50th anniversary week of 1970 Illinois Constitutional Convention

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the 1970 Illinois Constitution.

1870 was the last year a constitutional convention was held in Illinois prior to 1970, leaving that constitution in place for 100 years. The 1870 Constitution expanded the powers of the executive and judicial branches.

Illinois then adopted its fourth, and current, Constitution on December 15, 1970. Samuel Witwer, an attorney from Kenilworth, was chosen as president of the Constitutional Convention.

The 1970 Convention had widespread cooperative bipartisan support. One of the earliest decisions was the intent to focus only on basic state laws to ensure effective state government. A key provision was home rule. Home rule increased taxing authority to cities of more than 25,000 in population and counties of more than 200,000 while seeking to reduce confusion with the public since many Illinois residents at the time were under jurisdiction of more than one taxing body. Home rule was a prime example of the new constitution’s goal of simplifying state government for efficiency.

The 1970 Constitution also included a provision the 1870 Constitution previously had not: banning “discrimination on the basis of race, color, creed, national ancestry, and sex in the hiring and promotion practice of any employer or in the sale or rental of property.”