Senate OKs redistricting plan, nixes cutting lt. governor
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- The method for drawing political district boundaries took a prime seat during legislative work Thursday, with one proposal to make the process fairer clearing the Senate and another one advancing in the House.
Criticism of the current process - which often leads to drawing a name out of a hat to determine which party controls map-creation - has built for decades. Gov. Bruce Rauner has made fair redistricting a key point in his conservative agenda. A nonpartisan group has collected hundreds of thousands of signatures to put a new plan before voters. Legislators want a say, too.
Legislative and congressional districts must be redrawn every ten years to reflect population shifts. Changing the redistricting process would require a constitutional amendment approved by voters in the November election.
Another proposal to amend the Constitution by eliminating the oft-criticized post of lieutenant governor failed in the Senate on Thursday.
Sen. Kwame Raoul, a Chicago Democrat, won approval of his redistricting plan 39-19. His proposal would, like the existing method, keep map-making within lawmakers' hands. House approval would put the question on the fall ballot.
Under Raoul's plan, each chamber in the General Assembly would draw its own districts based on public input. But if the General Assembly and governor can't agree on a plan, two state Supreme Court justices from each political party would name an independent "special master" to decide the issue.
A day earlier, the Democratic-controlled Senate rejected a plan by Republican Leader Christine Radogno of Lemont to give redistricting to an independent commission chosen by the auditor general. That's the basic idea behind the grass-roots group Independent Maps. Its leaders say they've collected 550,000 signatures to sidestep the Legislature and put the question on the ballot. They need 290,000 valid signatures.
The House advanced a different proposal by Rep. Jack Franks, a Marengo Democrat. His plan would provide for the chief justice of the Supreme Court and a second justice of the other party to appoint an eight-member panel to redraw the maps. If that group deadlocks, the justices would chose a tie-breaker.
The amendment by Democratic Sen. Tom Cullerton of Villa Park to eliminate the office of lieutenant governor failed 21-28. Cullerton says it would save the state $1.6 million annually.
Critics say the lieutenant governor has little to do except stand by to succeed the governor if the top post goes vacant. Two lieutenant governors in the past 35 years have resigned for different jobs, and former Gov. Pat Quinn, when he took over for the impeached and ousted Gov. Rod Blagojevich in 2009, did not fill the post until 2011.
But Republicans criticized Cullerton's idea, saying succession would fall to the attorney general - and that post could be occupied, as it is now, by a member of the opposite party.
The resolutions are SJRCA30, HJRCA58 and SJRCA29.