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Reform and renewal

Monday, Apr 14, 2014

* Eric Zorn came up with a great analogy about Bruce Rauner’s proposed constitutional amendment for term limits, etc.

In one of the more memorable scenes in the 1971 comedy “Bananas,” Woody Allen’s character Fielding Mellish is perusing the magazine rack at a small store. He’s trying to sneak peeks at the erotic fare in a way that avoids the notice of a matronly woman at the nearby checkout counter (see YouTube clip below)

He settles on a plan. “I’ll get a copy of Time magazine,” he says, loud enough for the woman to hear, as he takes a copy off the rack. “I’ll take Commentary. And the Saturday Review. And, uh, let’s see, Newsweek, and just I’ll grab one of these…”

He slips one of the skin magazines into the small collection of periodicals he doesn’t really care about, then turns to the cashier. “I’ll take `em all,” he mumbles as the woman looks on from several feet away.

It’s a nice try at misdirection.

Zorn’s premise is that Rauner is attempting to get around the state Constitution’s limit of popular amendments to only “structural and procedural” changes in the the General Assembly’s Article by proposing a change in the number of House and Senate members and an increase in the number of votes to override a gubernatorial veto

So think of the term limits proposal as the equivalent of the pornographic publication in “Bananas” — the illicit yet true object of desire.

And think of the other two elements on the Committee for Legislative Reform and Term Limits petition as the equivalent of Saturday Review and Newsweek — conventional, but, really, beside the point.

Both are clearly constititutional.

* Meanwhile, the Tribune editorialized again in favor of a different constitutional amendment for redistricting reform

Next comes the inevitable lawsuit, challenging the constitutionality or the language of the amendment, or both. It would fall to the Illinois Supreme Court, whose members were elected with party support, to decide whether the measure stays on the ballot.

Then there’s the big disinformation campaign, on which millions will be spent to convince voters that the amendment is bad for them. Already, the state’s top Democrats are voicing disingenuous concerns that the measure could reduce minority representation.

Um, I wonder who’s gonna spend “millions” to fight this? The unions will be spending all they can to defeat Rauner. The House and Senate Democrats will be spending cash on their own races, along with the state party.

Is there a pro-status quo millionaire out there who will step in and throw big money away attempting to defeat a proposal which has overwhelming popular support? I kinda doubt it.

* And Paul Green, writing in the Daily Herald, gets the last word again

Reform is a many splendored thing. You want to be a reformer? It’s easy; simply call yourself one, e.g., every Chicago mayor since 1837 has labeled himself or herself — a reformer. As we meander into the Illinois General Assembly’s closing weeks of session and ponder the upcoming November general elections, once again its “Reform Time — Illinois Style”.

Some “reformers” want to change how Illinois legislative maps are drawn. Other “reformers” want to initiate term limits for state legislators, while almost everyone claiming reform DNA — constantly use the terms “transparency” and accountability” like those words have some biblical meaning to frame their intentions.

Statewide reform goals and philosophy aside, the main target for all this activity is Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan. Reformers lament and criticize “The Speaker’s” power, influence and durability, especially in his control of the Illinois House.

Alas, what is seldom if ever mentioned, is that Speaker Madigan was created — you guessed it — by reformers. Yes, my friends, over 30 years ago, a youngish reformer (who now happens to be Illinois governor) led a constitutional crusade to end cumulative voting for electing Illinois House members.

It was called the “Cut-back” Amendment” — it created single member districts, reduced House membership from 177 to 118 members and obliterated independent Republicans from Chicago and independent Democrats from suburban Cook and the Collars. And it gave a shrewd and workaholic Mike Madigan the opportunity to create a power base that would have been impossible pre-Cut-back.

Ergo, beware of reform promises. Or, said another way, if folks are promising a New Deal, make sure you cut the cards.

* Related…

* ADDED: House votes to make secret government severance deals public

* AARP backs changes to redistricting process

* Baar-Topinka tells broadcasters term limits are stupid

- Posted by Rich Miller        


25 Comments
  1. - thechampaignlife - Monday, Apr 14, 14 @ 10:27 am:

    We’re in for a ride when MJM does step aside.


  2. - wordslinger - Monday, Apr 14, 14 @ 10:36 am:

    –Then there’s the big disinformation campaign, on which millions will be spent to convince voters that the amendment is bad for them–

    That leapt out at me, too.

