Illinois General Assembly ignores citizens on term limits
“It is a safe bet that the General Assembly will never pass a bill limiting its own members’ ability to seek re-election.” – Christopher Mooney, University of Illinois Springfield professor, term-limits expert Overwhelmingly, Illinoisans support term limits. A recent poll showed 78.7 percent of Illinois voters support term limits. But good luck convincing Illinois legislators...
“It is a safe bet that the General Assembly will never pass a bill limiting its own members’ ability to seek re-election.” – Christopher Mooney, University of Illinois Springfield professor, term-limits expert
Overwhelmingly, Illinoisans support term limits. A recent poll showed 78.7 percent of Illinois voters support term limits.
But good luck convincing Illinois legislators to enact term limits on themselves.
Despite the overwhelming public support for term limits, only a few legislators have tried to use the legislative process to enact term limits.
In 2011, state Rep. Joe Sosnowski, R-Rockford, proposed a 20-year combined term limit for state senators and state representatives. Sosnowski simultaneously proposed timeout term limits for the executive branch, which would limit officials from serving more than 2 consecutive terms in the same executive branch office. It had no co-sponsors.
In 2013, state Rep. Anthony DeLuca, D-Chicago Heights, and state Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington, proposed term limits on the General Assembly which would have limited a person from serving more than three terms (six years) as a state representative and three terms as a state senator (up to 12 years), for a total limit of 18 years.
Also in 2013, state Sen. Ron Sandack, R-Downers Grove, state Sen. Darin LaHood, R-Peoria, and Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon, proposed a 10-year combined term limit for state representatives and state senators.
Despite being one of the few policy ideas that Illinoisans support across the political spectrum, the legislature has failed to enact any meaningful term limit reforms.
Citizens’ only other recourse is placing a term-limits constitutional referendum on the ballot, but unfortunately this road is also very difficult. Unlike many other states, Illinois’ citizen-initiated constitutional amendments are limited to structural and procedural issues, and petition signature requirements are very high. In 1994, a term-limits referendum was thrown off the ballot because it did not include structural or procedural reforms.
However, a new group is putting together another term-limits referendum in a way that addresses both the structural and procedural requirements of the Illinois Constitution. The effort aims to finally give citizens the ability to vote on a term limits amendment for the November 2014 election.
The nonpartisan Committee for Legislative Reform and Term Limits is circulating petitions to enact eight-year term limits.
Additionally, the group is proposing a structural change to the Illinois General Assembly by increasing the size of the Illinois House of Representatives from 118 seats to 123 seats, and reducing the size of the Illinois Senate from 59 seats to 41. The measure would also make a procedural change increasing the threshold to override a governor’s veto from a three-fifths majority to a two-thirds majority. This reform would bring Illinois more in line with the rest of the country.
Barring a reversal from the General Assembly, the proposal by the Committee for Legislative Reform and Term Limits may be the only chance Illinois voters will ever get to enact overwhelmingly popular term limits on legislators.