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Wildy popular idea

Tuesday, Apr 8, 2014

* From the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute’s latest poll

Legislative Term Limits

Would you favor or oppose a proposal to limit state legislators to a total of eight years of service, whether in the House of Representatives , the State Senate, or a combination ofthe two?

Strongly favor 61.7%

Somewhat favor 17.8%

Somewhat oppose 8.5%

Strongly oppose 8.6%

Other/Don’t know 3.4%

Leadership Term Limits

Would you favor or oppose a proposal to limit how long state legislators could serve in leadership roles – such as Speaker of the House or President of the Senate – before they stepped down to let other legislators lead?

Strongly favor 65.1%

Somewhat favor 17.6%

Somewhat oppose 8.3%

Strongly oppose 6.3%

Other/Don’t know 2.7%

* From the Institute

In statewide Simon Polls going back to 2010, between 75 and 80 percent of Illinois voters surveyed have supported legislative term limits. Support for leadership term limits — in offices such as Speaker of the Illinois House and President of the Illinois Senate — has been just as strong.

“Regardless of your position on term limits, it’s clear the idea has support. If organizers are able to get the measure on the ballot – and it’s not clear the courts will allow that – it should be easy for them to win approval,” said David Yepsen, director of the Institute. […]

Support for term limits is strong in every demographic, geographic, and ideological subgroup in the Institute’s poll. For example, while Republicans were among the groups most likely to support the term limit proposal (89.9 percent strongly or somewhat in favor), even an overwhelming majority of Democrats approved of it (73.4 percent strongly or somewhat in favor).

In the 2014 Simon Poll, the wording of the term limit question referred to a combined eight - year limit of service in either or both houses, in order to reflect the proposal pushed by the group Term Limits and Reform, backed by Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner. Previous versions of the question referred to limits of five terms in the Illinois House and three terms in the Illinois Senate.

“Regardless of whom you ask or how you phrase the question, legislative term limits are extraordinarily popular among the Illinois electorate,” said Charlie Leonard, a Simon Institute visiting professor who supervised the poll. “Unable or unwilling to limit their own representatives ’ terms through the ballot box, the voters seem to hope a blanket constitutional amendment will do the job for them.

* And here’s a different take on leadership term limits, which came during a committee debate over a proposed constitutional amendment

The amendment was sponsored by Sen. Matt Murphy, R-Palatine. Sen. Don Harmon D-Oak Park, asked Murphy if he knew how many leaders, past or present, the amendment would have applied to. Of course, as an attorney, Harmon already knew the answer to his question when he asked it. That answer was only two: House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, and former Senate President Phil Rock, D-Oak Park.

Murphy said he started toying with the term-limit idea after his first year in the Senate. That would have been 2007, a year that good ol’ Rod Blagojevich went particularly amok. He kept the legislature in session all summer before Madigan essentially told the House to go home and stay there until he called them back.

“It was my first experience with the concept of the consolidation of power in Springfield in just a few hands,” Murphy said.

Harmon had a different take.

“Without strong legislative leaders, can you imagine how awful that summer would have been that you experienced with a rogue governor and no one in the legislature to stand up and say no?” Harmon asked.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Ghost of John Brown - Tuesday, Apr 8, 14 @ 11:41 am:

    Harmon assumes that without someone in long term leadership that the legislature will be bowled over. I’ve been around a lot of legislators. Most are “Type A” personalities. I don’t think finding someone to stand up to the Governor will be the issue.

  2. - Bobby Hill - Tuesday, Apr 8, 14 @ 11:46 am:

    I agree with Ghost. The meek usually don’t run for public office.

  3. - OneMan - Tuesday, Apr 8, 14 @ 11:52 am:

    Right on ghost….

  4. - PublicServant - Tuesday, Apr 8, 14 @ 11:52 am:

    How bout we leave it up to the voters that vote for their legislator? Just a thought.

  5. - Mittuns - Tuesday, Apr 8, 14 @ 12:07 pm:

    Term limits divert legislative power from an accountable, elected representative to unaccountable, unelected, and entrenched lobbying groups and partisan staff.

    If people think lobbyists run the show now, wait until this happens. They are bad news for democracy.

  6. - Norseman - Tuesday, Apr 8, 14 @ 12:08 pm:

    Of course this is popular with the masses. If you can’t vote the rascal out, just time him/her out. Given so many bad legislators, it’s hard to argue with that logic. All I can do is think about the good ones we would lose and along with their institutional knowledge.

