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Term limits should make ballot

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

Term limits have always been a populist sentiment, even though they haven’t been implemented in Illinois government.

There is another strong push from the Committee for Legislative Reform and Term Limits, chaired by Bruce Rauner, a wealthy Winnetka businessman who’s also facing state Sens. Bill Brady and Kirk Dillard and state Treasurer Dan Rutherford in the GOP primary for governor.

Last month, the group said it obtained more than 150,000 of the 300,000 signatures needed to get a term-limits amendment on the 2014 November ballot.

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.

There are positives and negatives to term limits and reasonable arguments for and against.

In a perfect world, voters simply would vote out ineffective legislators. But when 20 percent of registered voters turn out for a nonpresidential election in a good year, that doesn’t always happen.

The best argument for term limits is to weed out politicians such as House Speaker Michael Madigan, who has held a stranglehold on Illinois politics for years. Lobbyists and campaign cash are much more effective when they get their hooks into longtime legislators.

Opponents of term limits argue that it takes legislators some time to learn the complexities of state government, and, despite much evidence to the contrary, there are effective politicians who are trying to do the right thing on either side of the aisle.

There is certainly a benefit to experience and wisdom in any endeavor, and Illinois’ legislative bodies certainly could use more wisdom – not less.

Regardless of one’s position on term limits, we’re in favor of efforts to allow voters to decide whether it’s something they want to consider. If a term-limit proposal made it to the November 2014 ballot, perhaps Illinois voters would finally get passionate about something.

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