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September 2009 Newsletter

My Thoughts On Redistricting

I have been contacted recently by several constituents regarding my thoughts on redistricting in Illinois and I wanted to share my thoughts with you.

I support changing the way we draw our congressional and legislative districts.  Whether the system would be similar to that used in Iowa where a “non-partisan” computer program is used or relying on citizens and others to compete for the “best” legislative map, as was proposed in Ohio, or some other yet to be determined fair system, I am open to any of them and will support a reasonable constitutional amendment to change the current system.

In 2008, the legislature considered, the House passed, and I supported, a constitutional amendment to change the way we redistrict.  While it was not considered in the Senate, I believe it does show a willingness by the General Assembly to give serious consideration to this very pressing issue.  The Senate currently has a committee taking testimony on redistricting and I look forward to their recommendation.

The existing process for determining district boundaries for both congressional and legislative districts is set forth in the Illinois Constitution that was ratified in 1970.  Currently, the legislature and the Governor must agree on a plan for district boundaries following each federal census (every ten years).  If they are unable to agree, a Redistricting Commission is formed that includes eight members – no more than four being from either political party.  Half of those members are members of the General Assembly and half are not.

If the Commission also fails to agree on a plan, the Illinois Supreme Court submits the names of two persons to the Secretary of State, who publicly draws by random the name of one of those two persons to serve as the ninth member of the Commission.

As I understand it, the framers of the 1970 Constitution believed that the significant risk involved in the “winner take all” tie-breaking system would force the legislature and the Governor to agree on a plan.  That has not turned out to be the case in any of the subsequent redistricting years.

Changing the process of redistricting requires a constitutional amendment.  Sixty percent of both legislative chambers must approve a new process which must then go before the voters for approval.  All this is against the backdrop of an overwhelming number of citizens rejecting a Constitutional Convention for Illinois just last November.  As it should be, amending the constitution is difficult.

However, there is time before the next required redistricting to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot for consideration by the voters.  Again, I do not think this will be easy and no system will be perfect or be completely free of partisan politics, but I believe we can do better.

Changing Pension Legislation

I am happy to report that Senate Bill 369 was recently signed into law by Governor Quinn on August 10th.  I was the chief sponsor in the House for this important piece of legislation that deals with pensions.  Senate Bill 369 requires a legislator’s pension to be based on the average salary paid over a period of four years rather than the salary received on the day the legislator retires.  For all newly elected legislators, this puts an end to the opportunity for legislators to significantly boost their pensions by taking a higher paying job for a short period of time before retirement.  I am currently on the Pension Modernization Task Force that was created by the Governor and will continue to work to bring cost saving reforms to the pension system in Illinois.

My Emergency Cell Phone Event with Sheriff Tom Dart

On Wednesday, August 26th I teamed up with Sheriff Tom Dart to host an emergency cell phone event for local residents ages 65 and older.  The phones only dial and connect to 911, in the event the police, fire department, or paramedics are needed.  The event was an overall success, and I was happy to help provide a possible life-saving tool for seniors.

 

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