Illinois’ first constitution was adopted in 1818, at the time of statehood. There were new constitutions in 1848 and 1870. Although the constitution of 1870 was designed for an agrarian society, it remained in effect throughout Illinois’ period of industrialization. A fourth constitution was adopted in 1970 and came into effect in 1971. The latest constitution reflects the concerns of a late-20th-century industrialized state. It includes an expanded bill of rights, which prohibits discrimination in housing and hiring, and guarantees the citizen’s right to a healthful environment. It also establishes the state’s responsibility for financing public education.
Amendments to the constitution may be proposed by three-fifths of the total membership of each house or by a constitutional convention called by the legislature and approved by the voters. Amendments to the section of the constitution dealing with the legislature may be proposed by initiative. A proposed amendment must be placed on the ballot in the next general election. An amendment introduced by the state legislature or by initiative must be approved by three-fifths of those voting on it or a majority of those voting in the election. An amendment introduced by a constitutional convention needs approval only by a majority of those voting on the question.
The governor, the state’s chief executive, is elected for a four-year term. With the approval of the state senate, the governor appoints most of the key officials of state administrative departments and agencies. The governor may veto bills passed by the legislature, but the legislature can override such a veto by a three-fifths majority vote of the members in each house. Other elected executive officials are the lieutenant governor who runs on the same ticket as the governor, secretary of state, treasurer, comptroller, and attorney general, all of whom are elected for four-year terms.
The state legislature, called the General Assembly, consists of a Senate and a House of Representatives. There are 59 senators and 118 representatives. Senators are elected to either a two- or four-year term so that there is never a complete turnover of senators in any single general election. Representatives are all elected to two-year terms.
The assembly meets annually on the second Wednesday in January. The governor or the presiding officers of both houses may call special sessions. Illinois has three basic types of courts: the supreme court, appellate court, and circuit courts.
The supreme court, the state’s highest court, is made up of seven judges who are elected for ten-year terms. Three judges are elected from Cook County, which includes Chicago, and one judge from each of four other districts. The judges elect one of their number as chief justice, who serves for three years, unless the person’s term as judge expires sooner. The judges of the state’s appellate court, which is a lower appeals court, are also elected for ten-year terms.In most cases original jurisdiction rests with the state’s circuit courts. Circuit court judges are elected for six-year terms; they, in turn, appoint associate judges for terms of four years. "Illinois" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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