Gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner was in Springfield on Wednesday, filing his term limit initiative after months of collecting signatures. But the plan still has to survive an expected court challenge.
Weighing 1,000 lbs, the nearly-70,000 pages of term limit petitions had to be wheeled onto a semi trailer to be driven to the State Board of Elections.
A custom-made box — as tall and wide as a piece of paper but 36 feet long — contained more than twice the number of signatures needed to get the proposal on the November ballot.
The near-70,000 page term limit petition is wheeled onto a semi truck on Wednesday. The petition boasts more than twice the number of required signatures to get the proposal on the November ballot. (Brian Mackey/IPR)
Rauner said recent allegations of patronage and misspent tax dollars are why Illinois needs term limits. This plan would limit legislators to eight years in office.
"Incumbents are in a dominant position and especially in a state with corruption at the level that Illinois has, it's important to truly give voters real choice," Rauner said.
But between now and November, the plan will likely be challenged in court. The Illinois Constitution has strict requirements for citizen initiatives. An attorney for the term limit committee says it was carefully crafted to avoid the legal missteps that doomed another term-limit proposal 20 years ago.
That earlier push for term limits was led by none other than Gov. Pat Quinn.
Two of Illinois' top Republicans want to limit how long someone can stay on as governor of Illinois, but they only have about two weeks to get the proposed constitutional amendment through the General Assembly.
Illinois Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont) and House Minority Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) are floating a two-term limit for the state's six top offices.
That means an eight-year tenure for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, comptroller, treasurer and secretary of state.
It is the latest plan seeking term limits in Illinois; Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner is funding an initiative that would institute limits for members of the General Assembly.
Republicans say term limits are a chance for 'fresh perspectives' in state government. Senate GOP spokeswoman Patty Schuh said the state's poor financial health speaks volumes.
"With the condition of Illinois, and the position we're in, maybe it's time to allow term limits to go to the voters," Schuh said.
There is a race against the clock to push the proposal through. Because Democrats control the General Assembly, they often decide when (and if) measures are called for a vote.
A spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan declined to comment, beyond wondering why the Republicans had waited so long to file the measure, but Schuh said it can be done.
"It would be cutting it close, there's no doubt but ... we've seen the Democrats move a lot of legislation if they're inclined," she said.
Though the limits would not begin until 2018, only two of the six executives currently 'break' those limits: Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who has been in office for 11 years, and Secretary of State Jesse White, who has been in office spans 15 years.
While lawyers dismantle many restrictions on political money, the rules affecting Morning Edition and Downton Abbey still stand tall. A federal court in San Francisco says public radio and TV stations cannot carry paid political ads.
The 8-3 decision Monday by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a ruling last April by a smaller panel of the court. NPR and PBS both joined the case as friends of the court.
The court upheld the decades-old bar against political ads on public broadcasting stations, even as other restrictions have vanished over the years. One long-gone rule held that funders could only be listed by name.
The case just decided — Minority Television Project v. FCC — began as a bid to take any commercial advertising. Among the arguments rejected by the appeals court, the TV station invoked the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling of 2010, which allowed corporations to spend freely advocating for or against candidates.
Two dissenting judges argued that the station didn't get a fair shake because "judges like public radio and television, while pretty much nobody likes commercials."
Midterm elections are still a year off, but the scramble to gain a political edge at the polls is already well underway on Capitol Hill.
Bills are brought up and votes taken not so much in hopes they will prevail, but rather to send a political message. In the Senate, both parties are at it.
When the Senate reconvenes Tuesday, it will be voting to break a GOP filibuster of the nomination of Georgetown University law professor Nina Pillard — one of three people President Obama named to fill vacancies on the powerful U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Senate Republicans recently filibustered another woman nominated to that court, Patricia Millett, and they promise to do the same with Pillard.
Democrats say there's a simple explanation: Republicans are blocking highly qualified women from serving on that court.
"Do we have to get women elected to the United States Senate to get women on the Judiciary Committee to get women on the courts?" asked Sen. Maria Cantwell, a Democrat from Washington state. "Because our colleagues aren't going to help us do that?"
Last week, Senate Democrats, with support from 10 Republicans, voted to ban workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Thirty-two Republicans voted no, including Indiana Sen. Dan Coats.
The measure, he said, had a clear political objective.
"Same point that's made with a lot of bills that come up: Put the other party on the defensive," he said.
Majority Leader Harry Reid seemed to confirm that. He lamented to reporters that House Speaker John Boehner had no plans to take up the nondiscrimination bill, despite polls that show more than 4 out of 5 Americans support it.
"I'm flabbergasted as [to] why they're stopping everything the American people want," Reid said.
Another thing more than 80 percent of Americans say they want is to increase the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.
Dick Durbin, the Senate's No. 2 Democrat, says his party last Thursday discussed raising the minimum wage to around $10 an hour and then indexing it to inflation.
