CHICAGO – The war over legislative term limits in Illinois will see its next battle this week as the proponent group presents its oral arguments before the Illinois Appellate Court.
The Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner-led Committee for Legislative Reform and Term Limits filed its reply brief Tuesday, a legal response to the lawsuit headed by House Speaker Mike Madigan, D-Chicago, that attempts to keep the committee’s term limits legislation referendum off the November ballots.
Mark Campbell serves as executive director of the Term Limits and Reform group, and defends his organization’s effort to give voters a chance to determine the fate of longtime politicians.
“The Term Limits and Reform amendment is not only constitutional, but is exactly the kind of reform the framers of the Illinois Constitution intended to be brought about by citizen initiative,” Campbell said in a statement. “Imposing term limits on lawmakers is something the General Assembly will never do themselves – it has to be the people.”
Term Limits and Reform has reportedly collected more than 590,000 signatures – well exceeding the 300,000 required minimum for ballot consideration – from residents in support of the measure.
“The plaintiffs’ anti-citizen lawsuit will take away the people’s right to vote on the amendment,” Campbell said. “Nearly 600,000 people from across Illinois signed our petition to put the amendment on the November ballot and Illinois courts should not ignore the wishes of the people.”
Campbell said the case for his group’s referendum earning ballot space is airtight.
“The Illinois State Board of Elections has stated, for the record, that the Term Limits and Reform Committee has indeed filed enough valid signatures to be on the November ballot,” he said. “Whichever way the (appellate) court rules, we have no doubt this case will ultimately be decided in the Illinois Supreme Court.”
State Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, says the push for term limits is largely a political ploy, not a serious attempt at good policy.
“It’s an effort by the challenging party to gin up support,” Jacobs said. “Many of the state legislators are honest, hard-working people. The voters should decide when a senator or representative has served long enough by voting against them in an election, not by a ballot referendum.”
Nick Tomboulides is the executive director of U.S. Term Limits, a Florida-based group that works towards term limit reform around the country. He says the failure of the ballot referendum to succeed in the Illinois courts is because the judges are succumbing to political pressure.
Judges have political agendas too, argues Tomboulides, and are closely affiliated with the politicians fighting against term limits the hardest.
“The pushback against this reform isn’t coming from the people of Illinois,” Tomboulides said. “Most polls have term limits receiving at least 70 percent support. The pushback is coming from entrenched politicians, some with decades of time in Springfield, who are desperate to keep the status quo.”
Tomboulides said he thinks there’s a good chance the appeals court will rule that the referendum measure is constitutional, and voters will have a chance to express their opinion on Election Day.
“Term limits means more open-seat races every cycle, which allows more citizens the opportunity to serve their state,” Tomboulides said. “Incumbents create a barrier to entry into public service because they almost always win their races. Term limits will create a far more competitive political field.”
The Committee for Term Limits and Reform will present its oral arguments before the appellate court Thursday.
Brady Cremeens is a reporter with the Watchdog affiliate Illinois News Network.