    Where’s the big disinformation campaign? How much is being spent on it? Who’s bankrolling it?

    Sometimes the Tribbies see what other’s can’t.


  3. - MrJM - Monday, Apr 14, 14 @ 10:37 am:

    “Reform”, like all once-and-for-all political solutions, is a juvenile fantasy. Political actors, bad and otherwise, will always adapt to the new landscape and develop one or more work-arounds. It’s what we do.

    Politics is a dynamic system and is resistant to silver-bullet pancreas.* Those who think differently snooze and lose.

    – MrJM

    *It is not resistant, however, to grotesquely mixed metaphors.


  4. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Apr 14, 14 @ 10:38 am:

    The pattern continues with Both Rauners;

    Both Rauners tell you what they want you to know, while hiding in plain sight the question neither want to answer.

    Zorn is “on it”.

    To the “Paul Green” part of the Post,

    I really enjoy Prof. Green. He cuts to the quick the Political, and that hits me in the sweet spot I enjoy best to look at the issues and policy.

    Pat Quinn is the Gold Standart that Bruce Rauner hopes to run as;

    The Reformer who can make a change in how government goes about its business, and that change, WILL ONLY bring good to us all.

    Reform for the sake of those needing reform is risky to those who reform will impact most in the end.


  5. - Rich Miller - Monday, Apr 14, 14 @ 10:39 am:

    ===silver-bullet pancreas===

    I assume you meant “panaceas,” because a silver bullet to the pancreas would be pretty darned effective.

    Just sayin…


  6. - Elmira Eddie - Monday, Apr 14, 14 @ 10:50 am:

    Wonder what will happen when Mike M. steps down, as I recall a French King once accurately stated that “After me, the deluge!”


  7. - Nieva - Monday, Apr 14, 14 @ 11:04 am:

    So if MJM retires in the next few or is forced to because of term limits the state will fall apart? If he was a Cubs manager they would have fired him years ago.


  8. - Chicago Cynic - Monday, Apr 14, 14 @ 11:05 am:

    Rich - you just made me laugh out loud in a meeting - really unhelpful!

    In terms of these two amendments, I thought two of the slots are already occupied so only one of these may live, if either do. Am I missing something?


  9. - Bill White - Monday, Apr 14, 14 @ 11:06 am:

    I support using independent commissions to draw maps.

    That said, for all the praise the Chicago Tribune heaps on Wisconsin, perhaps they could take notice in Wisconsin maps are significantly more partisan than the Illinois maps.

    But that would be an inconvenient fact for their anti-Madigan narrative.


  10. - muon - Monday, Apr 14, 14 @ 11:10 am:

    CC - The limit on the number of amendments only applies to those that originate in the legislature and is a limit on the number of articles that the legislature can seek to amend.

    There is no number limit to citizen petition amendments. However, petition amendments are limited to the legislative article of the constitution and must deal with both structural and procedural changes.


  11. - Downstater - Monday, Apr 14, 14 @ 11:11 am:

    Let’s try term limits. What we have now definitely isn’t working.
    Those most concerned about term limits seem to be the ones who have the most to lose. The legislators and the entities giving them money.


  12. - cicero - Monday, Apr 14, 14 @ 11:17 am:

    == Let’s try term limits. ==

    The majority of voters in 1980 decided to give the Cutback Amendment a try. Most informed observers see Quinn’s Cutback Amendment as having damaged the legislature, not improving it. What evidence is there that term limits improve the legislative process? Esp. when there is already rapid turnover in Springfield without constitutional limits.


  13. - Demoralized - Monday, Apr 14, 14 @ 11:17 am:

    ==What we have now definitely isn’t working.==

    So why not get rid of elections altogether since you apparently don’t like the outcome of elections. Last I checked an election allows you to get rid of anybody you don’t like. Sounds like term limits to me.


  14. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Apr 14, 14 @ 11:18 am:

    ===What we have now definitely isn’t working.===

    How is it not working?

    When the Cutback Amendment passed, that was suppose to bring democracy closer or something.

    ===Those most concerned about term limits seem to be the ones who have the most to lose.===

    I am opposed to it. I think elections are designed to provide term limits by the people. By not allowing me to vote for someone I feel best represents me by artifically deciding that serving longer is bad is quite ignorant to the idea of doing a job well matters little in a finite amount of time.


