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posted: 3/5/2014 12:01 AM

Citizens need to take the initiative

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Citizens need to take the initiative

I read with great interest the "Our View" piece on the Opinion page of the Feb. 9 Daily Herald. It states that "a spate of referendums to amend the state constitution have been promoted to change the way business is done in Illinois."

The Our View writer believes that the referendum pertaining to lame duck session voting "is not likely even to get out of committee." I heartily agree with this assessment.

Knowing that entrenched politicians have no interest in changing the way "business is done" led me to investigate something called "citizens initiative." I learned that Illinois is one of 24 states which supposedly allow citizens to place referendums on ballots, bypassing the legislature. However, Illinois makes it almost impossible to meet signature requirements to the extent that only one binding referendum has been placed on the ballot since 1897. That was in 1980 and it passed overwhelmingly. It reduced the size of the legislature from 177 to 118. Since World War II, only one advisory referendum has been placed on an Illinois ballot, in 1978, sponsored by Gov. James Thompson. It called for tax reduction and passed but no tax reduction resulted. After all, it was only "advisory".

An interesting document on Initiative and Referendum can be read at It is interesting to note that several other states have had as many as 353 referendums since 1904. Also, of the 19 states with term limits, 18 of those achieved that law through citizen initiative.

I believe citizens need to organize to gain the strength to enforce ballot initiatives inasmuch as the current politicians have no interest in change and will try to stymie any attempt to allow citizens the right to accomplish change via I & R. This also would be a good idea for the local level of government.

Don Buck


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