Bruce Rauner is in a race against time to get his initiative imposing term limits on state legislators back on the November ballot.
The measure was thrown out last month after a Cook County judge ruled that it did not pass muster. But attorney’s representing Rauner appeared in Illinois Appellate court Thursday, asking for the court to overturn that ruling. Backers of the measure have until August 22nd to get the initiative certified for the ballot, attorney Tim Eaton said after arguing in favor of the measure before the three-member appellate court.
“In short, we believe we have met the requirements, based on existing case law, to have our initiative on the ballot,” said Eaton, who hopes for a ruling before the week’s end so that the state’s Supreme Court could soon take up the case.
The plan seeks to impose eight-year term limits on lawmakers. But in order to conform to an earlier Supreme Court ruling, the plan also would increase the size of the Illinois House, reduce the size of the Senate. It would also hike the voting threshold on lawmakers to turn back gubernatorial vetoes.
Proponents of the constitution-altering initiative say it falls directly in-line with what the framers of the state’s constitution intended when they allowed for a citizens’ initiative process. But the previous ruling by the state’s high court established precedent making a term limits initiative more susceptible to court challenge.
“We are certain that our amendment meets constitutional muster. The only question is whether the court is going to rule that way,” said Mark Campbell, who heads up the term limits campaign.
The earlier Supreme Court ruling tossed a term limit proposal — brought by then-Treasurer Pat Quinn — ruling it went beyond making “procedural” or “structural” changes to the state Legislature.
But even though backers of Rauner’s initiative say the changes it calls for are limited to “procedural” and “structural” changes, Cook County Judge Mary Mikva previously ruled “any term limits initiative appears to be outside what is permissible,” under the state constitution.
Mikva’s ruling came after House Speaker Michael Madigan sponsored a legal challenge to Rauner’s proposal.
In appellate court on Thursday longtime Madigan attorney Michael Kasper made a similar argument.
“This term limits initiative is virtually indistinguishable from the one the [state] Supreme Court invalidated,” Kasper told the justices. And he argued previous court decisions dealing with term limits provided a “one-two punch to this initiative that it cannot recover from.”
But Eaton said earlier court rulings baffled him.
“I don’t know how [the framers of the state constitution] could have ever envisioned that the Supreme Court interpreted [term limits] the way they did,” Eaton said. “I don’t know how anyone would envision that term limits would be an exception” to their intent.