SPRINGFIELD – The effort to place a term-limits referendum on Illinois ballots took another blow last week, but supporters aren’t quitting just yet.
Wednesday the 1st District Appellate Court upheld the ruling of the lower Cook County Circuit Court that the proposed amendment to the Illinois Constitution that would limit state lawmakers to eight years in office doesn’t pass constitutional muster and therefore would not receive ballot placement this November.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner, who chairs the Committee for Legislative Reform and Term Limits, is pushing the effort toward the only place that can give it life again: the Illinois Supreme Court.
“Time is running out — the Illinois Supreme Court needs to take the case,” Rauner said in a statement. “Nearly 600,000 Illinoisans signed the petition to put our amendment on the November ballot and the State Board of Elections has certified that we submitted enough signatures to be on the ballot. The people deserve to have their voices heard. The Illinois Supreme Court should not ignore the people of Illinois.”
The amendment would also increase the size of the Illinois House, reduce the size of the Senate and increase the vote threshold required for the General Assembly to override gubernatorial vetoes.
Rey López-Calderón is the executive director of Common Cause Illinois, a group that works to increase democratic participation and accountable government. He said the desire to place a term-limits referendum on the ballot in the Land of Lincoln is mostly “political grandstanding” by politicians hoping to achieve popularity.
He also said it’s a bad idea.
“For democracy to work effectively, the political climate needs to be stable and term-limits often cause turnover chaos and uninformed voting in many districts,” López-Calderón said. “People should be able to vote for someone to stay in if they want, or vote for their challengers. Elections are term-limits.”
López-Calderón said Illinois’ biggest problem isn’t politicians who have been in office too long, but politicians who have held leadership positions too long.
“While we don’t support term-limits on a broad scale, we would support leadership limits,” he said. “We would like to avoid and prevent cases like Mike Madigan, who has sat on top of a leadership position forever and used those years and years to amass power and wealth. Changing the leadership periodically would be a healthy thing for the state.”
On the matter of the constitutionality of the Committee for Term Limits and Reform’s ballot referendum, López-Calderón said there’s no doubt it isn’t constitutional and Rauner and his group aren’t fooling themselves.
“Any reasonable person saw throughout this process that the courts were going to throw this out,” López-Calderón said. “Bruce Rauner knew it, too. It’s a campaign gig, a way to appear populist and appeal to the masses since many people support the idea of term-limits.”
Rauner defended his group’s work and declared optimism that the Supreme Court will rule in their favor.
“The amendment is constitutional and exactly the kind of initiative the framers envisioned when they provided for the ballot initiative process,” Rauner argued at a press conference this week. “With a favorable ruling from the Supreme Court, we’ll have term limits on the ballot this November – voters will pass it overwhelmingly – and the clock will start running on the Springfield career politicians in January.”
The deadline for all ballot-approved initiatives is Friday and Rauner urged quick action from the four Democrat and three Republican justices on the state’s Supreme Court.
Rauner was adamant that limiting the service years of elected officials should be a decision voters make.
“Our amendment was carefully crafted to meet all the requirements that the Illinois Supreme Court very clearly laid out,” Rauner said. “And we are hopeful that the Illinois Supreme Court will find in favor of the citizens of Illinois. Let the people of Illinois decide for themselves if they want to term limit legislators.”
Brady Cremeens is a reporter for the Illinois News Network.