Durbin says it's about sending working families a message: Democrats can help them.
"It's more than a message vote. It appears that there are so many nonstarters for Speaker Boehner, you just wonder, where are the starters?" Durbin said. "If you can't help working families who are struggling paycheck to paycheck to get by in America, then where are your priorities? What is important?"
Durbin admits he knows of no Senate Republicans who would vote to raise the minimum wage.
Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey said it's clear why Democrats are raising the issue.
"It's a populist measure," he said. "They think they can probably score some political points, but it's very bad policy and it would, if it were to pass, it would actually exacerbate a terribly high unemployment rate that we already have."
But Senate Democrats are not the only ones trying to force tough votes on their opponents.
Last week at the Capitol, National Right to Life Committee President Carol Tobias was on hand as South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who's seeking re-election, introduced a bill already passed by the House. It would ban all abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy except in cases of incest or when the mother's life is at risk.
"We're choosing today to speak up for all babies at 20 weeks and try to create legal protections under the theory that if you can feel pain, the government should protect you from being destroyed by an abortion, which I imagine would be a very painful way to die," Graham said.
Supporters cite recent polling showing nearly two-thirds of Americans agree with them. Still, last week on the Senate floor, Washington state's other Democratic senator, Patty Murray, called this bill co-sponsored by 33 Republicans "blatantly political."
"This extreme unconstitutional abortion ban is an absolute nonstarter," she said. "It is going nowhere in the Senate, and those Republicans know it."
But they also know any vote on the bill could leave some Democrats seeking re-election in a tough spot — just like the votes Democrats are forcing Republicans to take in these pre-election days.
The scandal that brought down former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich led to campaign-contribution caps in Illinois. Advocates of the limits are fearful a case set to be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday could upend their efforts.
The campaign finance law Illinois politicians passed in 2009 restricts how much cash companies, unions and people can give to individual candidates. Theoretically, you can give that maximum contribution to every state candidate in Illinois.
But for federal offices, like Congress, there's an overall cap. That's what's being challenged in the McCutcheon case before the U.S. Supreme Court. The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform's David Morrison said the case appears irrelevant to state law … but not so fast.
"If you read the briefs that everybody's filed, it's clear that what the plaintiffs are trying to do with this case is make it that much harder to justify any limits at all on giving to candidates or anyone else," Morrison said.
The possibility the Supreme Court ruling could go beyond the narrow question at hand is what makes this case potentially pivotal.
"If that happens, then we go right back to the Wild West that we used to have, where candidates could essentially extort as much money as they could possibly get from anyone and use that to bury their opponents come election time," Morrison said.
Next year's election is Illinois' first in which the governor and statewide candidates are subject to the fundraising restrictions.
By next summer, Illinois voters will be able to register to vote online.
To help boost voter participation, Gov. Pat Quinn has followed more than a dozen other states by signing an online voter registration law.
“Online voter registration will encourage more people to fulfill their civic duty by making that first step of registering to vote easier and more accessible," Quinn said in a statement. "This new law will boost registration rates, cut costs and move Illinois’ democratic process into the 21st century."
“For most folks in Champaign County, if they Google ‘Champaign County elections’ or ‘Where do I vote,’ the Champaign County Clerk website is going to be the thing that they go to,” Hulten said. “I think our website is incredibly more user friendly than the State Board of Elections website. So, I have some concerns about the limited environment in which this is being rolled out and the implementation of it.”
Hulten said in Champaign County, he is not sure if online voter registration will lead to a huge increase in voter participation since his office is already aggressive with helping people sign up.
Meanwhile, Piatt County Clerk Colleen Kidd has concerns about the new system.
“I don’t think that it’s going to make any difference on whether more people are going to vote or not,” Kidd said. “I think that there could be the potential for fraud.”
Those who support the plan say it is secure and they are confident it will not lead to a greater risk of voter fraud.
Earlier this month, Gov. Quinn signed a bill allowing 17-year-olds to vote in primary elections if they will be 18 by the time of the next general election.
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is waving off early indications that he may face competition in next year’s primary election.
Even people outside Chicago know the “Daley” name.
In this case, it is not former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, but his brother, Bill – onetime Chief of Staff to President Barack Obama. Bill Daley has been mentioned as a potential challenger to Gov. Quinn for the Democratic nomination for governor.
Quinn is definitely running, and Daley said he is mulling it over.
“We need a governor in our state, and that’s me, who works every day on things like pension reform, banning assault weapons. I think it’s important to have total emphasis on jobs and economic growth," Quinn said. "That’s what I work on, and I think that’s much more productive for the people to have a governor who’s focused on jobs than one who’s focused on politics and the next campaign.”
Despite making them top priorities, Quinn has been unable to get legislators to pass a pension overhaul or stricter gun control measures.