State legislative term limits in Illinois? Prospects and potential impacts

December 1, 2007

State legislative term limits in Illinois? Prospects and potential impacts

The year 2007 brought unprecedented political gridlock to Illinois state government, reducing public satisfaction with the governor and General Assembly dramatically, and generating serious discussion about a draconian political reform that dates from the Progressive Era – the recall of elected officials. Only one state has adopted the recall since the 1920s, Minnesota in 1996. But since 1990, almost half the states have adopted a more invasive and significant institutional reform with a similar populist appeal – state legislative term limits.

Term limits brought political tumult to many states, but most Illinoisans know little about them. This report briefly describes how and why term limits were adopted elsewhere and what impacts they have had. The author also considers how term limits might affect the Illinois General Assembly should they be adopted here and assess the likelihood of that happening. Few currently expect Illinois to adopt state legislative term limits, but there is an outside chance that they could be adopted through a state constitutional convention or an initiative.


Research Area: Politics & Government

Policy Initiative: none

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