State high court ruling against redistricting measure 'no surprise' to Blumenthal
While many are shocked that the Illinois Supreme Court ruled against the Independent Map Amendment and upheld Cook County Circuit Judge Diane Larsen’s ruling that the amendment is unconstitutional, Martin Blumenthal, the Republican running for the District 58 State House seat, was not surprised by the party-line vote.
Blumenthal said it was a display of the reach of House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago.
“It’s no surprise to me,” Blumenthal told the Lake County Gazette. “It was 4-3 along party lines, and so it’s all political. It seems to me that it is impossible to change our Constitution no matter what we do. Madigan has his lawyer arguing so obviously he is against any kind of Independent Map Amendment. He calls the shots, even up to the Illinois Supreme Court.”
What astounded Blumenthal, however, is the Democratic judges on the state high court who denied the voice of the voters and supported a lower court ruling's notion that the Independent Map Amendment measure did not fit the narrow legal window to change the 1970 Illinois Constitution.
“It just amazes me that even the Democrats on the Supreme Court could deny the voters what they want,” Blumenthal said. “It was over 600,000 people who signed the petition. It’s just amazing. It appears that for some reason, back in 1970, we made it impossible to change the Constitution. It’s very disappointing, and it’s going to be politics as usual.”
The remapping efforts promoted not only a redistricting of the legislative borders, but opened the elections to more competition. Blumenthal, a lawyer by trade, questions the presence of democracy when there is no choice for voters.
“Where is the democracy when you have the legislative districts such that there is no opposition?” Blumenthal said. “60 percent of races this year are unopposed. That is crazy. I’m very disappointed in the decision. I was hoping it would go through.”
Blumenthal promises that if the redistricting effort were to surface again, he would support it.
While the state may not see a change on its map for some time, it is already seeing the effects of a slow economy. Its job growth rate is at 1 percent, while the national growth rate has been 5.4 percent since December 2007. Its gross domestic product grew 0.8 percent in the first quarter of this year, compared with the same period last year. The national average was 2.1 percent growth.
Blumenthal is once again not shocked.
“If it was any different, I would be skeptical because the way Illinois is losing population and businesses, I don’t see how the state could be growing,” Blumenthal said. “It makes sense with what the other statistics show: Businesses and people are leaving the state, either to chase jobs or because of high property taxes. It makes sense. It is all correlated. 0.8 percent growth when everyone else is over twice that…I am not surprised at the slow economic growth.”
Many analysts have said the loss of manufacturing jobs in the state has significantly contributed to the slow economic growth and high unemployment. Blumenthal agreed with the findings.
“Manufacturing, as opposed to the service industry, is really the strength of an economy when you are actually making things and making them right here,” Blumenthal said. ”You are employing people in those factories to make the products. It just lends itself to a very solid, productive economy.”
Blumenthal laments the inability of the state to keep its manufacturing businesses.
“We have companies that can manufacture here in Illinois and are employing Illinois laborers, which leads to an overall improvement of the economy,” Blumenthal said. “We have tremendous shipping because of the proximity to the Great Lakes and Chicago being a hub of the railroad industry in the United States. Shipping is fantastic here, and it’s amazing that business can’t do business here because they are being driven out by other economic factors. That’s why we have to do everything we can to keep the manufacturing companies that we have and attract more.”
Many of those companies find themselves migrating to neighboring states such as Michigan, which has seen an increase of 600,000 manufacturing jobs. Blumenthal said the state has to do everything it can to prevent any more losses.
“We have to stop the bleeding somehow,” Blumenthal said. “We have to do it now and try to get some of these companies back into the state.”
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