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Quigley: Term limits, redistricting return to drawing board

A Cook County judge on June 27 cited conflicts with the state of Illinois Constitution in rejecting signature-driven campaigns to get constitutional amendments for both a term limit measure and a new legislative redistricting process on the Nov. 4 General Election ballot.

Lawyers representing top Democratic lawmakers, including House Speaker Michael Madigan, filed a lawsuit challenging the measures.

The campaign for term limits, as spearheaded by Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner, is expected to appeal all the way up to the Illinois Supreme Court.

Yes for Independent Maps, which withdrew its petitions following the judge’s ruling, plans to reorganize its campaign for either the 2016 or 2018 statewide elections.

In ruling that both measures violated that section on the state’s Constitution, Cook County Circuit Court Judge Mary Mikva wrote that amendment initiatives “must be limited to structural and procedural subjects.”

Judge Mikva found that term limit provisions – changing the size of the Senate and House of Representatives and making it harder to override a governor’s veto – aren’t related.

Rauner, who believes “eight years of public service” is preferable to lifetime politicians, personally financed the term limit campaign, which collected nearly 600,000 signatures.

Ironically, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, Rauner’s Democratic incumbent opponent, is a longtime politician who supports term limits, maybe the only issue they agree upon.

Judge Mikva found redistricting provisions – including prohibiting members of the independent commission from serving as a lawmaker or in other leadership positions for a decade after serving on the commission — are beyond Constitutional requirements.

While the court ruling prohibited the State Board of Elections from taking further action on the petitions, “The good news,” Deborah Harrington, Chairwoman of Yes for Independent Maps, said in an issued statement, “is that Judge Mikva concluded that ‘redistricting appears to be fair game for amendment’ by a ballot initiative process and specifically upheld many of the components of the redistricting initiative.”

Yes for Independent Maps’ bipartisan statewide coalition included diverse groups such as AARP Illinois, League of Women Voters of Illinois and the Illinois Chamber of Commerce and many of its members, including the Elmhurst Chamber of Commerce & Industry.

With the next 10-year U.S. Census not until 2020 – which triggers redistricting – Yes for Independent Maps still has time.

Term limits, however, might not survive this election cycle.

John R. Quigley is president and CEO of the Elmhurst Chamber of Commerce.

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