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Reeder: Madigan should let people decide

Published: Tuesday, May 6, 2014 9:24 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, May 6, 2014 9:42 p.m. CDT

SPRINGFIELD – A few months ago, Mike Madigan startled folks across the state by calling for an amendment to the state constitution.

The longtime House speaker wanted to allow the state to tack on a 3 percent surcharge on folks earning more than $1 million. The crafty politician let it be known that he wanted lawmakers to put the matter on the ballot, so the people could decide whether it’s good public policy. But the measure didn’t gather sufficient support to be placed on the ballot. So it died.

Proposed constitutional amendments can be placed on the ballot by legislative action or through a difficult process of collecting hundreds of thousands of signatures from across the state.

Madigan saw how difficult it was to pass the measure through the House that he has ruled for decades and let it drop, despite his populist rhetoric about letting the voters decide.

Interesting. But Madigan isn’t always so open to the will of the “people.” A case in point is two constitutional amendments that are to be placed on the ballot through petition drives. One would limit lawmakers to serving no more than eight years in the General Assembly.

For some reason, Madigan who has served in the Legislature for 41 years, thinks this is a terrible idea. Another would eliminate legislative gerrymandering. It would create an independent commission to draw the lines for legislative districts in a manner void of any political considerations.

Madigan, who has hung on to power by drawing maps that benefit his supporters in the Legislature, really hates this idea too. In fact, no sooner were the petitions filed in Springfield than an attorney filed a lawsuit in an attempt to thrown them off the ballot. While there are a variety of plaintiffs in the case, there is little doubt Madigan is behind it. So, Mike, whatever happened to just letting the people decide?

It’s time for the people, not the politicians, to decide what’s best for Illinois.

• Scott Reeder is a veteran statehouse reporter and the journalist in residence at the Illinois Policy Institute. He can be reached at

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