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Then and now

Monday, Jun 30, 2014

* From an August 12, 1994 Chicago Tribune editorial published after the Illinois Supreme Court tossed then-Treasurer Pat Quinn’s term limits constitutional amendment off the ballot

The question to consider is, what has the public lost with this ruling? The answer is, nothing much.

No one has lost the right to vote for or against any candidate. No one has lost the right to contribute money to, or otherwise support, any challenger to an incumbent. No one has lost the right to run himself or herself against an incumbent. In short, the grand procedures and traditions of American politics have not been disturbed.

Term limits are a crude weapon wielded to voice the frustration many people feel about national and local politics.

A term-limit drive is an easy way to slap politicians. It requires no one to assess a voting record, or read a campaign brochure, or watch a political debate and make a knowledgeable decision. It’s a good bet that, if this amendment were on the ballot, voters would approve it, and at the same time re-elect an overwhelming majority of veteran incumbents.

Illinoisans need not feel put out about the court’s decision. But if they’re angry, they can still find some recourse in the political system.

Don’t get mad, get involved.

As you will recall, Illinois had a Republican governor and a GOP-controlled state Senate back then.

* Twenty years later, the Trib is now supporting Bruce Rauner’s term limit proposal and was angry that it didn’t pass constitutional muster

Citizens of Illinois: Your constitution is stacked against you. And there’s not much you can do about it.

Judge Mary Mikva made that official on Friday, invalidating two voter-driven amendments aimed at the Nov. 4 ballot.

It was a ruling based on the narrow interpretations of the constitution’s language in previous rulings by the Illinois Supreme Court.

But it’s a big loss for the citizens who demanded a greater say in how their state is run — and a big win for the politicians who are supposed to represent them. […]

n the merits, both measures would pass, hands down. Year after year, polls have shown consistent voter support for such reforms — and growing disgust with the state’s insular political culture.

That’s why House Speaker Michael Madigan has pulled out the stops to avoid an up-or-down vote. These people-power amendments are a potent threat to his grip on state government. He does not want them on the ballot.

Times change, and, apparently, so do opinions.

* Meanwhile, here is Eric Zorn’s excerpt from Friday’s ruling

(The Illinois Supreme Court has) ruled that the Free and Equal Clause of Section 3 of Article III of the Illinois Constitution of 1970 is a limitation on initiatives. The court has held that the Free and Equal clause prohibits the combination of separate and unrelated questions in a single proposition on any initiative, including an initiative to amend the Constitution (by petition)….

(The addition by term limit backers) of other components, like changing the number of legislative districts and representative districts and the number of votes necessary to override a governors veto, which may well be structural or procedural, cannot save this initiative because any (such) initiative … must be “limited to structural and procedural subjects contained in (the portion of the constitution dealing with the legislature.”…

The inclusion of these other components also puts this initiative in conflict with the Free and Equal clause ….. Separate questions in an initiative must be “reasonably related to a common objective in a workable manner.”…

Term limits may reasonably be related to staggered two-and four years senatorial terms. Yet term limits do not appear to have any direct relationship either to increasing the size of the House of Representatives and decreasing the size of the Senate or to the vote threshold needed to override the governor’s veto.

While the Term Limits Committee argues that all provisions are directed to an increase in legislative responsiveness and a reduction in the influence of narrow, partisan, or special interest, these objectives are so broad that they cannot be viewed as bases to bring these component parts into a consistent, workable home. Thus the term limits initiative is in conflict with the Free and Equal clause….

The redistricting initiative contains provisions that are neither structural nor procedural… And, therefore, the initiative is not limited to the structural and procedural subjects in article IV.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Gator - Monday, Jun 30, 14 @ 11:04 am:

    Wowwww!! Thanks for sharing the 1994 article. It’s not like I (we) didn’t know the Chicago Tribune is hypocritical and biased, but it’s great to see their own words used against them.

    I cancelled my Trib subscription a few years ago and told the salesperson that the paper was too biased and not objective, to which she agreed.

  2. - train111 - Monday, Jun 30, 14 @ 11:05 am:

    Wait another 20 years and the Tribune will be writing the first editorial again.

    I remember in 1984 when I was involved in a Dem State Senate campaign and Ronald Reagan was running for reelection how the Dems went on and on about how Reagan was padding the unemployemnt figures by not counting those who dropped out of the employemnt pool and so forth.

    Fast forward to today and now the GOP is harping on and on about how the unemployment figures are padded and how they are not counting those who have dropped out of the employement pool.

    Exact same stuff word for word, just from the other side now.

    Lesson: Be careful what you proclaim as Gospel today as in 20 years you may be proclaiming the exact same thing as heresy.

  3. - lake county democrat - Monday, Jun 30, 14 @ 11:06 am:

    Anyone who bothers to read my posts know how I feel about this, so let me try to say something new.

    Why oh why can’t the constitutionality of these initiatives be reviewed by the courts first, before hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent and volunteers give up precious days of their lives. Is there any good reason for this? If you don’t want to be flooded with such requests then the petitioners could be forced to put up a bond that they lose if the court advised against constitutionality.

