Long views term limits, redistricting reform as 'the will of the people'
Jerry Long, Republican candidate for the District 76 State House race, recently expressed his support for the voter-led Independent Map Amendment, as well as term limits for lawmakers.
"My colleagues and I stand united for term limits and redistricting reform," Long said. "Both of these ideas have overwhelming support from the voters and would be good first steps toward ending the culture of corruption in Springfield. This is the will of the people."
While the Independent Map Amendment was ruled unconstitutional by the Illinois Supreme Court last week, Republican candidates and lawmakers have vowed to support future voter initiatives.
The Independent Map Amendment was the voters' third attempt at placing a redistricting amendment on the ballot. The latest effort garnered nearly 600,000 signatures, which were approved by the State Elections Board.
The amendment would have established an 11-member independent commission that would redraw the district maps every 10 years. Approximately four out of five Illinois voters supported taking the process out of legislators' hands and using an independent commission.
Despite support from the electorate, the group People's Map and Michael Kasper, who is also the Illinois Democratic Party general counsel, immediately challenged the initiative in Cook County Circuit Court.
House Speaker Mike Madigan, D-Chicago, leads the Illinois Democratic Party. Republican candidates and lawmakers alleged that Madigan was behind the legal challenge and efforts to find the amendment unconstitutional.
The circuit court ruled in favor of Kasper's motion and decided that the amendment exceeded the limitations on ballot initiatives according to the Illinois Constitution. The case was appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court, which agreed to hear it. If the decision were overturned by the higher court before Aug. 26, the amendment would have been placed on the November ballot. Instead, the court upheld the lower court's decision and determined that the amendment was unconstitutional.
Term limits also have been a contentious issue in the State Assembly. Gov. Bruce Rauner supported a term-limits initiative while running for office in 2014. The referendum was kept off the ballot by a Cook County circuit court judge and a subsequent ruling by the 1st District Appellate Court. The proposed term limits would have limited lawmakers to eight years in the legislature.
Rauner spent two days on a statewide tour in July to support a new push for term limits. Rauner is pushing for the General Assembly to address term limits during its November veto session. If legislators approve a term-limits amendment, it would appear on the 2018 general election ballot.
Implementing term limits would affect longtime lawmakers. This includes Madigan, who was first elected to the House in 1971 to represent District 22. Madigan has been speaker of the House since 1983, interrupted only for two years in 1995-1997, when the Republicans took control of the House. After winning back the House, Madigan resumed his position as House speaker. Madigan is also in charge of drawing the maps for each district.
Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, would also be affected by term limits. Cullerton represented the 7th District in the State House from 1979 to 1991 and was appointed to the Illinois Senate in 1991, then elected to the seat in 1992. Cullerton began serving as Senate president in 2009.
Long and his colleagues have laid the blame for the failed initiatives on Madigan and his hold on the Democrats in the Assembly. They believe Madigan and his supporters used the legal system to prevent the referendums from reaching the ballot, thwarting the voters' will.
"Both ideas have been blocked by Speaker Michael Madigan and his supermajority rule over Illinois," Long said. "In order to actually pass reforms like these, we must take away Madigan's power one seat at a time. That starts right here in the 76th District."