April 07, 2009

Illinois Senate president to speak on campus

by Pete Rosenbery

John J. Cullerton
CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Illinois Senate President John J. Cullerton will speak at Southern Illinois University Carbondale next week.

The Chicago Democrat will present a lecture at 1 p.m., Wednesday, April 15, in the Student Center ballrooms. Cullerton’s appearance is part of the John White Lecture Series. White is a major benefactor of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute and was a close friend to institute founder, the late Sen. Paul Simon. The lecture is free and open to the public.

With more than 30 years of legislative experience in the Illinois General Assembly, Cullerton started his tenure as state senate president in January under the microscope of overseeing the impeachment trial of then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich. His bipartisan approach in formulating the trial’s rules and procedures enabled the state senate to unanimously approve rules that mirrored the U.S. Senate’s impeachment trial of President Clinton a decade earlier.

“John Cullerton has inherited leadership of the state Senate at an historic and unusually significant time,” said institute Director David Yepsen. “His leadership skills and commitment to bi-partisanship were on display during the impeachment trial of Rod Blagojevich and now Illinois faces other significant challenges that will require his continued statesmanship. We are delighted to provide the opportunity for him to share his message about the future of our state.”

Cullerton is widely viewed as a legislator who can bring opposing voices together to end the state’s recent history of legislative gridlock and partisan bickering. In his inaugural address to state senators, Cullerton noted the importance of working together when he said, “The atmosphere here has deteriorated and we have lost a sense of camaraderie that we can -- and must -- restore,” his biography states.

Cullerton served in the Illinois House of Representatives from 1979 to 1991. Cullerton moved to the state senate in 1991 after his appointment to the state senate’s sixth legislative district seat in 1991 following Dawn Clark Netsch’s election as state comptroller. Cullerton captured his first full term as state senator in 1992.

Cullerton worked to strengthen child safety laws with the state’s Child Passenger Safety Act, and also led a charge to require all front seat passengers wear safety belts. He also pushed for increased requirements for younger drivers.

Cullerton earned a law degree from Loyola University of Chicago’s School of Law. He earned his bachelor’s degree in political science also from Loyola University of Chicago. He started his legal career as an assistant public defender for the city of Chicago, and in 1979 entered private practice with Fagel Haber, LLC, now Thompson Coburn Fagel Haber, LLP, where he continues as a partner.