Illinois Term Limits for Legislators Amendment (2014)

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The Illinois Term Limits for Legislators Amendment may appear on the November 4, 2014 ballot in Illinois as an initiated constitutional amendment. The measure would establish eight-year term limits for legislators, reduce the size of the Senate from 59 to 41, increase the size of the House from 118 to 123 and require a two-thirds majority vote in both houses for the legislature to override a governor’s veto.[1]

Supporters of the measure submitted 591,092 signatures, nearly double the number required, on April 30, 2014, several days before the state's filing deadline.[2]

The supporting group, the Committee for Legislative Reform and Term Limits, listed the following as the purposes of the amendment:[3]

(1) to establish term limits for members of the General Assembly;

(2) to require a two-thirds vote in each chamber of the General Assembly to override the Governor’s veto of legislation;

(3) to abolish two-year senatorial terms;

(4) to change the House of Representatives from 118 representatives to 123 representatives;

(5) to change the Senate from 59 senators to 41 senators; and

(6) to divide legislative (senatorial) districts into three representative districts rather than two.[4]

Text of measure

Amendment text

If this amendment is approved, it would change portions of Sections 1, 2, and 9 of Article IV of the Illinois State Constitution to read:[3]

ARTICLE IV SECTION 1. LEGISLATURE – POWER AND STRUCTURE

The legislative power is vested in a General Assembly consisting of a Senate and a House of Representatives, elected by the electors from 41 Legislative Districts and 123 Representative Districts, with such numeration to become effective on January 1, 2023. These Legislative Districts and Representative Districts shall be drawn as provided by law following each decennial census.

ARTICLE IV SECTION 2. LEGISLATIVE COMPOSITION

(a) One Senator shall be elected from each Legislative District. Immediately following each decennial redistricting, the General Assembly by law shall divide the Legislative Districts as equally as possible into three groups. Senators from one group shall be elected for terms of four years, four years and two years; Senators from the second group, for terms of four years, two years and four years; and Senators from the third group, for terms of two years, four years and four years. The Legislative Districts in each group shall be distributed substantially equally over the State. Notwithstanding the foregoing, effective January 1, 2023, all Senate terms will be for four years.

(b) Each Legislative District shall be divided into three Representative Districts. In 1982 and every two years thereafter one Representative shall be elected from each Representative District for a term of two years.

. . .

(f) No person may serve more than eight years in the General Assembly. No person may be elected or appointed as Senator or Representative if upon completion of the term of office that person will have been a member of the General Assembly for more than eight years. Time served in the General Assembly before the session beginning in January 2015 does not count toward the eight-year service limitation.

ARTICLE IV SECTION 9. VETO PROCEDURE

(c) The house to which a bill is returned shall immediately enter the Governor’s objections upon its journal. If within 15 calendar days after such entry that house by a record vote of two-thirds of the members elected passes the bill, it shall be delivered immediately to the second house. If within 15 calendar days after such delivery the second house by a record vote of two-thirds of the members elected passes the bill, it shall become law.[4]

Support

The Committee for Legislative Reform and Term Limits is leading the campaign in support of the measure.[3]

Supporters

Opposition

Opponents

The following are among the plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed in an attempt to keep the measure off the ballot:[5]

  • Frank Clark, former CEO of utility Commonwealth Edison Co.
  • Elzie Higginbottom, CEO of Chicago-based East Lake Management & Development Corp.
  • Raymond Chin, president of construction management firm R.M. Chin & Associates Inc.

Lawsuits

On April 29, 2014, a lawsuit was filed in Cook County Circuit Court seeking to prevent the term limits measure, as well as the Illinois Independent Redistricting Amendment, from being placed on the ballot. The suit, which will likely end up in the Illinois Supreme Court, was filed by a group of business and nonprofit leaders. It alleges that placing term limits on legislators is unconstitutional. In 1994, the state supreme court struck down a term limits measure in a 4-3 decision. Supporters of the 2014 measures were anticipating legal challenges but felt confident that their respective measures would make the ballot. Mark Campbell of the Committee for Legislative Reform and Term Limits said, "Illinois citizens across all spectrums are demanding change in Springfield and want a return to real public service by citizen legislators and an end to the era of career politicians in Springfield." According to the lawsuit, the formal complaint by the plaintiffs states the following:[5]

This taxpayer action seeks to restrain the expenditure of public funds to consider the propriety of two petitions proposing multiple amendments to the Legislative Article of the Illinois Constitution which should be enjoined because each of these proposed petitions fails to comply with the constitutional requirements of Section 3 of Article XIV of the Illinois Constitution for such amendments. One of the petitions (the "Term Limits Initiative") proposes amendments that are invalid for several reasons, most obvious that it imposes term limits on members of the Illinois General Assembly, which the Illinois Supreme Court already held to be an improper subject for amendments to Article IV.[4]

—Plaintiffs, [6]

On June 27, 2014, Judge Mary Mikva threw both the term limits amendment and the redistricting amendment off the ballot, saying they were unconstitutional. However, unlike supporters of the redistricting measure, those promoting the term limits amendment have vowed to appeal Mikva's ruling, saying her decision was politically motivated. "These court decisions are really about whether the voters of Illinois live in the state of Illinois or the ‘People’s Republic of Illinois'. There is no legitimate legal reason to keep the term limits initiative off the ballot. At this level we think it’s strictly been done for political reasons. You can’t find a judge in Cook County that’s not connected to that political organization....We think she’s a fine judge, but we just don’t think that based in this environment that we were going to get anything other than the ruling that we got," said Campbell.[7]

On August 20, 2014, the Illinois First District Appellate Court upheld a lower court's ruling that the term limits amendment is unconstitutional. Rauner filed an immediate appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court. He said, "The Illinois Supreme Court should not ignore the people of Illinois. We are hopeful that the Illinois Supreme Court will find in favor of the citizens of Illinois." Two decades ago, the supreme court ruled against legislative term limits. The appeals court cited this in its decision, with Judge Maureen Connors saying, "The (Supreme) Court characterized term limits as a matter of eligibility or qualifications of an individual legislator, which ‘do not involve the structure or the legislature as an institution.’" If the supreme court chooses not to hear the case, then the amendment will not make the November 4, 2014 ballot.[8]

Path to the ballot

See also: Amending the Illinois Constitution

Supporters were required to gather and submit at least 298,399 valid signatures by May 5, 2014. On March 6, 2014, the Committee for Legislative Reform and Term Limits website reported that the group had gathered 256,000 signatures.[1][3]

On April 30, 2014, supporters turned in 591,092 signatures, nearly double the number required, to representatives from the secretary of state’s office at the Illinois State Board of Elections.[2]

On June 3, 2014, election officials announced that supporters had collected approximately 370,000 valid signatures, enough to land the measure on the ballot if it overcomes legal obstacles.[9]

See also

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