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Lawmakers Sound Off on Budget, Redistricting at Chamber Event

A lawsuit might not be far off.

Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-24th, Westmont) called political map drawing the root of all evil.

Dillard, a Hinsdale Republican, was one of several legislators to speak to chamber of commerce members during a breakfast sponsored by the Elmhurst, Downers Grove and Lisle chambers. State lawmakers, including Dillard and fellow Sens. Ron Sandack (R-21st, Downers Grove), Christine Radogno (R-41st, Lemont) and John Millner (R-28th, Carol Stream), were joined by DuPage County Chairman Dan Cronin at the Double Tree Hotel in Downers Grove to discuss the Illinois budget and new political maps.

The legislative panel, all Republicans, was critical of the map drawing process. Because the new maps heavily favor Democratic candidates, Sandack called the maps the “Democratic Incumbent Protection Act.”

Redistricting is a process conducted every 10 years following the results of the U.S. Census. New political boundaries are drawn to reflect shifts in populations and demographics. It is a purely political process, and in the case of Illinois, designed to grant the party in power at the time the maps are drawn the ability to craft maps that favor that party in future elections.

The latest maps, passed by the legislature last month, were drawn by the Democratic majority and will likely ensure strong Democratic gains at the polls in future elections–unless a Republican legal challenge is successful.

Phil Luetkehans, a Wheaton attorney who is legal counsel to Senate Republicans on redistricting, said a lawsuit will likely be filed. He did not specify when the lawsuit would be submitted, but said it will be soon. Meanwhile many political hopefuls are gearing up their campaigns for the next election based on the latest maps.

Focusing mainly on Congressional maps, the legislative panel said the new districts do not comply with the idea of grouping communities with similar common interests in the same district. They were also critical that legislative Democrats placed 20 current Republican lawmakers in districts with other Republican lawmakers, but did not lump any incumbent Democrats together.

The lawmakers touted the need for fair map creation. Millner said future maps will continue to benefit politicians and not the voters if map-making is left in the hands of elected officials.

“Until we go to a fair map system, redistricting will continue to be the root of all evil,” Dillard said.

The legislative panel also discussed the state budget and the current business climate in Illinois.

Lee Daniels, an adjunct professor at Elmhurst College and former member of the Illinois legislature, said everything in Springfield pales when it comes to the state budget.

Radogno, a Lemont Republican, concurred with Daniels. She said state policies are all about the money at the end of the day.

Sandack said the 67 percent income tax hike passed in the waning hours of the last legislative session damaged the state’s business climate.

“Now we have a governor who has to run around the state to ask big business not to leave the state,” Sandack said. “And the incentives he offers them to stay are subsidies that small businesses have to pay. Unless fiscal policies are changed to stabilize the state, the business climate of Illinois will be uncertain.”

To change the business climate, Sandack said it will take a change of culture in Springfield.

Dillard added that the latest income tax hike must be rolled back in order to benefit business and the people of the state.

Daniels, a former Republican member of the House, could not resist telling the crowd that if Dillard had won his party's bid for governor and gone on to defeat Gov. Pat Quinn, the state's business climate would be in better shape.

Lawmakers also addressed the worker’s compensation bill signed into law this week. While they said it was a good start, they said the legislation needed to include language addressing cause of injury.

John Quigley, president of the Elmhurst Chamber of Commerce, said that also was the feeling of many business leaders in the area. He attended a chamber event last week and said most members echoed that desire.

Sandack said after the legislation was passed, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, a Democrat, blasted the legislation as too weak, saying it needed to include causation in the language.

“Imagine if she’d had the courage to speak out about the bill before it was passed, it could have caused the bill’s language to be strengthened,” Sandack said.

Dan June 30, 2011 at 11:53 PM
I actually prefer Ron Sandack's approach to keeping us informed over some politician knocking on my door. Even if you don't agree with him you have to admit he is doing an excellent job at keeping us informed on what is happening in Springfield. By the way there are 3 Democrat County board member in DuPage county one of which represents part of the Elmhurst area.
Jim Court July 01, 2011 at 06:55 PM
This process is always about power and control, plain and simple. I like the computer generated model for its fairness and integrity.
Cinda K. Lester July 02, 2011 at 11:44 PM
I agree with not drawing their own maps - that just makes sense. The whole issue of gerrymandering seems very antiquated these days anyway. There's really no reason that IL can't use a program much like IA's (and this is coming from Democrat!). I see that Laura Crawford answered the question regarding who was invited - and I find it a bit disheartening to see that none of the Democrats responded to the invitation. Sure, they feel their job is done, and done fairly. But that doesn't mean that they aren't valued in a discussion. I know I would certainly expect the same were the tables turned. As usual, Mr. Senator, thank you for your continued input and discussion. You're not even my senator (well, I think you will be with this redistricting...ha!), but I very much appreciate knowing what's going on, and the latest issues at hand. While we surely do not agree on all topics, your dedication to keeping your constituents informed is duly noted and very much appreciated.
Bruce Beckman July 06, 2011 at 09:00 PM
I saw the League Breakfast as an opportunity lost regarding "diversity of opinion". While I'm sure Lee Daniels is a fine fellow, as the moderator his role was not to "feed" questions to the panel nor was it to embellish obviously politically biased answers. I was hoping for a moderator of his supposed stature in our county to ask probative questions. As an example, when Senator Sandack indicated he supports the LWV proposed reaportionment plan, the moderator should have followed up with a question seeking more depth of knowledge of the League's proposal. I am happy to see Senator Sandack take a statesman like position on this issue. I can't help but think that the process most recently deployed was essentially developed by Tom Delay and the Texas Republican Party.
William Vollrath July 06, 2011 at 11:33 PM
Or, more likely, Chicago Dems...

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