That’s more than enough signatures to place the constitutional amendment onto this November’s ballot. The measure will limit state legislators to eight years in office. It will also reduce the size of the state senate (from 59 to 41) and increase the size of the state house (from 118 to 123), while increasing the legislative vote needed to override a governor’s veto to the same two-thirds threshold found in 37 other states and at the federal level, for the president.
Under Illinois’s limited initiative process, only legislators can be term-limited, but the issue promises to animate the governor’s race as well. Republican nominee for governor, Bruce Rauner, led the campaign to place the issue on the ballot.
“We are taking the term limits initiative to the voters directly,” he said at the news conference announcing that nearly 600,000 voters had signed. “Serve the voters and then leave office.” A successful businessman, Rauner has not previously sought public office.
Meanwhile, incumbent Democratic Governor Pat Quinn is no term limits slouch, either. He led a 1994 petition effort to impose legislative term limits, later blocked in court. Quinn announced prior to the current massive signature submission that he would abide by self-imposed term limits, meaning the second full term he now seeks would be his last. (Quinn picked up a partial term at the start of his gubernatorial stretch when police removed his predecessor, thus creating a vacancy.)
One man has definitely not jumped on the term limits bandwagon. Just hours before all those voter signatures were presented to state officials, an attorney connected to Speaker Madigan filed a lawsuit hoping to block the vote.
In 1994, when now-Governor Quinn and others petitioned a straight term limits question onto the ballot, the Illinois Supreme Court blocked it for not being both “structural and procedural.” The current proposal addresses this ostensible requirement by offering more than term limits: it would change the number of state senators and reps and also raises the threshold to override a governor’s veto from the current 60 percent to 67 percent. As Trib columnist Eric Zorn points out: “one clearly procedural, the other clearly structural.”
Predicting how judges will rule is the very inexact-est science of all, but all democratic hope lies with the voters of Illinois having the opportunity to decide — yes, for the decision simply to be “by the people.”
It’s certainly educational that the news report on the Madigan-inspired lawsuit quoted “sources who asked not to be identified for fear of risking their ability to secure state grant dollars.”
Yet another argument for term limits.
Now. More than ever.