Who’s afraid of term limits?
Illinois and Chicago should make career lawmakers a thing of the past.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a group of average Illinoisans that opposes term limits – nearly 4 out of 5 residents support the idea, according to polling from the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University. The Illinois General Assembly, however, has been unwilling to pass restrictions on its members’ staying power.
As part of his “Turnaround Agenda,” Gov. Bruce Rauner wants a constitutional amendment limiting the governor’s tenure to eight years and state politicians’ to 10 years. Lawmakers filed resolutions in the Illinois House and Senate on May 22 to this end.
High demand for term limits in Illinois should come as a surprise to no one. Illinoisans are far less trusting of their state government than residents in any other state, and for good reason. The Land of Lincoln is one of the most corrupt states in the country, and contains the nation’s most corrupt city, Chicago, according to a new report from researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Ironically, last year’s fight to put term limits to a popular vote was a prime example of why Illinoisans feel a need to put a check on the status quo in the first place.
A petition drive to put term limits on the state ballot last November collected nearly double the 300,000 signatures required by law. But a lawsuit filed by a longtime associate of House Speaker Mike Madigan – who has held his seat in the Illinois House of Representatives for more than four decades – prevented voters from being heard on the matter.
Instead, the ballot saw three nonbinding survey questions aimed at boosting Democratic turnout.
It’s no wonder so many Illinoisans see state politics as a power trip – not a public service.
With 80 years of combined experience between Madigan and Senate Majority Leader John Cullerton, entrenched political figures run the show in Illinois. The same is true of cities across the state – especially Chicago. Of the top 10 biggest cities in the U.S., Chicago is the only one that allows elected officials to serve for generations at a time.
The result? Politicians who have been working to maintain the machine from the inside since before The Beatles broke up – dubbed “the real mayor of Chicago,” 14th Ward Alderman Ed Burke took office in 1969.
Right now, Illinois taxpayers are on the hook for politicians who use the system to earn a paycheck at all costs – term limits would go a long way toward ensuring the state and its top city don’t continue on the same failed trajectory.