The Governor swung through last week on a statewide tour to discuss the need for term limits and an independently drawn legislative map. While its very obvious looking at Springfield that something desperately needs to be done to root out entrenched politicians, I question whether term limits are actually needed. I would argue that taking care of the mapping issue would actually solve the problem.
Let me first explain why I am not fully on board with term limits. When a person becomes a state representative or senator, there is a lot they need to absorb in a very short amount of time. Many that run for the position have local elected experience, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will be able to hit the ground running in Springfield. Honestly, most representatives spend their first term in office learning how to find the restroom, their office, and a committee room or two. By telling a person that they can only be a state representative for, let’s just arbitrarily say three terms, its theoretically only by the end of their second term before they feel comfortable and confident with the process to begin to fully represent their district.
Additionally, term limits punish those representatives and senators who actually want to properly represent their constituents and make their lives better. Believe it or not, there are a few public servants left in Springfield that actually care about the people that sent them there and they should not be told their time is up prematurely.
An independent mapping system would actually solve the problem of entrenched politicians and open up the statehouse to better and more competent legislators. Right now, the map of legislative districts is drawn every ten years by the leaders in the House of Representatives and the Senate. Then the map is approved by the Governor. The last time there was a map drawn was 2010, with districts that went into effect following the 2012 election cycle. At that time, Speaker Michael Madigan, Senate President John Cullerton, and Governor Pat Quinn worked to draw a map with districts that favored their Democrat Party and made it difficult for Republican opponents to defeat incumbent legislators. This disadvantage will remain until the next map is drawn in 2020. And for the record, I don’t believe this a power either political party should be allowed to yield.
If the state were to use an independent mapping system, the districts wouldn’t take the political persuasion of the residents into account, but rather just the total number of people living within a district. District shapes would make more sense and not be the bizarre abominations they are now. Additionally, the population of that district will not lean so heavily towards one political party or the other, opening the elections up to more equality. This means the incumbent office holder must serve the will of the people of his or her district or face legitimate competition at election time.
Under this system, good, honest politicians that serve their constituents will be rewarded with re-election and will be sent back to Springfield, bringing years of valuable knowledge and experience with them. And political hacks who seek office to further their own personal glory and agendas will be sent packing in a timely manner.
So before we start calling for the baby to be thrown out with the bath water, I would urge the Governor and the legislature to calm down on the election year rhetoric and just look at the sensible solution of an independent mapping system. Term limits can always be debated later if I’m wrong…