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Madigan’s constitutional irony

Monday, May 5, 2014

* From the Daily Herald editorial board

Last week, a close ally of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan filed suit to challenge citizens initiatives to impose term limits on state legislators and to change the way legislative districts are drawn every 10 years.

We’re big fans of the remap referendum. We’ve editorialized on its behalf for months as a solution to the politicized way districts are drawn. We are not as enamored with the term limit referendum. We see some pros but also many cons.

But the important thing isn’t whether we like either initiative. The important thing is that the public has made clear its interest in putting these questions on the ballot.

It’s important also that the politically motivated suit against it was predictable. For a long time, the cynics have said — no way will Madigan and the politicians let these referendums happen.

The challenge only confirms that cynicism — and in doing so, spreads it further.

As Eric Zorn and I have already pointed out on multiple occasions, there are some legit constitutional questions about both of these petition drives. Those questions, in my opinion, do deserve a full hearing.

* However, it is beyond richly ironic that while Speaker Madigan is relying on a highly precise and quite literal reading of the Illinois Constitution to defeat the two proposed citizen initiatives, he’s also arguing that the common sense, plain meaning of the Constitution should be ignored when it comes to pension reform.

Just sayin…

- Posted by Rich Miller        


41 Comments
  1. - Norseman - Monday, May 5, 14 @ 11:06 am:

    “Just sayin…” as best as you can. Well done.


  2. - CircularFiringSquad - Monday, May 5, 14 @ 11:08 am:

    The word cynical get tossed around a lot on this topic, but it seems like the most cynical are the millionaires who tossed their cash around and paid petitioner passers for 2 amendments that clearly fall outside the bounds on what the constitution allows. The only element more difficult to understand is how broad segments of the media ignore history and rules to think these proposed amendments should be on the ballot.


  3. - Big Joe - Monday, May 5, 14 @ 11:13 am:

    Well said, Rich. I had the exact same thought when I heard about the filing of that lawsuit.


  4. - Todd - Monday, May 5, 14 @ 11:13 am:

    I am having a hard time getting my head around the temr limits side. terms for the sente go to 4 years. yet the map is on a 10 year cycle. What happens at the end of the last term becuase they don;t get to fufill a 4 year term — but get remapped. it seems contradictory


  5. - wordslinger - Monday, May 5, 14 @ 11:13 am:

    Hard to understand how you could go to this big referendum effort and not have the language tight as a drum.


  6. - mcb - Monday, May 5, 14 @ 11:16 am:

    CircularFiringSquad-
    and the pro status quo elements here are already firing up their campaigns against citizens getting the opportunity to pass incredibly popular referendums.
    So who cares if petition passers were paid? Seriously? Pollsters get paid. So does that mean all their polls are invalid and not worth recognizing? Because the polls show incredibly strong support for these measures as well.


  7. - SAP - Monday, May 5, 14 @ 11:17 am:

    I had the same feelings about the Speaker’s contrary legal positions on restoring legislative paychecks and pension reform.


  8. - Walker - Monday, May 5, 14 @ 11:18 am:

    ===The public has made it clear its interest in putting these questions on the ballot.===

    Sorry DH, as you should know that in our Democracy, that doesn’t mean they automatically should be on the ballot.

    We could get probably enough petition signatures for ballot questions eliminating all taxes, for limits on executive salaries, for any number of discriminatory restraints on minority rights, etc. That doesn’t mean that to oppose any of them would be to “oppose democracy” — as your editorial headline states.

    I believe the remapping probably should make it.

    I find the “term limit” initiative to be so misleading, and to have been so fraudulently presented, that it should be thrown out with five minutes consideration.


  9. - Makandadawg - Monday, May 5, 14 @ 11:22 am:

    Is MJM’s time just about up? If so how does this debate fit in with his future or his past? As I get closer to my state imposed retirement date my list is getting shorter. I wonder what is left on his?


  10. - Tsavo - Monday, May 5, 14 @ 11:24 am:

    Thanks Rich,

    Didn’t the Legislators also use the Constitution when Gov. Quinn froze their pay until pension reform (theft) was passed?


  11. - Precinct Captain - Monday, May 5, 14 @ 11:26 am:

    ==The only element more difficult to understand is how broad segments of the media ignore history and rules to think these proposed amendments should be on the ballot.==

    Do you really think most of media in this state actually understand politics or law? It’s just like Washington reporters for the networks, most of them are just feigning interest until they can get an anchor job or they become a big enough kahauna from simply being around long enough that no one questions their conventional wisdom. It’s the same thing with state/local reporters.