  15. - Walker - Monday, Apr 14, 14 @ 11:22 am:

    The term limit language on this kind of petition, is probably unconstitutional, if it is not combined with the proposed structural changes.

    So if the elements of the petition are separable, could the ISC allow us to go forward only on the structural changes, e.g. number of Senators, and not put the term limit language on the ballot? Or is it all or nothing?

    This is so obviously a campaign ploy by Rauner.

    I feel sorry for the well-meaning petition passers and signers. Even as most passers got paid a pittance.


  16. - Stones - Monday, Apr 14, 14 @ 11:23 am:

    Interesting dichotomy, most voters are happy with “their” legislators but dislike the institution that they are part of in general. People hate the idea of pork in government budgets but they want to ensure that their representative is bringing home his/her share of the bacon.


  17. - Arizona Bob - Monday, Apr 14, 14 @ 11:36 am:

    We have term limits in Arizona (two terms in the House or senate max)and my state rep (who’s running for state senate) said it actually made most of the GA LESS independent. Besides having people in charge of committees knowing how to manage things better with experience, more experienced elected reps develop their own campaign funding sources so they don’t have to “kiss the ring” of the House fund chairman as new candidates do. In Illlinois, few reps and senators could fund their campaigns on their own, so they’re bought and paid for by Madigan and Cullerton, and they OWN them. EG, if Franks and Drury were “term limited” Madigan would just have replaced them with someone who could be easily bought. Term limits centraizes MORE power in the hands of the power brokers, not less. Bad idea. keep it off the ballot.


  18. - Old and in the Way - Monday, Apr 14, 14 @ 11:47 am:

    Quinn sold the cut back of the legislature’s size as much on the cost savings as anything. The result has not only NOT saved us money but in fact is less democratic. PQ was in full populist mode and pushed it hard but there was very little organized opposition at the time. Certainly no millionaires were spending big bucks to get it passed or on the ballot……..


  19. - Southwest side guy - Monday, Apr 14, 14 @ 11:48 am:

    I would think Rauner would want his buddy Mr. Emanuel in office forever so he can benefit and make even more money.


  20. - sideline - Monday, Apr 14, 14 @ 12:26 pm:

    If you want long term staff and lobbyists to have even more power and influence than they do now, vote for term limits. Oh and then when you have heart surgery make sure to ask for the guy who isn’t a career surgeon to do the operation and risk a court case on the guy who just practices law as a hobby to represent you. Politics is the only place where training and experience is a liability. Great.


  21. - david starrett - Monday, Apr 14, 14 @ 1:11 pm:

    I agree with Green. Quinn’s “cutback amendment” made Speaker Madigan’s level of control possible. With 25-30 percent independent Democrats and Republicans on the House floor, the rules would never look like they do today, and organizations like IVI-IPO would be better able to live up to their names.

    With respect to term limits: we have them, they’re called elections. If the problem is that incumbents are better able to lavishly spend to essentially “buy” the office (like Rauner) then attack that problem. If the problem is that districts are drawn so that you can sometimes throw a baseball across them, then attack that problem. Term limits will only make staff and lobbyists (like me) more powerful, since we’ll be the only ones with any institutional memory.


  22. - VanillaMan - Monday, Apr 14, 14 @ 2:22 pm:

    If term limits didn’t work, we’d see those states with them - drop them.

    But after over twenty years, they are not.


  23. - qcexaminer - Monday, Apr 14, 14 @ 2:30 pm:

    Wowser! I can’t tell you how shocked I am that a lobbyist doesn’t want the status quo disturbed.

    Amazing!

    And incumbents “like Rauner” can buy elections? Really? Has the election already been held? What about unions buying elections? Okey-Dokey?

    Sorry pal, but with incumbents fully in control of all legislation, I don’t see reform that would hurt their job prospects on the horizon.

    And yes, you tipped your hand when you called Rauner an incumbent.


  24. - A guy... - Monday, Apr 14, 14 @ 3:03 pm:

    He’s sorta gotcha on that one David S.


  25. - Jimbo - Tuesday, Apr 15, 14 @ 8:05 am:

    I really wish the SC would just rule it Unconstitutional already. This whole exercise is a waste of time.


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