  4. - walker - Monday, Jun 30, 14 @ 11:11 am:

    The proper court decision on “term limits” was clear and obvious from the start of the effort. I viewed it as political “fraud” from the get go. To argue otherwise, and appeal, is just to stretch out the campaign impact for one side.

    The remapping reform was legit, and will probably legally succeed if tweaked and tried again. It was close enough that an appeal might have worked for them. They responded exactly right to the decision. The problems were really with enough good signatures this time.

  5. - Precinct Captain - Monday, Jun 30, 14 @ 11:12 am:

    ==before hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent and volunteers give up precious days of their lives==

    Counterpoint, why don’t these petitioners listen to their lawyers or hire constitutional attorneys to advise them? These lawyers might say something like, “this will be a no go, so don’t waste your time unless you’re a doctrinaire zealot who wants to waste time and money.”

  6. - Federalist - Monday, Jun 30, 14 @ 11:23 am:

    A great “reminder.” Thanks for digging this up.

    I support term limits of 12 years as well as no lobbying for at least 10 years after leaving office.

    People can agree or disagree but we should have the right to determine if we want term limits.

    I find the judges ruling based to be extraordinarily narrow in her findings. After all, Article IV of the IC does cover elections. I have seen many court decisions over the decades that have stretched the intent of the original framers beyond belief.

    Of course, if she is a very ’strict constructionist’ by her nature and her previous decisions demonstrate that then I respect the decision. But if otherwise- well not so much.

    And in case anyone is wondering out there, I do not support Rauner and to me the Chicago Tribune has no credibility on much of anything.

  7. - louisGAtsaves - Monday, Jun 30, 14 @ 11:44 am:

    The 1994 editorial of the Tribune was interesting, but is it fair to make such a comparison. That was what, three different owners/publishers ago?

  8. - Tom S. - Monday, Jun 30, 14 @ 11:44 am:

    Maybe the Trib’s change of heart on this issue is just blatantly partisan, as Rich suggests. But it might go even deeper. Part of being of being a “conservative” — at least in a PoliSci 101 sense — is respecting political tradition and established government institutions and practices. The Tribune of 1994 (and the Tribune of Col. McCormick,) seemed to have embraced this true conservative mindset. They understood that the state constitution was written in a manner to discourage Illinois from devolving into a California-style, government-by-ballot-initiative state — one that constantly changes based on the shifting winds of public opinion.

    The Trib today sees the state constitution as a an minor nuisance — something to be casually tossed aside if it comes close to butressing a point of view they don’t agree with (see pension debate.)

    That makes today’s editorial board more radical than their predecesors, even though they would claim to be more centrist. (”We endorsed Obama!”) But in truth, their current tendency toward hyperbole and rightousness makes them more like Rush Limbaugh than William F. Buckley.

  9. - Concerned Voter - Monday, Jun 30, 14 @ 11:49 am:

    All….. so I guess that the opinion we had twenty years ago is valid today no matter what has happened in the mean time. We should not be able to review changes and correct potential wrongs. Instead we should say if it was good then its good now. WOW

  10. - wordslinger - Monday, Jun 30, 14 @ 12:12 pm:

    Big Brain Bruce is a laugh riot. He’s come a long way since he was taking phone messages for Paul Lis under the dome.

  11. - Ken_in_Aurora - Monday, Jun 30, 14 @ 12:13 pm:

    “Wowwww!! Thanks for sharing the 1994 article. It’s not like I (we) didn’t know the Chicago Tribune is hypocritical and biased, but it’s great to see their own words used against them.”

    I would be very surprised to see that many - if any - members of the 1994 Trib editorial page staff are still on the page in 2014.

  12. - lake county democrat - Monday, Jun 30, 14 @ 12:27 pm:

    PC - Well sure, but you’re assuming a situation where the constitutionality is clear as day, which may well be at the cost of a not-too-appealing iniative. And lawyers are hardly infaliable. It’s one thing if a restrictive state constitution limits the power of the people, it’s another when it’s an arbitrary court rule at work.

  13. - Precinct Captain - Monday, Jun 30, 14 @ 12:39 pm:

    ==All….. so I guess that the opinion we had twenty years ago is valid today no matter what has happened in the mean time. We should not be able to review changes and correct potential wrongs. Instead we should say if it was good then its good now. WOW==

    Are you that dense? There is principled change and there is hypocritical, self-serving change based on hyperbole and insanity. This is not principled change, especially since the same issues exist today existed back then in terms of incumbency. State legislative incumbency is high everywhere anyway, try 95%.

  14. - Precinct Captain - Monday, Jun 30, 14 @ 12:43 pm:

    ==It’s one thing if a restrictive state constitution limits the power of the people, it’s another when it’s an arbitrary court rule at work.==

    This decision isn’t an arbitrary court rule. It is clear the framers of the state constitution did not want Illinois to be California-style where nearly everything goes. If people wanted to radically alter the framework of the state constitution, they had a chance to do so in 2008 by supporting a state constitutional convention. I supported doing so. A very sizeable majority of voters did not agree with me.

  15. - too obvious - Monday, Jun 30, 14 @ 12:56 pm:

    Excellent call-out Rich.