  12. - VanillaMan - Monday, May 5, 14 @ 11:27 am:

    You cannot bite both sides of an apple, Mr. Michael J. Madigan.


  13. - Soccertease - Monday, May 5, 14 @ 11:31 am:

    One thing that people generally appreciate is consistency. Madigan is consistent: (1) doing what benefits MM and (2)doing what benefits MM.


  14. - Keyser Soze - Monday, May 5, 14 @ 11:32 am:

    For those who like “transparency”, the motives and methods here are crystal clear. The political class is in a bind.


  15. - Walker - Monday, May 5, 14 @ 11:33 am:

    The “cynicism” that DH rightly bemoans, was created and driven by Rauner’s cynical raising of public expectations around a popular issue, in a form that he knew could not actually make it to the ballot.

    He becomes a hero to the lightly informed, and his opponents become the evil “career politicians” by doing the right thing.

    Brilliant political move, but perversely destructive.


  16. - Blah - Monday, May 5, 14 @ 11:43 am:

    There is a distinction here - there is case law on citizen initiatives, whereas there isn’t for all aspects of the pension bill. The language in Sec 3, Art 14 for citizen initiatives (”limited to structural and procedural subjects contained in Article IV”) has been interpreted by the court and the proposed petitions directly run afoul of Supreme Court cases. The pension clause language has not been reviewed in the context of the changes proposed in the pension reform bill. Whether changing COLAs constitutes a diminishment hasn’t directly been litigated.


  17. - Formerly Known As... - Monday, May 5, 14 @ 11:44 am:

    Well written and well said. Any time someone speaks truth to power, they are indeed “helping”. Especially when that truth does not follow the script written by a small circle of friends. Thank you, Rich.

    Gratefully yours,

    Illinois


  18. - Todd - Monday, May 5, 14 @ 12:00 pm:

    Rich — do you have a timeline for events i.e. SBE certifies, challenges, ruled ok and placed on prited ballot and such?


  19. - Archimedes - Monday, May 5, 14 @ 12:01 pm:

    Irony blossoms where integrity withers. The Constitution was drafted and approved by the voters to force at least some level of integrity on our elected representatives. It shouldn’t be ignored for the term limit issue, the pension issue, or others.

    I appreciate that Rich is eloquent and willing to write opinions based on fact - even at times I don’t agree with him (in this case, I agree).


  20. - foster brooks - Monday, May 5, 14 @ 12:02 pm:

    madigan knows his pension reform bill is unconstitutional,i’ve heard him say it in the past.


  21. - Oswego Willy - Monday, May 5, 14 @ 12:10 pm:

    Priceless.

    The saving grace, if there is one if two, will be that when these cases are finally argued and ruled on by the IL Supremes, everyone will see the “sweet” irony on all sides. Just a shame that, like 9 year olds, turning to adults for obvious similarities that are ignored does not point to responsibility taken.


  22. - Susiejones - Monday, May 5, 14 @ 12:11 pm:

    the initiatives are not related. the redistricting amendment is distinct and separate from the term limits amendment. both apparently wildly popular with the public. I carried petitions for redistricting–unpaid volunteer–and know it has been vetted by constitutional authorities who believe it will stand up to any challenge. More than enough signatures were collected to ensure validation. I never saw a petition for the term limits, but would not have signed one if I had. I don’t like what I’ve heard about it, though I think the time has come for term limits–never a fan until recently.


  23. - lake county democrat - Monday, May 5, 14 @ 12:15 pm:

    Speaker Madigan is most definitely not relying on a precise and literal reading of the state constitution. His spokespeople may be…


  24. - lake county democrat - Monday, May 5, 14 @ 12:18 pm:

    Tin Foil Hat reminder: Quite a few of us believe it is very possible that Speaker Madigan WANTS the pension bill struck down and that his support for its constitutionality is kabuki. That way he gets all the credit for backing a allegedly reasonable compromise, gets to say “well, we tried” before sticking it to the citizens of Illinois, and keeps the Dems biggest institutional supporters happy.


  25. - lake county democrat - Monday, May 5, 14 @ 12:20 pm:

    Susiejones - me too (on the petition volunteering) - I would have signed the term limits petition simply to put it on the ballot and let the voters decide whether they want it or not.


  26. - Louis G. Atsaves - Monday, May 5, 14 @ 12:45 pm:

    Over a quarter of a million Illinois voters signed each petition. Some may have signed one and not the other, but in any event, that figure is staggering.

