A Delaware state senator wants term limits. But his bill to institute them remains stuck in committee run by longest-serving lawmaker

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If first-term Delaware state Sen. Eric Buckson had his way, several of his legislative colleagues would already have outlived their welcome.

To that end, the Dover-area Republican introduced a constitutional amendment this spring that would impose term limits on members of the state Senate and House.

Senators would only be able to serve four four-year terms. House members would be limited to seven two-year terms.

His bill would also limit Delaware’s attorney general, insurance commissioner, treasurer, and auditor to two four-year terms. Delaware’s governor and lieutenant governor are already limited to two terms.

But Buckson is cognizant of the reality that few comrades in the General Assembly on either side of the aisle would vote to make themselves or colleagues ineligible for re-election any time soon.

So he included this key caveat: The clock would not start ticking until the measure was enacted.

In other words, even legislators like House Speaker Valerie Longhust — now in her 11th term — would count the 2026 election as their first term.

A constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds vote by each chamber for two consecutive two-year sessions of the General Assembly. To become part of the constitution, the measure would have to pass in the current session that ends in June, and then in the 2025-26 session.

Buckson was elected in 2022, defeating Colin Bonini, a fellow Republican who also had tried in vain to pass term limits but then ended up serving seven Senate terms before Buckson thwarted his bid for an eighth.

“It’s healthy for democracy,” Buckson said of setting term limits. “I don’t think a career in politics spanning 30 years in the same seat was something that was ever envisioned or comprehended by our founding fathers. I think it’s wise to have term limits that say you can be here, you can do good but your time is set and when it is time, you’ve got to move on.”

Sokola: ‘We have term limits. The voters do it’

Yet Buckson’s legislation is currently in limbo — stuck in the Senate Executive Committee that held a hearing on the measure in May.

The chair of the panel is Sen. Pro Tem Dave Sokola, who is by far the longest-serving lawmaker in Dover. Sokola, a Democrat first elected in 1990, is in his ninth term and 33rd year representing the Pike Creek and Newark area.

Sokola would not agree to an interview about the legislation and its limbo status, but recently informed Buckson in writing that “there was not sufficient support from members of the committee to release’’ the measure to the full Senate for debate and a vote.

  • September 29, 2023
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