Saturday, August 23, 2014

Putting a limit on term limit talk

By now, anybody who cares knows that we're not going to have a chance to express our view on the concept of term limits for state government officials on the ballot for the Nov. 4 general elections.

Both the circuit and appellate courts had rejected the idea, and the Illinois Supreme Court on Friday decided not to even hear the concept. Which resulted in the Illinois State Board of Elections signing off on the final ballots for the upcoming Election Day.

THERE WON'T BE any referendum question about whether state officials should be limited to two terms in office. There will be enough other referendum questions to occupy voters' attention.

Yet I can't help but be a bit appalled at the attitude of Republican candidate Bruce Rauner, whose finances have been behind much of the effort to bring the issue up.

He wants to stir up the resentment of those voters who have been unable to overturn Democratic Party candidates at the ballot box, so now they want to make them ineligible to run again in future elections.

Any sense that this term limits measure is a "good government" issue is a batch of nonsense. It is meant to encourage more people of a certain ideological bent to show up at the polling place.

I SUSPECT THAT the people who are now screeching and screaming for term limits would eagerly call for their abolishment the moment they got political officials of their ideological preference into office.

It isn't sincere. It has nothing to do with reform or good, honest government.

So when Rauner on Friday issued a statement denouncing the state Supreme Court and saying he expects the voters to back his idea by voting for his allies in November, I'd say it is the only time he has been honest about this issue.

He wants to use this idea in ways that get him more electoral support. Perhaps he would have found a way to let this issue slip by the wayside once the election is over -- if he is able to win.

"A PRO-TERM LIMITS General Assembly pushed by a pro-term limits governor can put this critical reform in place any day they want," Rauner said. "Illinoisans should have that in mind when they vote this November."

Except that political people of all ideological persuasions are going to have their self-interests in mind. No one is going to come forth and implement this idea voluntarily. And yes, the Supreme Court previously had ruled that term limits changes the rules for electing legislators so significantly (by limiting whom we can pick) that it goes too far and violates the state's constitution.

Rauner may be right on one point. This may influence my vote, although in a way he won't like.

All his cheap talk and posturing on this issue is such a turn-off that I may wind up making a point of voting against him just because of this.

IT IS THE reason why I have written several commentaries this spring and summer as to why this term limits measure is a bad idea that probably sound like they're written by the most intense of 'machine' hacks.

I'll also admit to being semi-impressed by the fact that Gov. Pat Quinn -- who once himself backed an effort to impose term limits -- has said this would be his last term in office IF he wins on Nov. 4.

It would mean about nine years in office -- two terms of his own and the part of Rod Blagojevich's term that he completed. By any stretch of the imagination, that is enough time for most officials to complete what they intend to do.

Now if Quinn experiences a change of heart some time in late 2017 and decides to run for yet another term, then perhaps we can hold it against him then. Until then, ...


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