    As for the leadership limit. The powers given and assumed by the leader will remain even if the man/woman changes. I doubt that the use of those powers to control the process will not change with a new leader. As touched on by Ghost, there are plenty of eager future leaders learning how the power is wielded by the current one.

  7. - Langhorne - Tuesday, Apr 8, 14 @ 12:33 pm:

    Dont forget the one thirdreduction in senate didtricts. Downstate districts will be HUGE. If this passes wout independent redistricting, maps could be even worse.

  8. - Formerly Known As... - Tuesday, Apr 8, 14 @ 12:37 pm:

    === and no one in the legislature to stand up and say no? ===

    New leaders emerge from and are formed by such challenging moments.

  9. - Demoralized - Tuesday, Apr 8, 14 @ 12:48 pm:

    Apparently many are not familiar with the fact that we already have term limits. Ever heard of an election? You can limit anybody’s term you want with those.

  10. - elginkevin - Tuesday, Apr 8, 14 @ 1:07 pm:

    I signed the petition, but I haven’t decided my position. I would like to have the debate brought on by proposal of such a change.

  11. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Tuesday, Apr 8, 14 @ 1:20 pm:

    You Blagojevich defenders are delusional.

    Tom Cross not only failed to stand up to Rod Blagojevich, he criticized Madigan and the Democrats for considering impeachment.

    Watson tried to stand up to Blago, but got steamrolled.

    Madigan not only stood up to Blagojevich, he withstood criticism from media outlets across the state, who largely sided with Blago.

    And for better or worse, there is absolutely, positively, no way that pension reform would have passed this past session if not for the power that leadership wields to protect their members from politically difficult votes.

    Nor marriage equality.

    Anyone disagree?

  12. - cicero - Tuesday, Apr 8, 14 @ 1:31 pm:

    Quinn’s Cutback Amendment in 1980 was the last constituitonal amendment that was supposed to “cure” what ailed the legislature. It was popular too and the public ratified it. Informed opinion is that the House became a less deliberative body, as individual members lost initiative and one-man rule has existed ever since.

    Unfortunately, term limits will pass as well if the ISC lets it on the ballot. Predictably, the public will be no happier with the General Assembly a decade from now than they are today.

  13. - Downstater - Tuesday, Apr 8, 14 @ 1:31 pm:

    Term limits are good for the State of Illinois. Would like to see them at the federal level, also.

  14. - Logic not emotion - Tuesday, Apr 8, 14 @ 1:34 pm:

    Maybe one option would be to ensure that the Speaker or Senate President cannot also hold another position of great influence within his or her party (i.e. can’t control the purse strings).

    I think one only needs to look at the maps to know that the democratic process itself has been subverted by those in power to preserve / enhance that power. Once that occurs, it becomes the responsibility of the electorate to curb that power and restore the balance.

  15. - Dirty Red - Tuesday, Apr 8, 14 @ 2:12 pm:

    I’m under the assumption you would also see strong support from these respondents in favor of a measure to do away with lame duck sessions. Under that premise, if you don’t want to give lame ducks even two months to vote, why would you support giving them two YEARS?

  16. - Jimbo - Tuesday, Apr 8, 14 @ 2:52 pm:

    Term limits give more power to lobbyists and unelected staff. That isn’t what concerns me about Rauner’s amendment. What concerns me is the increased veto override threshold. Do people really not understand that this amendment is an end run around Madigan. With the increase to 2/3, the governorship becomes a truly powerful post. Anyone not worrying about his candidacy thinking, well Madigan will keep him in check, clearly hasn’t thought about his amendment. Me, for the first time in my life I’m worried that Madigan will have less power. lol

  17. - Jimbo - Tuesday, Apr 8, 14 @ 3:01 pm:

    Rich, do you have a prediction on the constitutionality of the term limit amendment? It seems that with the size changes, and the veto threshold, it changes both structure and procedure of the lege. Would the term limit portion be struck and the other two remain, or since the sigs were ostensibly gathered by focusing on the term limits, would the whole thing be tossed? I’d like to hear your take. Thanks.

  18. - Ghost of John Brown - Tuesday, Apr 8, 14 @ 3:04 pm:

    A couple of you have made comments about term limits giving more power to lobbyists and unelected staff. Here are the states that have term limits. Some are definitely not on the honor roll while some are very well run states. Where is your proof that the lobbyists will just take over?

    On the contrary, when I walk around the Capitol and I see 2-3 Representatives share one staff member, who do you think are writing the bills now? Retired English teachers? Maybe they use a Ouija Board to write the bills since you believe that lobbyists aren’t writing them today.