    The process was designed so that only millionaires and paid circulators could successfully gather enough signatures. Grass roots efforts never qualify here. I’ve seen such petitions during every election cycle fail due to a lack of signatures here.

    If the Supreme Court strikes down these petitions, the blowback at the ballot box against Madigan and his fellow Democrats may be huge. If the Supreme Court doesn’t strike down these petitions, the blowback at the ballot box against Madigan and his fellow Democrats may be huge.

    Why allow oneself to be boxed into a lose/lose situation?

    I am sure they are anticipating all those Rauner ads running or various PAC ads that will strike home on this subject, whether the Supreme Court bounces them out or allows those petitions to stand. Aren’t they?


  27. - the Patriot - Monday, May 5, 14 @ 12:48 pm:

    I agree with your analysis on maps and limits.

    There is only irony in Madigan’s position if you assume he still cares about the Constitution. He has spent 40 years chipping away at it and made himself emperor above the Governor in that he only answers to 115000 people.

    Madigan is addicted to the power. You can’t even argue he wants to help people anymore. He has been the one constant in terrible leadership from governors from both parties. Once there is so much evidence you do not have the capability to help, the best thing you can do is walk away if you really care. He only cares about power and he can’t give it up. He does not care about people, constitution, or the law, just his own power.

    He had essentially positioned his daughter to be Gov, but could not give up the power and let the next generation have a shot.

    It is really sad knowing that such a powerful person is so drunk on power, he can’t analyze any issue in terms other than feeding his own addiction.


  28. - Oswego Willy - Monday, May 5, 14 @ 12:59 pm:

    ===He has spent 40 years chipping away at it and made himself emperor above the Governor in that he only answers to 115000 people.===

    Beat him. Run someone, beat him.

    ===Madigan is addicted to the power. You can’t even argue he wants to help people anymore.===

    Based on? SSM proponents were helped by his stewardship. C-C proponents have to thank MJM for his help.

    That was just this session. Use your search key, bet you find more…

    === He has been the one constant in terrible leadership from governors from both parties…===

    Thompson, Edgar, Ryan, Blagojevich, Quinn… They have no power? They were/are co-equal partners. Government is hard!

    ===He had essentially positioned his daughter to be Gov, but could not give up the power and let the next generation have a shot.===

    Don’t worry, there is another plan to make her governor. Email Kass, you both can craft the narrative.

    ===It is really sad knowing that such a powerful person is so drunk on power, he can’t analyze any issue in terms other than feeding his own addiction.===

    It’s quite delicious that the irony of MJM on these ISDUES seem to swing quite in contrast. Being a “victim” doesn’t make it different, it just points out why “Fire Madigan” followers find themselves alone. Not everything leads to “Fire Madigan” as the only answer.


  29. - CircularFiringSquad - Monday, May 5, 14 @ 1:00 pm:

    Mr./Ms. Mcb you are confusing popular with legality. As the SIU Simon Institute polls note most IL residents want a lot of stuff and no taxes too.
    Mitt Rauner and his brother/sister check writers created this cynical hoax and ignores the rules.
    Nothing really wrong with paying petition passers but typically they turn in a lot of fakes to get the moolah.
    Hard to believe someone who wants to make the rules takes his first big step on the public stage by breaking some of them. ( We won’t count the dark money ads that ran Aaron Schock out of the race)
    It seems we are a seeing a rich version of Blagoof emerge as the GOPies hope. Pretty scary.
    t


  30. - RNUG - Monday, May 5, 14 @ 1:18 pm:

    - Blah - Monday, May 5, 14 @ 11:43 am:

    Actually, there is related case law on changing factors such as time of service and the prospective amount of salary earned towards calculating pension benefits. In almost every case the defendant (usually a municipality) lost their case. For my (admittedly imperfect) reading of various cases, about the only thing in the “pension reform” law that hasn’t already been ruled on in no uncertain terms of one syllable words is the AAI.


  31. - Anonymous - Monday, May 5, 14 @ 1:27 pm:

    I think it is an understatement to say it is difficult to “Beat him. Run someone, beat him,” when the person you are running against basically controls the map, the money, and most likely the primary and general election opponents.

    The reason for the term limits is because this person is basically controlling the whole state but only 1% of the population can vote for him. Nobody is going to “Beat him. Run someone, beat him.”

    The irony is that even if term limits are held as constitutional he will probably leave office before they are of consequence.


