Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Mapping Referendum may not be on ballot

Rauner: Mapping ballot measure may suffer term limits' fate in high court

Local Government

Karen Kidd | Aug 16, 2016

Contributed photo

No one knows which way the state's Supreme Court will rule on the pending Independent Map Amendment ballot measure, but the litigation could face the same fate as previous rulings about term limits, Gov. Bruce Rauner recently told reporters.

"Where the Supreme Court comes out on it ultimately, I really don't know,"  Rauner told reporters at the kickoff of the 2016 Illinois State Fair last week in Springfield. "It's not a good sign that the first court to rule used the same basis to throw out fair maps that they used to throw out term limits two years ago, saying that if a change that impacts the legislature is going to be on a constitutional referendum, it has to be passed and put on the ballot by the legislature itself. That's basically the outcome of their ruling."

The State Supreme Court, in the summer of 2014, denied a petition that sought review of an appellate court's ruling that a term-limit ballot initiative was unconstitutional.

Now the state Supreme Court is considering an appeal concerning the latest Independent Map Amendment measure that supporters want on November's ballot. The measure calls for the creation of a multi-stage redistricting process that would create an 11-member commission to create a new district map for the state.

The ballot measure is similar to the Illinois Independent Redistricting Amendment, known as "Yes for Independent Maps," a 2014 effort that didn't reach that year's November ballot after a Cook County judge ruled it was unconstitutional.

A challenge to the latest proposed Independent Map Amendment was filed in May in Cook County Circuit Court soon after the Independent Maps group filed its petition with state election officials. The petition contained twice as many signatures required to place the amendment on the November ballot.

The challenge, filed by plaintiffs tied to Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Dist. 22), alleged the ballot question violates the state's Constitution, including safeguard provisions in Article XIV. The challenge also alleges the ballot question usurps the authority of the democratically elected General Assembly and the governor to enact redistricting legislation.

In July, a Cook County judge blocked the amendment from being added to the November ballot, which prompted supporters to assert that, if allowed to stand, such a decision would eviscerate the right of Illinois residents to propose constitutional reforms.

Rauner told reporters that he is focusing on the term-limits court outcome, even as he considers what the state Supreme Court might do in the Independent Map Amendment case. The two proposals have had similar court outcomes so far. "That's what they said about term limits," Rauner said. "That's the reason we are asking voters, the people of Illinois, to ask their legislators to vote for term limits to get it on the ballot. The people deserve to vote on this themselves. They deserve the same thing with fair maps. I'm worried that the Supreme Court may come out the same door that the lower court did; we don't know. But we've just got to stay the course and advocate for it."

The Independent Map Amendment ballot measure is among several reforms that Rauner is advocating, especially in the upcoming legislative session and despite the announced resignation of a key ally in the Assembly, State Sen. Matt Murphy (R-Dist. 27). The senator said in an open letter on his website that his resignation will be effective Sept. 15.

"I think he's been a great legislator," Rauner said. "He will be missed, no question. That said, we have strong advocates in the General Assembly for what we are recommending for reform. Frankly, we have strong advocates in the Republican Caucus. We've got some strong advocates in the Democratic Caucus. Some of them are more quiet about it that they might otherwise be, but we've got advocates on both sides of the aisle. And I'm optimistic we'll get some good reforms done for the people."

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