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Our View: Let voters decide fate of term limits

Published: Friday, Aug. 22, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT

Republican candidate for Illinois governor Bruce Rauner and supporters of term limits for Illinois lawmakers have asked the Illinois Supreme Court to quickly decide whether a proposed constitutional amendment can appear on November’s ballot.

The Committee for Legislative Reform and Term Limits filed an emergency petition Thursday, and Friday is the deadline for election officials to certify the ballot.

An appellate court ruled Wednesday that the plan to ask voter permission to limit legislators to eight years in office did not meet constitutional requirements to go on the Nov. 4 ballot.

The committee, headed by Rauner, disagrees and believes the court should consider the voter support for the amendment in question.

The State Board of Elections meets Friday. It also could vote to suspend the process until the term limits issue is resolved.

We hope the Illinois Supreme Court acts sooner rather than later, and leaves it up to the voters to decide on term limits.

The amendment proposal would limit state legislators to eight years in office and cut the size of the state Senate from 59 to 41 members. The amendment also would make it more difficult to override a governor’s veto by increasing the number of House members from 118 to 123.

We’ve said before in our support of term limits that there are positives and negatives to it – ideally, voters simply would vote out ineffective legislators – but voter turnout has been so pathetically low, an amendment is needed.

The best argument for term limits is to weed out politicians such as House Speaker Michael Madigan, who has turned Illinois politics into a lifetime appointment. Lobbyists and campaign cash are much more effective when they can deal with longtime legislators entrenched in state government rather than Springfield newcomers.

It’s certainly a reasonable argument that it takes time for rookie legislators to learn the complexities of the state government. It’s also true that there are effective politicians, trying to do the right thing on both sides of the aisle, who would be negatively affected by this. Wisdom and experience carry weight in the decision-making process.

But we’re in favor of the effort to allow voters to decide whether it’s something they want, and the Illinois Supreme Court should act accordingly.

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