Illinois General Assembly

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State legislatures
The Illinois General Assembly is the state legislature of Illinois, created by the first Illinois Constitution adopted in 1818. It works beside the executive branch led by the state governor and the judicial branch led by the Illinois Supreme Court. The Illinois General Assembly consists of the Illinois House of Representatives, the lower chamber, and the Illinois Senate, the upper chamber.

The Illinois General Assembly convenes at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield. Its first official working day is the second Wednesday in January each year. Its primary duties are to pass bills into law, approve the state budget, confirm appointments to state departments and agencies, act on federal constitutional amendments, and propose constitutional amendments for Illinois. It also has the power to override gubernatorial vetoes through a three-fifths majority vote in each chamber.

Illinois Ballot Question 1 in 1980 altered Section 1 of Article IV of the Illinois Constitution to reduce the number of members of the Illinois House of Representatives from 177 members to 118 members beginning with the elections in 1982.

Role in State Budget

Main article: Illinois state budget

On the third Wednesday of February, the Illinois General Assembly receives an annual budget proposal from the Governor. The annual budget proposal is for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1st. The Legislature then revises this budget over the course of the next couple of months. In May, the Legislature votes on a budget.[1]

The Illinois General Assembly has had difficulty passing a balanced budget. Illinois faced a combined budget gap of $11.5 billion for FY 2009 ($4.3 billion) and 2010 ($7.2 billion). [2] July 7, 2009. Gov. Pat Quinn and the Illinois General Assembly could not agree on cuts and raising income taxes, leading to Gov. Quinn’s veto on July 7, 2009 of budget measures, his second budget veto in a week.[3] The stalemate and ongoing fiscal crisis is not anticipated to be solved by the General Assembly’s fall 2009 Veto Session that started on October 14. State Comptroller Dan Hynes claims Illinois currently has $3 billion in unpaid bills.[4]


The Illinois Senate is the upper chamber of the Illinois General Assembly. It is made up of 59 senators elected from individual legislative districts determined by population. There is a movement to modify senatorial districts on a geographic basis in order to more accurately reflect the cultural, racial and political makeup of outstate and downstate. In order to avoid complete turnovers in Senate membership, under the Illinois Constitution of 1970, some senators are elected to two-year terms while others are elected to four-year terms. Senate districts are divided into three groups. One or two of these groups are elected every two years for either a two or four year term. The placement of the two-year term in the decade varies from one district to another, with all districts’ terms defined as 2-4-4, 4-2-4, or 4-4-2.

The current-make up of the Senate is 37 Democrats, 22 Republicans.

House of Representatives

The Illinois House of Representatives is the lower house of the Illinois General Assembly. It is made of 118 representatives elected from individual legislative districts for a two-year term with no term limits.

Before the Cutback Amendment to the state constitution in 1980, the state was divided into 59 "legislative districts", each of which elected three representatives, yielding a House of 177 members. This unusual system was even more distinctive in that the individual voter was given three legislative votes to cast, and could cast either one vote each for three candidates, all three votes for one candidate (known as a "bullet vote"), or even 1 1/2 votes each for two candidates. After the passage of the Cutback Amendment, this system was abolished and representatives were elected from 118 single member constituencies.

The current make-up of the House is 67 Democrats, 51 Republicans.

Roles and responsibilities

Amending the constitution

Main article: Amending state constitutions

The Illinois state legislature under Article XIV of the Illinois Constitution can begin the process of amending the state's constitution in two different ways:

  • A constitutional convention can be held if 60% of the members of both houses of the Illinois General Assembly vote to place such a question on the ballot.
  • An legislatively-referred constitutional amendment can be proposed if 60% of the members of both houses of the Illinois General Assembly vote to put in on the ballot, with some constraints which include:
  • The legislature can only propose to amend up to three articles of the constitution in any one election.
  • The legislature is not allowed to propose any amendments when a constitutional convention has been called up through the time that an election is held on any proposed amendments or revisions that arise from that convention.

Whether the question at hand is about holding a constitutional convention, ratifying an amendment proposed by the Illinois General Assembly, or adopting an initiated constitutional amendment, these ballot questions are only considered successful if voters say "yes" by a supermajority vote of 60% of those voting on the question or a majority of those who cast a ballot for any office in that election.

Joint Legislative Committees

External links

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