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This editorial appeared in the June 2, 2019, edition of The (Moline) Dispatch and Rock Island Argus:

We apologize to those expecting to see a post-mortem of the historic Illinois legislative session.

But given the game-changing issues that still were in play at this writing, it will take time to sort out the winners and losers. In fact, given the massive size of the complex bills involved, it's hard to tell what else may be lurking in the ones that survived.

So, please indulge us as we focus today on the hypocrisy and disregard for the democratic process at the center of what our state leaders refused to do yet again. That's create a path to independent legislative mapmaking that would allow voters to pick their state lawmakers rather than the other way around.

Instead, rank-and-file Democrats, with barely a whimper, stood by as House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton buried the latest in a series of amendments to create an independent commission to draw Illinois legislative and congressional districts.

Leadership's long opposition to giving voters the power to change the constitution leaves Illinoisans working to end political gerrymandering one last shot to get an amendment in voters' hands. If one isn't approved by lawmakers next year, Madigan's cartographers will use pinpoint technology to cement his control over who gets elected for another decade.

Meanwhile, however, rank-and-file Democrats were far less reluctant to champion a leader-driven constitutional amendment to replace Illinois' flat-rate income tax with a graduated tax. Many, including some who claimed to be undecided about the merits of the "Fair Tax," said they backed the amendment because it gave voters the final choice.

Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker also used that argument in April to help sell his signature proposal. "We have a constitutional amendment process that ultimately puts this decision to the voters," he said. "It's time to let the people of Illinois -- our taxpayers -- decide."

Even Madigan couldn't resist waving the democracy flag in a celebratory statement Thursday that began, "The completion of the Fair Tax package ensures the people of Illinois can evaluate the proposal on the basis of facts and hard numbers, not half-truths and special-interest spin."

This newfound affinity for the power of the people will, of course, be fleeting, as reformers well know. The General Assembly has been the place where amendments to reform Illinois have gone to die for more than three decades.

Madigan supporters argue that those amendments, including ones designed to take back Illinois elections, fail to get on the ballot because proponents fail to make the case for them. That assumes proponents get the opportunity to do so.

Consider, for example, the ways in which Madigan & Co. have blocked fair maps, such as refusing to call resolutions for a vote, making sure both houses don't pass the same bill, and using sympathetic courts to overturn the will of half a million Illinois voters who signed a petition to get an independent map amendment on the ballot.

Voters can expect more of the same when leaders are faced with an independent maps amendment next year. They also shouldn't count on Pritzker to lead the charge for change, his April voters'-choice comments notwithstanding. Remember, when he was asked his views on fair maps, candidate Pritzker said only that he would veto an unfair map. In addition, it seems unlikely he would endanger leadership's goodwill on that issue with pieces of his ambitious agenda still pending.

That leaves the fight for fair maps where it always has been: In the hands of voters who must convince their lawmakers to stage the legislative coup required to make them a reality.

Victory remains a long shot, of course. But the path to independent elections won't get any easier if those in power get the chance to control who gets elected for another decade.

So stay active, alert, and involved.

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