Friday, November 13, 2015

Illinois Constitution should have soft term limits

Last night newly appointed Sen. Laura Murphy spoke to Northside DFA making the case for NDFA to endorse her and provide volunteers for her general election campaign in 2016.

Along the way Murphy spoke in favor of term limits for legislative leaders. If I'm not mistaken this idea came out of the Illinois Reform Commission 100-Day Report (April 28, 2009).

I don't understand how this approach can't be undermined by passing the title of legislative leader but the more powerful senator or representative remaining as the power behind the throne by controlling the key political committees.

But this blog entry isn't to discuss the shortcomings of that proposal, but to suggest something more promising, what I call "soft term limits".

In addition to standing for re-election against the candidates qualified for the general election ballot, a candidate would stand for election on whether this will be the elected official's last term. If over half the voters say make it her/his last term then s/he doesn't stand for re-election again.

Proposed Amendment to Illinois Constitution

When an elected official (including those appointed to the office) stands for reelection she shall stand for election on the question:

"If re-elected shall this be the last term as [name of office] for [name of candidate]?"

If over one half of votes cast are "yes", she shall be prohibited from running for re-election at the end of her term.

The Illinois General Assembly shall enact a process into law by which a former elected official can rehabilitate herself for future elections for the office in question.

If federal law or court rulings prohibit these election results from being binding on members of Congress, the elections shall still be conducted, but considered advisory.

These elections shall not be required of elected officials in office when this amendment is adopted when running for reelection to their current offices.

However, exempt elected officials can choose to stand for election as described in this amendment. However, once an elected official makes this choice it shall be binding on future elections.

Because US Senators have six-year terms, the question shall be asked in the general election two years prior to the US Senator standing for re-election. 
This amendment should accomplish most of the benefits of traditional term limits while dealing with the objection that if elected officials are popular they should remain in office.

Hopefully, this will put pressure on Congress, the Illinois General Assembly and other units of government to do a better job keeping the popular support of the people.


  1. Can the state enact even soft terms limits on federal officials?

    1. My understanding is that federal courts have disallowed term limits in specific states on members of Congress.

      This is why they should be advisory (until federal law allows them to be binding).

      It seems like voters have a First Amendment right to express whether they want someone to remain in office.