If I feel so strongly, why am I torn on this issue? Simply put, I'm fond of pointing out periodically that our founding fathers met in secret in Philadelphia during the Constitutional Convention. In fact, they went so far as to post guards and they closed windows (during a sweltering summer in a time before air conditioning) to enable that generation of leaders to speak frankly without worry that an eavesdropper or member of the press might embarrass them. This gathering yielded, arguably, one the greatest political documents ever written and the brilliant and dedicated men who wrote it recognized how politics might preempt their efforts and they took the bold, anti-democratic, step of debating in private. The results (save for the shameful compromise on slavery) were, in my mind, miraculous and a gift to mankind.
With that said, I think the Illinois legislative leaders erred. We live in a time of deep discontent and dissatisfaction with government officials at the same time (or perhaps because of the fact) that government has never before in America had as much control over each of our lives than it does now. Our government is established "of the people, by the people and for the people" and to leave people out of vital discussions on budget and economic issues when the state is in deep debt and near fiscal ruin, simply doesn't serve Illinois citizens. The founding fathers got away with meeting in secrecy but it's important to note that they weren't operating under a law which mandates that government meetings be open to the public. These laws serve the vital purpose of exposing elected and appointed officials to the illumination of transparency - they help build confidence in the system by exposing logic and illogic, altruism and personal gain. Ultimately, transparency requires them to articulate their beliefs, ask their questions and vote in a way that their masters - the public - have a chance to measure their decisions and capabilities. Had the founders had such a law, I've no doubt that they'd have followed it though I acknowledge it might have changed their work-product.
Of course, this isn't all theory. The practical impact of this is the precedent this sets for future legislative actions. What other secret meetings will be justified with the same rationale (a "joint caucus")? How far can they take it? It's important for each of us to decide for ourselves what we expect of our leaders and how we intend to hold them accountable.
I vote for no more state secrets. How about you?