News Local/State

Longtime Reporter Discusses Impact Of Term Limits, Redistricting

A United States map showing redistricting methods by state

Yellow = legislature-based redistricting. Green = commission-based redistricting. Purple = non-partisan staff develop maps, then voted on by legislature. Grey = no redistricting (only one legislative district). Wikipedia Commons

As the budget stalemate continues in Springfield, Republican Governor Bruce Rauner is still pushing for several items from his agenda to be passed by the Democratic-controlled legislature before he’ll budge on approving additional revenue for the state.  Two of the items on the governor’s wish list are legislative term limits and independent redistricting, the latter of which was upheld by the US Supreme Court earlier this week. 

Alan Greenblatt is a reporter for "Governing," who has written extensively on both issues.  In a conversation with Morning Edition Host Brian Moline, Greenblatt said term limits are much more popular with the voting public than they are with those who actually have to govern.

"If you ask people in and around the state capital, everybody pretty much hates it," Greenblatt said.  "Legislators don't like it because they can't build up seniority and knowledge.  The result is power shifts to other players, whether it's staff that stick around forever and know more about the subject.  It's tended to make governors more powerful."

Greenblatt said even though legislative term limits can result in more power for the executive branch, it can also make it more difficult for the executive branch to govern.

"They tend not to like it either because they don't have negotiating partners," he said.  "They don't have people with expertise in the legislature that they can deal with."

As for independent redistricting commissions, Greenblatt said they can only do so much in creating more competitve races in state legislature and congressional races.

"Redistricting hasn't made it all that much more competitive," Greenblatt said.  "Incumbents do tend to win, overwhelmingly, but it does seem like in states with commissions there's a little more competition."