News Local/State

Madigan: “Campaign Purposes” Behind Rauner’s Term Limits, Redistricting Push

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, speaks at a House committee hearing at the Capitol in Springfield, Ill.

Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan has criticized the plan for redistricting as an attempt by Republicans to grab power. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File)

Gov. Bruce Rauner wants the legislature's help in making two big changes to the state's constitution, but the Illinois House Speaker isn't on board. It's one of various causes of gridlock at the state capitol.

As a candidate last year, Rauner talked a lot about term limits. Now that he's governor, he's pushing for lawmakers to sign on. The governor often repeats his goal of removing power from what he calls the "political class" -- in particular from, House Speaker Michael Madigan whom he charges "controls" legislators.

The governor's also calling for changes to redistricting, the process for determining what neighborhoods will comprise a legislative district.

Madigan, a Democrat, says Rauner's plans are pure politics.

"They were Republican Party campaign issues, designed to be used in Republican campaigns. They haven't changed. That's the purpose of the Rauner advocacy of those two issues: Republican Party campaign purposes."

Madigan also says minorities’ interests were unprotected when Arizona relied on commissions to draw legislative maps … to the point that a federal court invalidated Arizona’s plan.

" It's a very clear case of discrimination against minorities, it's clearly set out tin the opinion of a court in Arizona, and it was the product coming out of a commission," Madigan says.

Madigan is Illinois' longest-serving legislator; he's been House Speaker for the past three decades, save for a single term in which Republicans gained control of the House.

Term limits, and a change in how the legislative map is drawn, would diminish his power, as well as that of the other legislative leaders. While the Republican leadership is on board with the governor's agenda, both House GOP Leader Jim Durkin and Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno lengths of service easily surpass Rauner's hoped-for eight-year limit on legislative service; Durkin was in the Illinois House from 1995-2003 and following a failed bid for U.S. Senate returned in 2006; Radogno has been a state senator since 1997.

Rauner's insistence on term limits, redistricting changes, and a few other policy changes is part of what's holding up a budget deal. Only if the General Assembly signs onto them will he consider new revenue that'd prevent record cuts.

Rauner has said that legislators need not pass measures that sending the proposed constitutional changes of term limits and redistricting this year; rather he wants leaders' guarantee.  The General Assembly can send a limited number of constitutional amendments to the ballot, where voters would need to give final approval.

An independent group is also aiming to get a redistricting question on the 2016 Illinois ballot, by gathering a half-million petition signatures.