Breaking News Bar
posted: 3/8/2014 8:00 AM

If term limits were in Springfield, a third of legislators would have to leave

hello
Success - Article sent! close
  • Clockwise from top left, Bill Brady, Kirk Dillard, Dan Rutherford and Bruce Rauner are seeking the Republican nomination for governor.

      Clockwise from top left, Bill Brady, Kirk Dillard, Dan Rutherford and Bruce Rauner are seeking the Republican nomination for governor.

  • Terry Link

      Terry Link

  • Elaine Nekritz

      Elaine Nekritz

  • Republican Bruce Rauner's push to limit state lawmakers' careers at the Illinois Capitol to eight years would have disqualified more than a third of those serving now if it was in effect.

      Republican Bruce Rauner's push to limit state lawmakers' careers at the Illinois Capitol to eight years would have disqualified more than a third of those serving now if it was in effect.
    Associated Press

 
By Marty Hobe and Zachary White
mhobe@dailyherald.com
zwhite@dailyherald.com

Republican Bruce Rauner's push to limit state lawmakers' careers at the Illinois Capitol to eight years would have disqualified more than a third of those serving now if it was in effect, an idea that rankles members of both parties.

"I want eight years and out for everybody in Springfield," Rauner often says on the campaign trail for governor.

Order Reprint Print Article
 
Interested in reusing this article?
Custom reprints are a powerful and strategic way to share your article with customers, employees and prospects.
The YGS Group provides digital and printed reprint services for Daily Herald. Complete the form to the right and a reprint consultant will contact you to discuss how you can reuse this article.
Need more information about reprints? Visit our Reprints Section for more details.

Contact information ( * required )

Success - request sent close

The power hierarchy of the Illinois House and Senate is based largely on seniority, so Rauner's plan cuts to the heart of the way Springfield works.

"It's like a sporting team," said state Sen. Terry Link, a Waukegan Democrat and 17-year veteran of the Illinois Senate. "Do you want a team to come out, a baseball team to come out with 25 rookies? No. What's gonna happen ­-- 25 rookies -- you're going to end up with a team that's very bad and not producing what you want."

If Rauner's proposal had taken effect eight years ago, 43 out of the 118 member of the House and 22 of the 59 members of the Senate would not be eligible to serve, having passed the allotted eight-year limit.

Another 20 lawmakers would be out of a job within the next three years.

The leaders of the state House and Senate of both parties all have 17 or more years' experience as elected lawmakers, and all three of Rauner's primary election opponents served at least 10 years under the Capitol dome.

Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford and state Sen. Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale support limiting the terms of legislative leaders, but not rank-and-file members. State Sen. Bill Brady favors term limits, but for longer terms.

Rauner, though, has taken the extra step of collecting signatures in an effort to amend the Illinois constitution. It gives him a leg up on his campaign, ahead of the March 18 primary. But it also creates another point of conflict with lawmakers he's called "corrupt" -- the same lawmakers whose help he'd need to advance his agenda if elected.

The plan has been seen by many as a political gambit to advance Rauner's bid, but even so, if term limits are put into law they would have a long-term effect on the Illinois legislature and the type of government Illinoisans live under.

The initiative would also stop lawmakers from serving eight years in one chamber before running for eight more years in the other, or what Rauner calls "hopping houses."

There is support from current members of the General Assembly for the idea.

State Rep. Ron Sandack, a Downers Grove Republican, said he supports term limits.

"We've seen what Illinois looks like without them," Sandack said. "I suspect we may get better answers from policymakers, we may get better decisions if we have them in play. Don't make this place, or the other chamber, a career."

State Rep. Fred Crespo, a Hoffman Estates Democrat, said term limits could be a good thing as some legislators lose their drive over time.

Although he is skeptical of Rauner's motives. Crespo said he would be open to the idea as a policy change worth discussing, not a political move worth flaunting.

"I don't think I'm opposed to term limits," Crespo said. "It's determining the right number of years."

Other lawmakers said that if you limit terms, the legislative staffs become more powerful.

State Rep. Tom Morrison, a Palatine Republican, said the problem with leaving that power to legislative staffs is they are not elected but hired by elected officials, and they don't need to follow the democratic process.

"The staff is not accountable to the voters," he said.

Morrison said the public needs to be more informed on what term limits actually do. He said there needs to be a debate on the topic so the voters know exactly what they are voting on.

"All the 30-second ads, and 60-second ads, I wouldn't call that debate," Morrison said.

Another opposing view on term limits is a belief shared among some legislators that term limits would create more special interest influence in Springfield, instead of fixing the problems they intend to correct.

"You're only allowed to be in the legislature for six or eight years, what are you going to do after that? You're voting for your next job. You want a job with the utility company, you're going to vote with the utility company," said Elaine Nekritz, a Northbrook Democrat.

Along with voting for their own behest, some fear that future lawmakers would be driven by the special interests.

"What happens is that the exact thing you don't want is going to happen," Link said. "That staff and lobbyists will be running the Capitol. Not elected officials. Because you do have to have a little experience to understand what's going on here."

Share this page
Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.