Locked in a bitter struggle with House Speaker Michael Madigan over a reform agenda that's largely been ignored by Democrats, Gov. Bruce Rauner on Monday renewed his push for the reform he prizes above all others: term limits for state elected officials.
It's a cause he took all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court in 2014, when he provided heavy support -- both financial and in his statements on the campaign trail -- for a citizen-led referendum to put a term limits question before voters that year. The court, as it had done with a similar effort led by then-Treasurer Pat Quinn in 1994, ruled the term limits question outside the narrow bounds of what citizen initiatives are allowed to change in the state constitution.
Rauner, delivering a prepared speech at Raise Marketplace, a Chicago tech startup, again called on lawmakers to place a term limits amendment before voters.
"I've been governor of Illinois for a year and a half now. We've gotten some important things done. But I'm as frustrated as everyone else that we haven't been able to tackle the biggest challenges facing our state," Rauner said. "These past 18 months have been a humbling experience. I've learned just how entrenched the politicians holding power are. They don't want to change. They are focused on their own power, rather than empowering people. But I have also learned that you want me to keep working to fix our broken political system. That is just what I plan to do."
Rauner spoke as the supreme court prepares to hear arguments on a new redistricting reform effort a week after Cook County Circuit Court Judge Diane Larsen ruled the measure unconstitutional. The lawsuit that led to that decision was filed by Michael Kasper, the same Madigan ally who successfully sued to stop Rauner's term limits amendment two years ago.
While Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton have paid lip service to public demand for redistricting reform -- the House and the Senate each voted on their own redistricting reform bills -- Madigan has been emphatic about his opposition to term limits.
But with the Illinois Supreme Court having ruled that term limits can't be imposed by a citizen-led ballot referendum, Rauner's only hope for enacting them on constitutional officers and members of the General Assembly is for the Legislature to pass an amendment. At the moment, Democrats control three-fifths of the General Assembly.
Rauner acknowledged the obstacle this presents but implored citizens to pressure their lawmakers to get on board.
"Now, cynics will say this is an impossible dream to get term limits voted on by this legislature. But that dream can become a reality if the people of Illinois demand it," Rauner said. "And we are not stopping with term limits. We'll keep pressing every day to lower our property taxes, to protect all our taxpayers, to protect and grow our jobs, and to ensure every child has a chance at a great education. We can do this - if we work together for the reforms our state needs."
The General Assembly is next scheduled to meet on Nov. 15 for its annual fall veto session.
Here's video as well as the full text of Rauner's speech.