  32. - Oswego Willy - Monday, May 5, 14 @ 1:35 pm:

    ===I think it is an understatement to say it is difficult to “Beat him. Run someone, beat him,” when the person you are running against basically controls the map, the money, and most likely the primary and general election opponents.===

    MJM beat a map against him 4 of 5 times.

    Please learn. It’s not the map, MJM is better than most at winning. If you missed the 1990s and Pâté having the Senate in his control and MJM losing the gavel one time, hit the search key.


  33. - wordslinger - Monday, May 5, 14 @ 1:35 pm:

    –The process was designed so that only millionaires and paid circulators could successfully gather enough signatures. Grass roots efforts never qualify here. I’ve seen such petitions during every election cycle fail due to a lack of signatures here.–

    Agreed. Illinois bipartisanship at its most undemocratic.

    The technical requirements for Rauner’s amendment led to the ludicrous physical and logistical problems in delivering it. What a joke. We don’t want nobody nobody sent.

    I don’t have a problem with some signatures, and I certainly wouldn’t want to be like California, governmened by referendum.

    But the built-in technical requirements here are just meant to trip up the “amateurs” and provide income for election lawyers.

    Not good reasons. Here’s an area where you could make some real reform, simply.


  34. - Formerly Known As... - Monday, May 5, 14 @ 1:49 pm:

    == So who cares if petition passers were paid? ==

    Both Rauner and Yes for Independent Maps used paid signature collectors.

    It seems the only way to get a popular initiative on the ballot in Illinois these days is by including the use of paid petition passers. How else is anyone going to get 33 miles worth of signatures in that period of time, much less 16 miles worth?

    If it were just Rauner, I’d be suspicious. The fact it was both groups indicates there may be something wrong with our process. Especially when an issue polling at 70%-80% favorability among voters is apparently not enough to get an initiative on the ballot strictly using unpaid volunteers.


  35. - Formerly Known As... - Monday, May 5, 14 @ 1:51 pm:

    What wordslinger said.


  36. - Anon - Monday, May 5, 14 @ 2:03 pm:

    == The process was designed so that only millionaires and paid circulators could successfully gather enough signatures. Grass roots efforts never qualify here. I’ve seen such petitions during every election cycle fail due to a lack of signatures here. ==

    Twas not always true. Pat Quinn qualified the Cutback Amendment for the ballot in 1980 using volunteers. It’s a sign of the decline of civil capital that it can no longer be done that way.


  37. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Monday, May 5, 14 @ 2:10 pm:

    I don’t think the crux of the legal argument is all that difficult to follow.

    What is most ironic is that the argument against the Rauner initiatives relies almost exclusively on precedent while the pension argument argues the Supreme Court ignore precedent.


  38. - Geronimo - Monday, May 5, 14 @ 2:51 pm:

    RE: Madigan ignoring the Constitution for pension
    guarantees yet invoking it’s sanctity when it benefits himself? Human nature. Just like the masses in favor of slashing public pensions but bring up a cut in Social Security? There would be mass demonstrations about that even though SS was never ever intended to be what retirees actually live on, unlike public pensions that receive no SS. It’s always painless and good to have someone else give up something rather than yourself.


  39. - Federalist - Monday, May 5, 14 @ 3:33 pm:

    * However, it is beyond richly ironic that while Speaker Madigan is relying on a highly precise and quite literal reading of the Illinois Constitution to defeat the two proposed citizen initiatives, he’s also arguing that the common sense, plain meaning of the Constitution should be ignored when it comes to pension reform.

    Just like the masses in favor of slashing public pensions but bring up a cut in Social Security? There would be mass demonstrations about that even though SS was never ever intended to be what retirees actually live on, unlike public pensions that receive no SS. It’s always painless and good to have someone else give up something rather than yourself.

    Wow, you guys really beat me to it!


  40. - southern illinoisan - Monday, May 5, 14 @ 4:19 pm:

    MJM - “my hypocrisy knows no bounds” …


  41. - Just The Way It Is One - Monday, May 5, 14 @ 6:21 pm:

    Excellent point about the Madigan “Double-Talk,” ala Petition Drive interpretation vs. Pension Reform, which really all boils down to a couple of things. One, words can be interpreted in a variety of ways, and THEN sprinkle in Common Law, Stare Decisis (Judicial Precedent, basically), and, secondly, Lawyers in Power, like the Speaker of the Illinois House, who are willing to pursue some issue of great importance to them, may just FIND a way to GET his way–even though it appears completely contradictory in terms of ascribing PLAIN Meanings to things…!


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