Proposed amendment would place term limits on top Illinois lawmakers

Proposed amendment would place term limits on top Illinois lawmakers

A lawmaker would only be allowed to serve in the powerful role of Illinois House speaker for a maximum of eight years under a proposed constitutional amendment recently introduced in the General Assembly.

A new amendment to the Illinois Constitution would mean more turnover in the top rungs of state government.

On Jan. 25, state Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, filed a proposed constitutional amendment that would set term limits for each of Springfield’s four leadership roles: House speaker, Senate president and the minority leaders of both chambers.

Under the proposal, House Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 12, lawmakers could serve no more than eight years in a leadership role, and no more than 12 years combined between the four offices.

“It is no secret that status quo in Illinois government has failed our state,” Butler said in a statement. “Just as gerrymandering has harmed the right of Illinoisans to be fairly represented, so too has the ability of one person to lead a legislative body in perpetuity.

Illinois is one of only 14 states without some form of term limits for state lawmakers and the following executive branch offices: governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, treasurer, auditor general and comptroller.

For perspective, Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan just entered his 18th term, having held the speaker gavel for 34 of the past 36 years.

Perhaps for that reason, term limits enjoy overwhelming popularity among Illinois voters. Polling in 2018 from the Paul Simon Institute of Public Policy showed 8 in 10 Illinoisans favor placing term limits on their elected leaders.

The barrier for voters is that the task of enacting term limits is left in the hands of those who’d be subject to them. Many Illinois officeholders are not eager to voluntarily limit their own power. For a term limits proposal to reach the appropriate substantive committee, and then reach the House floor for a vote, it must first pass the Rules Committee, over which the House speaker holds considerable sway. Sure enough, such resolutions have repeatedly been left to die in Rules.

What’s worse, Springfield leadership’s control over redistricting has all but ensured the legislative map is drawn in their favor.

Illinois’ prolonged incumbencies have resulted in a punishing tax burden, unsustainable pension debt and a credit rating ranked worst in the nation. State lawmakers on both sides of the aisle should follow Butler’s lead, and bring accountability to Springfield by enacting reasonable limits on political office in state government.

To take action, sign the Illinois Policy Institute’s petition to support placing term limits on Illinois’ highest-ranking state lawmakers.

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