Powerful Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan has fired a pre-emptive strike at efforts to impose term limits and to take away his Democratic Party’s power to draw the boundaries of the state’s legislative map.
Madigan’s longtime lawyer Michael Kasper filed a lawsuit this week in Cook County Circuit Court that would prevent state, county and Chicago election authorities from conducting referendums of the two proposals in November. Setting term limits and changing the state’s redistricting process would require constitutional amendments. […]
The suit takes aim at what Kasper called two petition drives that “have been (or shortly will be filed)” with state officials to generate referendums on term limits and the redistricting proposal.
“This is a taxpayer action to restrain the expenditure of public funding to consider the propriety of two proposed amendments” to the state Constitution, Kasper wrote.
He also argues in the suit that the Illinois Supreme Court already ruled 20 years ago that term limits are an “improper subject for amendments.”
Supporters of term limits were quick to call the lawsuit a “cynical ploy” by Madigan.
The 25-page complaint, filed on behalf of a group of community leaders representing a diverse group of ethnic, racial and business interests, argues that the proposed ballot measures are invalid because they do not meet a constitutional requirement for changes to the Legislature. The complaint also says “millions of taxpayer dollars” should not be used by the Board of Elections to reach that conclusion.
A spokesman for Madigan declined to comment on any involvement in the lawsuit.
“I know Speaker Madigan believes everyone should play by the rules,” spokesman Steve Brown told The Associated Press.
At the heart of the taxpayer lawsuit are previous Illinois Supreme Court rulings involving petition-driven efforts to change the state constitution. The only part of the constitution that can be amended through the petition process must affect the legislature — and the state’s highest court has created only a narrow window, ruling that any proposed change must affect the legislature both structurally and procedurally.
The lawsuit contends the term-limit amendment proposal attempts to string together several unrelated issues to try to meet the court’s structural and procedural court test.
In addition to limiting legislative service to eight years, the proposed term limit amendment would require a two-thirds vote of the House and Senate to override a governor’s veto rather than the current three-fifths vote. It also would increase the size of the House from 118 to 123 members while reducing the Senate from 59 to 41 members. It also would eliminate the two-year terms that senators serve once every decade.
The lawsuit contends the state Supreme Court previously held that term limits, on its own, did not meet the structural and procedural test. It also alleged the increase in votes needed to override a veto was an “impermissible” transfer of power from the legislature to the governor.
As for the soon-to-be-filed remap proposal, the lawsuit notes the plan would prevent anyone serving on a newly constituted 11-member redistricting commission from becoming a lawmaker, statewide elected official or judge for 10 years. The suit contended that the new prohibitions affected qualifications for office and exceeded the scope of petition-driven amendment proposals.
* The lawsuit can be read in full by clicking here. I went into detail about the heart of the lawsuit for subscribers this morning, so I won’t be doing that here. But, to be brief, the main argument is that several items in both proposals go well beyond the Constitution’s requirement…
Amendments shall be limited to structural and procedural subjects contained in Article IV.
Anything in these proposals beyond those two changes, the suit claims, means they are unconstitutional.
* React from the Yes for Independent Maps group…
Well, it took almost no time for Mike Madigan and his lawyer to file their first frivolous lawsuit against Independent Maps. In fact, they filed it before we even got to Springfield with our petitions!
That tells you how desperate they are to keep us off the ballot, and how worried they are at the prospect of a system that puts the voters back in charge. Madigan’s blatantly political attempt to question the constitutionality of Independent Maps is just a feeble distraction from the back-room deals that dominate Illinois’ redistricting process, no matter which party is in power.
Our diverse supporters include former U.S. Attorneys, top-tier legal scholars, and many of the state’s most well-respected lawyers of all political stripes. This team spent two years making sure our amendment could withstand scrutiny, and we are confident in this proposal. It is exactly the kind of referendum that the drafters of the Illinois Constitution believed should bypass the legislature and go directly to the voters. After all, the leaders of the Illinois General Assembly have no reason to fix the system that has kept them, and their hand-picked successors, in power for decades.
We all knew the status quo would have an outsized reaction to us submitting petitions, but no one thought their fear would lead them to these depths quite so quickly. But thanks to you, tomorrow we’re going to give them over 500,000 reasons that the people of Illinois want our government back.
* Rauner campaign react…
Pat Quinn and Mike Madigan are the poster boys for term limits, and they both oppose this good-government reform so this lawsuit is no surprise.