Pat Quinn's 'reform' made Legislature worse
Published March 17th 2002 in Rockford Register-Star

A couple of weeks ago the Editorial Board had the candidates for the 67th House District seat over for a group interview. There were three Democrats and two Republicans. Tuesday, voters will pick the nominees for each party.

Editorial Page Editor Wally Haas asked a lot questions, and the candidates all did a pretty fair job answering them. They talked about what they wanted to do to improve education, the economy and the environment. They talked about taxes.

As they spoke so sincerely, I thought "Yes, and you'll go to Springfield and do just what your leader tells you to do because otherwise you'll be toast."

This isn't a slap at those honorable men and women. This is a slap at the system created in the mind of one Patrick Quinn, a quixotic Democrat and "reformer." He's on the ballot Tuesday for lieutenant governor.

Back in 1980, Quinn persuaded voters to pass a constitutional amendment reducing the size of the Illinois House from 177 to 118 members. Voters overwhelmingly agreed when Quinn told them a smaller Legislature would be more efficient and waste less money. But instead of reform, we've been practically disenfranchised.

Before the amendment became law, three members, two from one party and one from the other, represented each House district. We called this "cumulative voting." In the Rockford area, for instance, most people generally preferred Republicans, so we usually sent two GOP representatives and one Democrat to Springfield. In Chicago, the reverse was true.

Under cumulative voting, power was spread around the state, and legislators tended to be less partisan than they are today. The one Democrat Rockford always returned to Springfield was E.J. "Zeke" Giorgi. Only cumulative voting allowed the Forest City's beloved "Zeke" to enjoy a three-decade run, becoming assistant majority leader and mentor to Speaker Mike Madigan.

After Quinn's "reform," cumulative voting was scrapped. For the past two decades, we've had single member House districts. Now Republicans in Chicago are voiceless. Democrats don't have anyone who speaks for them in most suburban and many downstate districts.

Power is now concentrated geographically and ideologically. Chicago and DuPage County rule through Democratic Speaker Madigan, Republican Minority Leader Lee Daniels, and the union and business interests that fund the two parties. Members, especially new ones, have little say about which bills get called for a vote and what will actually be in the bills.

They only know how they're supposed to vote. If they vote the right way, they'll be eligible for "pork" project money doled out by the leaders. If they vote the wrong way - no pork for them.

Now wasn't that a grand reform? Thanks, Pat. Got any more bright ideas?