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***Guest Column***

A February article of Crain’s Chicago Business stated that Illinois ranked 46th out of the 50 states and Washington, D.C. in non-farm payroll growth. Our ranking is falling among other states in median household income growth, and the state actually had a net loss of jobs in 2015.

Anyone who has lived in Northwest Illinois for more than a few years isn’t surprised by any of these numbers. We have observed the ebb and flow of our local economy, and many of us have experienced firsthand the pain of watching industry leave the area. To blame this on any single factor would be unfair and incorrect, but there is no question that the State of Illinois has done little to positively impact our region’s plight.

Most of you know that this isn’t simply just anecdotal evidence; this is our region’s history. But you didn’t elect me to reminisce on what was and what could have been. You want to know what I am doing to help turn around our region. As I often say, one of the reasons I ran for office was to bring a small business perspective to the state legislature. To that end, I have been working to eliminate burdensome regulations that negatively impact our region by hurting our small businesses. So I am encouraged to bring you some good news from Springfield out of the Governor’s office.
***Guest Column***

Can we just forget about politics for one second and revel in the fact that the Cubs are in the National League Championship Series. If the Cubs make it to the World Series it will be the first time since Mike Madigan became Speaker of the House. Ok, that’s the last time I’ll use that joke for a while. But the point is that it has been a long time coming! Here’s to singing “Go Cubs Go” and flying the “W.”

Shifting gears now to what to write about this week – politics. Many of you have seen me out and about in the community. I keep my schedule jam-packed with as many public events, activities and dinners as my calendar can manage. I was at one such event Thursday night with the wonderful ladies at the Freeport Chapter of the American Business Women’s Association.

We had a great time – and some great pot roast. We talked about local issues and also many of the issues currently being discussed in Illinois. Some of the highlights were “Automatic Voter Registration,” term limits, and redistricting reform. As we were talking about redistricting reform, I had a thought occur to me that I felt I should share with all of you this week.
***Guest Column***

If you’ve read my column or watched the news over the course of the past several months, you know that Illinois is in dire financial straits. There are too many contributing factors to count, but I try to tackle them one at a time. Last week I made brief reference to one such area that I hope to shed more light on this week. I welcome your comments and feedback, and if you would like any source or reference material, please do not hesitate to contact my office.

There is little doubt that Illinois is heading towards a fiscal cliff. When you couple unsustainable state spending with an unstable tax base, the results are never good. On top of these mounting issues, we have even more bad news: Chicago is fiscally insolvent. Why does this matter to us in Northwest Illinois? Well, if the stopgap budget is any indication, our tax dollars will be paying for a municipality’s empty promises. No, state tax dollars will not be going to bail out Freeport or Rockford, they are going to Chicago.
***Guest Column***

Each week many of you send me responses to my column. They range anywhere from “Great column, Brian!” to “What the heck were you thinking, Brian!” and everything in between. I read all your responses. And even if we are diametrically opposed on a given issue, I absolutely appreciate your comments!

That being said, I am honored to be your State Representative and your voice in Springfield. That’s part of the reason why I write this column – so I can hear your responses. So I say this: “Keep them coming.” Keep sending me your comments, and I’ll keep writing this column.

Last week we talked about how Illinois needs a complete overhaul. In baseball terms, we called it a complete rebuild. Allow me to glean one more thing from the Cubs in this week’s column. When the Cubs rebuilt their team they also rebuilt their stadium. The stadium had become a relic (in both good and bad ways). The facilities were completely outdated, and fans complained that they were afraid the stadium would collapse.
***Guest Column***
How about them Cubbies ?

The Chicago Cubs are - almost indisputably - the best team in baseball. Hard to believe that the team that was once the punchline of so many sports jokes is now at the top of the Majors. Not more than a few years ago the Cubs were still known as the “Lovable Losers” of baseball. In fact, I was once told by a Cardinals and a Sox fan that C-U-B-S stood for “Completely Useless By September.” Not this September.

Allow me to use the Chicago Cubs as a metaphor for the state of Illinois because I just see far too many similarities. I know what you’re thinking, “Leave it to a politician to make baseball political,” but I promise you there is a valid point to be made.

Let’s back up a bit. The Chicago Cubs have not won a World Series since 1908. That’s by far the longest drought in American baseball. After years of trying the same “strategies” for building a team, the Cubs became the laughingstock of Major League Baseball. Finally, the Cubs were purchased by a new family - the Ricketts - that wanted nothing more than to win. The new owners understood that a ground floor rebuild was necessary, and they fully committed to the rebuild.
This Sunday is the fifteenth anniversary of the horrendous attacks on our country on September 11, 2001. This day is now known as Patriot Day and is a National Day of Service and Remembrance for the victims. Even though much has changed in the world since that day let us not forget all those lost and their families.

Now, over the past couple of weeks I have been mulling over a topic that has been making headlines – an NFL quarterback has chosen to kneel for the National Anthem instead of standing up and putting his hand on his heart like the rest of his teammates. Why? The man points to what he perceives to be racial injustices within the judicial system.
***Guest Column***

All of us who live in Northwest Illinois know that speeding on U.S. 20 is risky business. Why? Because Illinois State Police District 16 Headquarters is located in Pecatonica, and State Troopers patrol on that stretch of road.

Now, imagine if U.S. 20 had little to no state police patrolling the roadway. Do you suppose there would be more speeding or less speeding on U.S. 20 if this were the case? Obviously, in this hypothetical instance, if there were very few state troopers on 20, then many of us would notice and may take advantage of the situation. But how ridiculous would it be if people were to say “Because there haven’t been many tickets written along that stretch of road, then that must mean people are not speeding.”