1/11/2007 2:03:00 PM Guest Column Democracy Project
puts 'we the people' back in control
By Rep. ROGER EDDY For the Daily News
Last week, I described a real problem that I believe exists in the current process regarding the way certain legislation is pushed through the General Assembly. My reference was the original legislation passed more than 10 years ago on electric deregulation that has helped to create today's problems with electric rates. That legislation was passed late in the session as an amendment to a "shell bill."
There are several other examples of flawed legislation passed because this "drive-by" legislative process has essentially taken the people out of our democracy and allowed politicians, lobbyists and special interest groups to become too powerful. Even our budget process has been negatively affected by the process. Often, the state budget is drafted as a several-hundred-page amendment and attached to some empty shell bill and rushed through the legislative process in a matter of hours.
As a result, the person presenting the budget often cannot even provide specific answers to questions about spending or revenue measures because a complete analysis has not taken place. I have asked questions myself on several occasions regarding specific school funding issues related to the education portion of the budget, and have been answered with, "I don't know," "I'm not sure," or "I haven't had time to read all of the specifics of the budget." All of these are, or course, honest answers provided by someone doing his or her best to describe a massive bill that they could not possibly have read entirely.
Often, I watch advocates for certain budget line items rush to read the details of the budget implementation bill so they can use precious moments prior to the final vote on the budget to let someone know something has been left out or under-funded. In 2003, the budget bill was a 393-page amendment introduced and passed in a single day. That measure included hundreds of new fees on everything from trucking companies to municipalities to purchasing new tires and hundreds more. Sure, some of the fees were rumored, but when did the people get a chance to be heard? What happened to our citizens' right to "petition their government?"
In 2005, over the Memorial Day Holiday weekend, another budget passed that allowed for the diversion of more than $2.3 billion from pension systems so the budget could be "balanced," only to see the state lapse more than 90 days in payment to Medicaid providers. Many of those directly affected by this budget were not aware of the contents of the budget because they were away for the holiday weekend. Hundreds of millions of dollars in very questionable "pork" projects were contained in this budget. Legislators who voted for the budget later admitted they had no idea that certain pork projects were included. The truly sad part is that they had a legitimate excuse. There was no way they could have known everything they voted to pay for.
It is time to take action, and I am asking the people of the 109th District to get involved in a sincere effort to change the current system. There is a lot we can do. A new, exciting and vitally important initiative is being started that I am active in and fully support. It is an attempt to allow the people to take back control of the legislative process and have a voice again. The initiative is called The Democracy Project. The goal of the project as stated on our Web page is to reassert democracy, defined as the "will of the people" and the "informed consent of the governed," as a significant influence once again in the actions of the Illinois General Assembly.
We will do this by a citizens' initiative to amend the Illinois Constitution to require a minimum of 21 days to pass between the date a non-emergency bill is filed or last amended and the date on which a vote of final action may be taken to cause the bill to have been "passed by both houses" of the legislature. That means the state budget would also be "on display" for those 21 days before it could be passed.
It is important to note that this effort is not about partisan politics. It does not really matter whether one is a Democrat, Republican, Green Party supporter or an independent. What does matter is that "We, the People" become an important part of the process again. All over the 109th District, I have spoken with people who are angry and fed up with the way government is being conducted. Many have asked me what they can do to change things. Well, I believe this initiative is part of the answer. It is the duty of the people in a democracy to get involved when necessary. Believe me, it is necessary.
I would ask that you go to www.showus.org and read the important information on that site and sign up to help. It will take thousands of concerned citizens in order to get this accomplished. But it can be done and our wonderful form of government allows just the right tool, a constitutional amendment. Share this site with friends and acquaintances all over Illinois. Urge them to go to the site, read about the initiative and sign up. Please let me know your thoughts about this project or any other issue that you believe is important. In the next few weeks, I will update you on activities from the final days of the 94th General Assembly, provide information related to bills that I plan to introduce this spring session and keep you informed about the Democracy Project.
Contact me at either P.O. Box 125, Hutsonville, IL 62433 or 222-N, Stratton office Building, Springfield, IL 62706. or you can also e-mail me at email@example.com. I will also keep you updated on my Web site: www.peopleforeddy.com.