Basic Illinois Government, Third Edition: A Systematic Explanation by David Kenney

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David Kenney
Southern Illinois University Press
Date of release


Basic Illinois Government, Third Edition: A Systematic Explanation

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Book review

This latest revision of a classic text presents a comprehensive view of government in Illinois.

David Kenney and Barbara L. Brown begin by describing the role of states in the federal system and the basic nature of Illinois as a governmental entity. Next they offer a thorough description of the policy-making process in government. They discuss the three political regions of Illinois—Chicago, Cook County and the collar counties, and downstate—and they outline recent trends in Illinois voter turnout, ticket splitting, party organization, the election schedule, voter qualifications, and the regulation of campaign finance.

The problems created by the decennial redrawing of district lines, including the redistricting of 1991, are covered in Kenney and Brown’s treatment of the legislative branch of the government. Special emphasis is given to the question of who goes to the General Assembly and who its leaders are, along with a full description of the legislative procedure.

Turning to the executive branch, Kenney and Brown first focus on the office of governor. Considerable attention is given to the multiple terms of James R. Thompson, Illinois’ longest serving governor, and the election in 1991 of James Edgar. The authors conclude the chapter with a description of the administrative structure of the executive branch.

The Illinois court system and the jurisdictions of its three levels are presented as Kenney and Brown turn to the judicial branch of government. They provide biographical information on each of the current justices of the Illinois Supreme Court with particular emphasis on their partisanship. The judgeship selection process is carefully considered and Operation Greylord, which revealed pervasive corruption in the Cook County courts, is discussed. As is the case in each of the chapters on the branches of government, Kenney and Brown offer detailed descriptions of current public officials.

Basic Illinois Government also includes chapters on local government, state and local finance, and policy-making issues in education, corrections, welfare, and transportation. In the local government section Kenney and Brown make clear the powers and functions of counties, townships, special districts, and municipal corporations, giving special attention to Chicago and Cook County. They compare the taxing and spending policies of Illinois to those of the rest of the United States and review in detail the controversial income tax increase of 1983 and 1989 with its extension in 1991.

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