Term limits form dividing line between Cullerton and Lewis
Term limits was the topic of the day in a recent Daily Herald article comparing the candidates for the state Senate District 23 seat.
Incumbent state Sen. Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) favored limiting the time General Assembly leaders can serve as the House Speaker or Senate President, while Republican challenger Seth Lewis called for term limits for the governor and all legislators.
Term limits has been a hot topic in Illinois. Nearly four out of five residents support term limits, yet no legislation has made it through the General Assembly.
Voter-initiated amendments were submitted in 1994 and again in 2014. The 1994 effort was removed from the November ballot after the Illinois Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional.
Supporters of term limits made a similar effort in 2014. They submitted 591,092 signatures to the state elections board. The measure would have limited legislators to eight years in office. But the term limits amendment was challenged in Cook County Circuit Court, and Judge Mary Mikva ruled that the term limits amendment was unconstitutional.
Supporters appealed the decision to the First District Appellate Court, which upheld the lower court's ruling. The Illinois Supreme Court refused to expedite the case, which resulted in it being eliminated from the November ballot.
The legislature has also seen several term limit proposals, however, none has passed. The 2011 effort by state Rep. Joe Sosnowski (R-Rockford) would have limited legislators to a combined 20 years in the state Senate and House. He also proposed a limit of two consecutive terms in the same office for the executive branch. The bill had no co-sponsors.
Two term limit proposals were presented in 2013. State Reps. Anthony DeLuca (D-Chicago Heights) and David McSweeney (R-Barrington) proposed a total limit of 18 years. State representatives would be limited to three two-year terms, state senators would be limited to three four-year terms.
State Sens. Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove), Darin LaHood (R-Peoria) and Kyle McCarter (R-Lebanon) also presented a term limit proposal, suggesting a 10-year combined total for state legislators. Both proposals failed.
Cullerton expressed his support for term limits for legislative leaders, such as House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago) and Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago). The two long-term legislators have led the House and Senate for 31 and seven years, respectively. He withheld his support, however, on the question of term limits for the General Assembly. He pointed to former state Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Hinesdale) as an admirable example of a long-time legislator. Dillard resigned from the state Senate in 2014 to take the position of chairman of the Regional Transportation Authority.
Lewis told the Daily Herald that he would support term limits as a constitutional amendment that would be placed before the voters in 2018. He said legislative leaders should not lead for more than five sessions. On the question of term limits, he supports limits of 10 to 12 years for senators, 14 years for representatives and two terms for the governor.
Lewis turned to social media to express his views on term limits and his opponent on Oct. 12, after the Daily Herald article was published.
"Illinois politics is broken, and politicians like Tom Cullerton and Mike Madigan think staying in power is more important than passing good government reforms like term limits," Lewis said. "I am proud to stand with the 80 percent of Illinois voters who support term limits."
In addition to his support for term limits legislation, Lewis voluntarily signed a pledge to limit his time in the legislature.
Cullerton and Lewis will face off in the upcoming Nov. 8 general election. Both candidates ran unopposed in their respective primaries.