Quinn's 'reform' made Legislature worse
March 17, 2002
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.
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.
that a grand reform? Thanks, Pat. Got any more bright ideas?