Editorial: Our wishes for lawmakers in new era: independence, cooperation

First in a series

In less than a month, government is going to look very different for Illinoisans from what it looks like today, at both the state and federal levels.

In Washington, a sweep of suburban congressional seats will send Democrats to Congress representing not just Chicago but all of the collar counties. And they will join a House with Democrats at the helm for the first time in eight years.

In Springfield, Democrats will not quite make a full sweep of suburban legislative districts but they will be close. They will reinforce already-solid Democratic majorities in the Senate and House, serving alongside a Democratic governor.

On paper, Democrats look poised to barnstorm through a legislative agenda that they can create and impose with unilateral impunity. Let us hope cooler heads prevail.

In Washington, that hope is buttressed by political reality. With Republicans still in control of the Senate, some requirements will remain for cooperation between the parties. Yet with Democrats in control in the House, the new sheriffs in town will have a choice between continuing the politics of division and partisanship or providing a reasoned check on the president while carefully working to fix problems of immigration, health care and foreign and economic policy.

In Springfield, we are left to count on the independence so many candidates promised as we look to the coming years of one-party rule. Most Democrats have made clear their intentions to take on such traditional liberal objectives as legalized recreational marijuana, gambling expansion, increased minimum wage and fundamental reform of income tax policy.

On all these measures and more, we plead with leaders not to be hasty. Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker has put together a politically diverse transition team that presumably indicates a spirit of thoughtful study. We hope that spirit extends into the General Assembly, particularly involving two issues Democrats have acknowledged but not given nearly enough attention to - public pensions and redistricting reform.

As we stand at the threshold of a new era in government, it is critical that our leaders think comprehensively and address systemic deficiencies. Chief among these in state government are the pension crisis and the corrupt system we have for defining legislative boundaries. None of our problems can be satisfactorily solved without reforms of these problems.

That statement also is true both for state and federal government when it comes to an even more fundamental issue - the principle of respectful collaboration. In the editorials that follow, we'll dig deeper into the importance of these underlying problems.

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