Gov backs term-limit bid, but legislative clock may kill GOP plan

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SPRINGFIELD-Gov. Pat Quinn joined the term-limits push at the statehouse, throwing his support Thursday behind a proposed constitutional amendment that would limit governors and other statewide officeholders to eight years in office.

But Republican Bruce Rauner questioned the governor’s sincerity since the issue may be dead-on-arrival at the Statehouse since the Illinois Constitution requires that proposed constitutional amendments be read in each the House and Senate on three different days.

Without adding days to the existing legislative calendar, that requirement is impossible to meet by a May 5 deadline for passage.

“Constitutional amendments have long allowed the power of the people to translate into positive reform for Illinois government,” Quinn said in a prepared statement.

The governor’s stance comes after Rauner called out Quinn for being silent on the proposed amendment, which was introduced Wednesday by Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont, and House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs. The plan would apply to governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, treasurer and comptroller.

Rauner is the lead proponent of a petition drive to get a different constitutional amendment on the fall ballot that, in part, would limit legislators to eight years in office.

Quinn, however, made clear in his statement that Rauner was not the reason behind his endorsement of the Radogno-Durkin plan.

“I led the charge to establish term limits for legislators through constitutional amendment in 1994; I successfully established recall for the office of governor through constitutional amendment in 2010; and I spearheaded the successful effort to reduce the size of the House by constitutional amendment in 1980,” the governor said.

“I hope voters have the chance to consider this constitutional amendment on the ballot,” Quinn said.

A Rauner aide questioned whether the governor’s words were merely an empty gesture since neither Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, nor House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, have shown any willingness to put the plan on a fast track.

“If Pat Quinn is to truly be believed that he supports term limits for constitutional offices, he needs to call on his party’s legislative leaders to bring it to the floor,” Rauner spokesman Mike Schrimpf said.

An aide to Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, has voiced little interest in the Republican legislation, noting that voters can impose their own term limits on state incumbents by voting them out of office every two- to four years.

Cullerton spokeswoman Rikeesha Phelon told the Chicago Sun-Times Thursday that Quinn’s show of support for the Radogno-Durkin plan doesn’t change the Senate president’s position on that concept.

“I don’t know it alters the Senate president’s perspective on it,” Phelon said of Quinn’s statement. “But it may be encouraging for people that are on the fence about whether or not term limits are the appropriate way to provide some limit to leadership in Illinois. We’ll have an opportunity when members get back and as we review the legislation to get a better sense of how our members are feeling about the proposal and what they’d like to see done.”

The General Assembly’s two-week spring break ends this week, with both chambers due to return to Springfield on Tuesday to begin the five-week push to the Legislature’s scheduled May 31 adjournment.

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