With Independent Maps Stuck in Limbo, Reformers Turn to Term Limits in Illinois

After a setback on legislative redistricting, reform advocates may make term limits in Illinois another of its goals.

Last week, a circuit court judge rejected a citizen-led effort to reform redistricting in Illinois. Following the ruling, Governor Bruce Rauner reissued his call for term limits for state officeholders. Rauner said there are essentially no choices in most elections. To emphasize his case, the governor asserted:

“These districts have been gerrymandered and the incumbents are locked in. We’ve got folks in the legislature that have been there 20 years, 30 years, 40 years in office. That’s not right. Work for a few years and then go back to the real world.”

The governor is choosing the legislative route for achieving his objectives. Rauner wants to see the General Assembly handle the matter during an upcoming veto session. The first-term Republican governor campaigned on term limits in Illinois in 2014. Rauner won the governorship, but his initiative for term limits failed to reach the ballot.

The map amendment campaign in Illinois is currently paused. Despite the circuit judge’s ruling, the Illinois Supreme Court will hear the Independent Map Amendment’s appeal. However, the drive for political reform in Illinois remains strong. A Paul Simon Public Policy Institute survey in May reported that more than 75% of respondents desire term limits in Illinois.

State Rep. Charlie Meier argued on his Facebook page that the lack of movement in reforming Illinois’ politics is systemic. He wrote:

“There are a number of entrenched incumbents who have been serving themselves instead of serving the people who elect them. . . . It’s time to enact term limits, because the same incumbents who got us in this mess have proven they are incapable of getting us out.”

Rauner’s renewed support for term limits in Illinois may bolster support on his side of the aisle. Last week, the Republican governor signed two bills which angered segments of his coalition. One bill decriminalized small amounts of marijuana. Another compels medical personnel to refer patients for abortion even if the personnel, such as Catholic hospitals, oppose the procedure.

Term limits in Illinois, like redistricting reform, face a difficult road. However, both issues have solid public support if they can survive the political and legal challenges.

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