  19. - Chicago Cynic - Tuesday, Apr 8, 14 @ 3:31 pm:

    I’m good with term limits for leadership but think it’s a bad idea for rank and file. If you’re going to do them, make them fairly broad - say ten years in the House and eight or twelve in the Senate.

  20. - LincolnLounger - Tuesday, Apr 8, 14 @ 4:21 pm:

    I hope it makes it onto the ballot, and I’m voting yes. How could things get any worse?

  21. - Capitol View - Tuesday, Apr 8, 14 @ 4:24 pm:

    leadership limits maybe - term limits generally, terrible idea.

  22. - A guy... - Tuesday, Apr 8, 14 @ 4:31 pm:

    The time has come. I’d prefer 10 years. I could and will support 8. To everyone who says Elections are term limits, they simply aren’t. Especially in entrenched areas where the new fix is in every 10 years with a new map. If you like it the way it is, you must be benefiting from it. That puts you in a very distinct and not too well thought of minority.

  23. - dupage dan - Tuesday, Apr 8, 14 @ 4:49 pm:

    Ask folks why they like the idea of term limits and they will typically refer to the guy in another district. When you talk about the politician in your own district, not so much. Why else does someone like MJM get re-elected every term. The folks in his district love him.

    Someone smarter than me (pretty much covers the universe) posted here that with term limits in place the power likely shifts to long term staffers and lobbyists. Institutional memory/power is what it’s all about.

  24. - Demoralized - Tuesday, Apr 8, 14 @ 4:56 pm:

    ==To everyone who says Elections are term limits, they simply aren’t.==

    Then lets get rid of elections altogether. I’ve suggested this idea before: have a lottery like jury duty; when your number is called you serve a term. I would think those that favor term limits could get behind this idea since they don’t like the electoral process apparently.

    ==If you like it the way it is, you must be benefiting from it.==

    No, but we do favor democracy where we can vote for whomever you wish.

    Those that favor term limits are nothing more than whiners who want to change the rules because they can’t get their way at the ballot box. There are people in office I would prefer not be there. But if the people want to vote for them and put them there that’s their right.

  25. - Demoralized - Tuesday, Apr 8, 14 @ 4:59 pm:

    Where we can vote for whomever WE wish (not you).

  26. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Tuesday, Apr 8, 14 @ 7:40 pm:


    I do not believe the court has the authority to sever a ballot initiative.

    As to the Constitutional question, I will say this.

    Read Eric Zorn’s post at the Tribune today.


    Rauner’s amendment is clearly unconstitutional, but that does not necessarily mean the Court will not cave to popular opinion….although term limits were more popular back in 94, I think.

  27. - Just The Way It Is One - Tuesday, Apr 8, 14 @ 8:00 pm:

    Term limits–sounds good–just like it did when PAT QUINN pushed his OWN Referendum Drive on this idea way back in the 1990’s…!

  28. - Tough Guy - Tuesday, Apr 8, 14 @ 9:36 pm:

    I might be more inclined to support this if it also include the statewide offices. Not sure why they want to limit the legislature but not the executive.

  29. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Tuesday, Apr 8, 14 @ 11:22 pm:

    @Tough Guy -

    Clearly would be unconstitutional, and

    Jim Thompson was elected to four terms

    Edgar probably would have won a third.

    If they want to put an end to “career” politicians, prevent elected officials from running for another office without stepping down from their current job first.

    No more Gongressman running for governor,
    State Senator running for Congress,
    State Rep running for State Senator
    Mayor running for state rep
    Alderman running for mayor
    Dog catcher running for alderman.

  30. - Jimbo - Wednesday, Apr 9, 14 @ 8:05 am:

    Thanks YDD. I don’t know why I thought they could sever it, I just thought that if Rauner’s team is as good as we say, there has to be an end game other than name recognition. Maybe they think he’ll stoke anger at entrenched pols if it is struck down, but it seemed to me like he really doesn’t want to be a gov that has to cater to MJM. If he got his increased veto threshold, his line item veto would be ultimate authority and he could slash whatever he wanted to the bone. Isn’t that what we all believe he wants to do?

  31. - low level - Wednesday, Apr 9, 14 @ 1:54 pm:

    States with term limits still have career politicians. Look at CA - the same types of folks running for office (lawyers, real estate agents, the wealthy) in other words those who can afford to put a hiatus in their jobs to serve in office for 8 or so years.

    Also, once they are termed out of office, they simply run for the next office they are eligible for.

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