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Proposal to shrink senate may hurt downstate

SPRINGFIELD -- A proposal to shrink the State Senate may hit hard south of Interstate 80.
SPRINGFIELD -- A proposal to shrink the State Senate may hit hard south of Interstate 80. Gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner has proposed cutting the number of State Senators from 59 to 41. But experts say it will be tough to represent the needs of downstate residents. WCIA-3's Steve Staeger has the story.

Rauner says it will make it tougher for incumbents to hold their seats, and he says that will keep insiders out of Springfield. But critics say shrinking the Senate will actually make senators more distant from their constituents.

"The largest drive in my district was 45 minutes. Under the new district, it would have been something like two or two and a half hours to the farthest part of my district."

That's when former State Senator Larry Bomke decided to call it quits. 2012's new legislative map would have made it nearly impossible to travel around as much as he wanted to.

"I would have picked up a district that would have gone from Sangamon County, straight west to Missouri and almost down to Alton."

Before that, Bomke was known as the senator who spent his free time at events, as many as ten per weekend.

"The one thing I prided myself on was being out in the community. Often people would say to me, 'I was going to call you, but I knew I'd see you.'"

A new proposal would make that tough for a lot of downstate senators already struggling with huge districts. It would shrink the State Senate by 18 members. The man behind the proposal says it would make senate races more competitive.

But Bomke says it could remove some of that face to face contact, and that's the core of good government.

"In downstate, now even today, you have districts that are huge and to reduce the number of senators would make it even more difficult."

Making this change would require a constitutional amendment. Voters would have to approve it. Right now, Rauner is collecting signatures for that proposal. It would also increase the size of the State House, and cap lawmakers' terms at eight years.
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