State legislative shuffle? Been there, done that

Senate seat cutback may threaten rural representation

At least we now know the other half of Bruce Rauner’s effort to impose term limits on Illinois lawmakers.

As you know, Rauner, one of four men seeking the Republican nomination for governor, has launched a petition drive to get a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot that limits lawmakers to 8 years in office. The thing is, the courts have ruled such amendments can’t be limited just to term limits. They also have to deal with the structure of the General Assembly.

Rauner promised his proposed amendment would do that, too, and last week he revealed his plan. He would cut the number of state Senate seats from 59 to 41. At the same time, he would increase the number of representatives from 118 to 123. That means there would be three representatives for each Senate district instead of the current two.

He would also increase the margin needed to override a veto from three-fifths to two-thirds of the Legislature.

The amendment is a long way from getting on the ballot, but if it does, it will be interesting to see how it plays with voters. Term limits are straightforward, and according to some polls, have a lot of support among voters.

Explaining the changes in the size of the Legislature is going to be a lot trickier. Rauner says the changes will make legislative races more competitive. Some voters, though, may remember the last time the Legislature’s size was changed and the unintended consequences that resulted.

Still, given the sentiments regarding term limits, voters may just zero in on that issue and ignore the restructuring.

Rauner has a video out to promote his term-limits issue.

It blasts “career politicians” who stay too long in office. And whose pictures roll by on the screen when this discussion is taking place? Senate President John Cullerton, ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich and House Speaker Michael Madigan, all Chicago Democrats.

Simply shocking that a Republican candidate for governor would single them out.

The part of the amendment about restructuring the legislature is already drawing criticism from one of Rauner’s opponents for governor.

Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-Hinsdale, said cutting the number of Senate districts would “greatly, greatly disenfranchise the people of downstate Illinois. The downstate districts will become so large that one won’t have the ability to even see their senator.”

With fewer Senate districts, each senator will be representing more people than now. The district lines would have to be redrawn to reflect that.

Sen. John Sullivan’s west-central district is already the largest in the state geographically, The Rushville Democrat represents all of nine counties and parts of two others.

Sen. Sam McCann’s district stretches from the far west side of Springfield to the Mississippi River. The size of the district after Democrats redrew boundaries for the 2012 election helped convince longtime Sen. Larry Bomke, R-Springfield, to retire. He didn’t think he could maintain his insurance business and have enough time to travel the district to properly represent it.

So Dillard probably has a point about downstate Senate districts becoming impossibly large under the plan, but again, would that be enough to turn people away from term limits?

No longer No. 1

The bad news for Illinois just doesn’t seem to end.

Business Insider did a story last week that said Illinois isn’t even No. 1 anymore in public corruption. It analyzed Justice Department data on the number of convictions per 100,000 people. Based on this, Illinois ranks only 16th, far behind the top state, Louisiana.

How depressing is this? We can’t claim to be the No. 1 state in public corruption, one of our few, longtime claims to fame. But we still rank too high to be considered a clean state.

We’re just so ordinary.

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