    This is why I haven’t bought a Tribune in over a decade.

  16. - Gator - Monday, Jun 30, 14 @ 12:57 pm:

    “I would be very surprised to see that many - if any - members of the 1994 Trib editorial page staff are still on the page in 2014.”

    You are correct, Ken. However, if by some miracle the Republicans take over the Governor’s office and one (or both) legislative chambers any time soon, I’m sure the Trib will revert back to its 1994 mantra.

  17. - Just Observing - Monday, Jun 30, 14 @ 1:14 pm:

    It’s not necessarily hypocritical of the Trib, even though I for one agree with the ‘94 op-ed, not the ‘14 one.

    1. Different opinion editors than ‘94.
    2. Views can change. There were southern newspapers that editorialized against civil rights for blacks… those papers don’t espouse those views anymore. Does that make them hypocritical?

  18. - steve schnorf - Monday, Jun 30, 14 @ 1:15 pm:

    Well, Rich, clearly you haven’t thought thru and understood the differences. That was THEN, and this is NOW. See?

  19. - PoolGuy - Monday, Jun 30, 14 @ 1:22 pm:

    if Rich is trying to illustrate that if there was currently an R Gov and R Senate would the Trib still be pushing for term limits now? that’s how i read it. opinions change, but for what reasons?

  20. - VanillaMan - Monday, Jun 30, 14 @ 1:36 pm:

    We know a whole lot more in 2014 regarding term limits and their practical everyday governing and legislating impacts than we did in 1994.

    In 1994 term limits were mostly untried as proposed. Since then, we have real world results which show that term limits bring real benefits in many ways to the state which adopt them.

    Your comparison would be as if you were reviewing the opinions on the first generation of Toyota Prius and then mocking the same reviewers who have discovered how well the Prius works in the real world and today endorses them.

    Twenty years.

    We know term limits work. It is just plain silly to keep regurgitating similar arguments used twenty years ago against them as though these concerns still had merit.

    They don’t.

  21. - Joan P. - Monday, Jun 30, 14 @ 2:31 pm:

    @ lake county democrat: “Why oh why can’t the constitutionality of these initiatives be reviewed by the courts first,”

    Illinois courts don’t have the authority to give advisory opinions.

  22. - Precinct Captain - Monday, Jun 30, 14 @ 3:15 pm:

    ==In 1994 term limits were mostly untried as proposed. Since then, we have real world results which show that term limits bring real benefits in many ways to the state which adopt them.==

    What real world benefits? Credible research shows term limits do NOT work. The only thing they do is create turnover quicker. Incumbents are re-elected at the same rate. Term limits do not improve state finances. The turnover wipes out institutional knowledge and executives in states can more easily bowl over legislators who don’t know anything.

  23. - VanillaMan - Monday, Jun 30, 14 @ 3:46 pm:

    That is not what we are seeing at all by states with term limits. There has been NO states which have enacted term limits, undoing them. Voters like them because they believe they work. The only two states that have “unenacted” them have done so through the courts, not the ballot.

    It obviously works. No one is discussing the abolition of them in any of the states with term limits. Even Democratic, blue-state California!

    Get new arguments, those twenty year old ones have been disproven.

  24. - Precinct Captain - Monday, Jun 30, 14 @ 4:38 pm:

    ==Get new arguments, those twenty year old ones have been disproven.==

    The 20 year old arguments that are from 2012 and 2013? Learn how to count. By the way, California loosened its term limits in 2012. The initiative was called Proposition 28.

  25. - WAK - Monday, Jun 30, 14 @ 4:46 pm:

    ==Get new arguments, those twenty year old ones have been disproven.==

    How about the 2006 Study done by the National Conference of State Legislatures that basically concluded term limits don’t work or the 2010 Wayne State University Study that shows term limits have negative impacts.

  26. - goose/gander - Monday, Jun 30, 14 @ 5:20 pm:

    the Tribbies have Madigan derangement syndrome

  27. - Bill White - Monday, Jun 30, 14 @ 5:29 pm:

    === There has been NO states which have enacted term limits, undoing them ===

    Uh, the state legislatures in Idaho and Utah voted to repeal term limits:

  28. - wordslinger - Monday, Jun 30, 14 @ 5:39 pm:

    Bill, please don’t confuse VMan with facts or knowledge. Not his bag, baby.

    He has a lot of time on his hands in his essential state job, and the mind can wander into some crazy areas.

    He’s not representative of state workers, but he does give them a bad name.

  29. - VanillaMan - Monday, Jun 30, 14 @ 6:06 pm:

    The voters in Utah and Idaho supported term limits, but to blunt their impact, the state legislatures enacted, then rescinded term limits. Voters still support it in those states, but the incumbents didn’t.

    So no, voters did not vote down term limits in any state that has enacted them.

  30. - F.B. - Monday, Jun 30, 14 @ 8:13 pm:

    – Tom S. –

    Well put. It seems to me that today’s Trib Ed Board is more interested in being provocative and in the middle of the fight, and less concerned about serving as the sober, civic umpire calling balls and strikes — like it did circa 1994. There are more internet clicks in the former than the latter.

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