddish accent, "achaaaah!"
Thus the need for a constitutional convention. In the months ahead, I'll blog some more on this poorly misunderstood issue. In the meantime, welcome to HuffPost Chicago.