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Illinois Government
Lesson 2 - The Illinois Constitution

Illinois government is modeled after the Federal government and the U.S. Constitution. To be admitted into the Union, Illinois had to adopt its own constitution.

Gavy Tooltip  The first Illinois Constitution was written the summer of 1818 in Kaskaskia. The 1818 Illinois Constitution created three branches of government, just like the U.S. Constitution--legislative, executive, and judicial. It also set up the boundaries for the State and named Kaskaskia as the capital.

Gavy Tooltip  Illinois became a state on December 3, 1818. From 1818 until 1848, Illinois went through a time of rapid growth and development. In response, a second constitution was written and adopted in 1848. The Constitution of 1848 gave greater responsibilities to the executive and judicial branches. It also put restrictions on the legislative branch. A third Illinois Constitution was adopted in 1870. The 1870 Constitution again expanded the powers of the executive and judicial branches. The 1870 Constitution remained in force for 100 years.

Gavy Tooltip  Illinois adopted its fourth (and current) Constitution on December 15, 1970.  VIEW CURRENT CONSTITUTION HERE.

The current Constitution contains a Preamble and fourteen Articles:

  • The Preamble is similar to the Preamble in the U.S. Constitution and explains why the Illinois Constitution was written.
  • Article I is called the Bill of Rights.
  • Article III sets up voting qualifications and election laws.
  • Article IV sets up rules for the legislative branch. Legislative power comes from a body known as the General Assembly. The General Assembly is divided into 2 houses--the Senate and the House of Representatives.
  • Article V sets up rules for the executive branch. It creates 6 elected offices--Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, Comptroller and Treasurer.
  • Article VI sets up a three-court system in Illinois--a Supreme Court, an Appellate Court and the Circuit Courts. It divides Illinois into judicial districts and judicial circuits.
  • Article VII creates rules for local governments. Local governments are counties, municipalities, townships, and cities. Local governments are given limited powers to pass local laws or ordinances.
  • Article VIII says that public funds and property can only be used for public purposes. It explains how the State is to budget and spend its money and also provides for a way that the State can be audited to make sure public funds are used appropriately.
  • Article IX covers how the the State can collect money from the people of the State through taxes.
  • Article X provides for a free public education for all Illinois residents.
  • Article XI allows the General Assembly to pass laws to ensure a healthy environment.
  • Article XII allows the General Assembly to form a state militia.
  • Article XIII has general rules covering persons holding public office.
  • Article XIV explains how the Illinois Constitution can be changed.
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