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Editorials

Our View: Legislators should impose their own term limits first

What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

That’s one of the first thoughts that came to mind when we heard about a new piece of legislation introduced in the Illinois House of Representatives.

House Bill 476 would impose term limits (two terms maximum) on people who serve on school boards and community college boards of trustees across Illinois. The motivation behind the legislation, as we understand it, is that the sponsor, state Rep. Thaddeus Jones, D-Calumet City, thinks bringing new members onto such boards at regular intervals would bring a fresh look and new ideas regarding the various issues that confront them.

Perhaps that’s so. But it also would brush aside the voices of experience of veteran school board members – community leaders who might still have a desire to serve, but who would be unceremoniously tossed off the board after two terms.

We point out that there already is a way to limit the service of school and college board members. It’s called an election. Elections are regularly held so that voters can oust – or retain – members as they see fit.

Back to House Bill 476. Its sponsor must fervently believe in the idea of limiting terms of service on educational boards, or he wouldn’t have taken the time and trouble to write the bill and introduce it. We would feel much better about the whole thing if legislators first would introduce and approve legislation to limit their own terms.

Illinois lawmakers are legendary about passing laws that affect everyone else in the state but exempt themselves. And look at the Illinois Legislature! Its House speaker, Michael Madigan, who celebrated his 75th birthday Wednesday, has been in the Illinois House since 1971 – 46 years! Its Senate president, John Cullerton, has been in the Legislature since 1979 – 12 years in the House, and since 1991 in the Senate – 38 years in all!

They preside over a Legislature that is notorious for not bringing a fresh look and new ideas to the worsening financial issues that confront the state. Illinois hasn’t had a full-fledged budget for more than 21 months. As of April 18, it has a $13.3 billion backlog of unpaid bills, the state comptroller said.

Illinois chronically spends more than it takes in. State universities and community colleges are suffering mightily from a lack of state support, as are human services providers and other agencies.

Surely the Legislature is a prime example of the need for term limits, if any institution is. And yet, one of its members wants to impose term limits on someone else.

“What’s good for the goose is good for the gander” is one way of describing it.

Blatant hypocrisy is another. Let legislators limit themselves first before forcing the issue with local school boards and community college districts across Illinois.

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