Suburbs lose lots of experience in Springfield

SPRINGFIELD — When the current General Assembly officially ended at noon today, the suburbs lost a bevy of lawmakers with more than 120 years of political experience among them.

Fifteen suburban lawmakers from both the Illinois House and Senate retired or lost their re-election bids in November, which will make for a particularly freshman-heavy new class being sworn in today.

The departing group ranges from two-decade veteran state Rep. Rosemary Mulligan of Des Plaines to two-year freshman state Rep. Chris Nybo of Elmhurst.

Retiring state Rep. Franco Coladipietro, a Bloomingdale Republican, said despite the turnover, he thinks the state will be in good hands.

“A lot of the new freshmen have a lot of experience and will bring great insight to the process,” said Coladipietro.

The departing members will hand off responsibility for the state’s $9 billion in unpaid bills and a pension crisis that the outgoing General Assembly failed to address. Coladipietro expressed disappointment that pension cuts will be among the issues the new members will have to deal with, but he said he thinks they are capable of handling the problem.

“I don’t think the new representatives wouldn’t understand the gravity of the pension crisis,” Coladipietro said, adding that many campaigns had pension reform among their top issues.

Other departing suburban lawmakers acknowledged the important role of freshman lawmakers.

“In the legislature, there should always be a combination of experienced lawmakers and new blood,” state Rep. Sidney Mathias, a Buffalo Grove Republican, said.

Mathias was one of many suburban politicians whose re-election campaign was affected by redistricting. He lost the only campaign in the state between two incumbent lawmakers.

“I do not regret my decision to run 14 years ago, and I don’t regret running last year,” Mathias said.

State Sen. Susan Garrett, a Lake Forest Democrat, served in the General Assembly for 14 years and said it was time to give others a turn.

“I decided that I didn’t want to be seen as a career politician,” Garrett said.

She said her greatest accomplishment in her time at Springfield was her effort to bring transparency, accountability and oversight to government programs.

“I came in as a community advocate, and once I began to understand the inner working of government, I realized that it needs much more oversight,” Garrett said. “I was a sponsor on almost every ethics bill during my time in Springfield.”

Now, departing lawmakers are looking to their next opportunities. State Rep. Randy Ramey, a Carol Stream Republican, said he plans to return to work in the Illinois secretary of state’s office, as he did before he was elected.

Nybo said he would consider running for any future offices only after consulting with his wife, Faye.

Nybo, a Republican, said he was proud of his busy term, pointing to his early support of a Democratic-backed pension cost reduction plan proposed during the lame-duck period as one reason the idea got so much attention.

“I think that I was certainly an instigator for what was going on right now,” he said.

Other suburban lawmakers not returning to the general assembly are Rep. Sandy Cole of Lake Villa; Rep. Kent Gaffney, a Lake Barrington Republican; Sen. Chris Lauzen, an Aurora Republican; Rep. Karen May, a Highland Park Democrat; Sen. John Millner, a Carol Stream Republican; Sen. Carol Pankau, an Itasca Republican; Sen. Suzi Schmidt, a Lake Villa Republican; Sen. Tom Johnson, a West Chicago Republican; and Sen. Jeffrey Schoenberg, an Evanston Democrat.

Ÿ State Government Writer Mike Riopell contributed.

Kent Gaffney
Susan Garrett
Tom Johnson
Chris Lauzen
Sidney Mathias
Karen May
John Millner
Rosemary Mulligan
Chris Nybo
Carole Pankau
Randy Ramey
Jeff Schoenberg
Suzi Schmidt
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