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**Guest Column*** 


Everyone loves a positive news story. We are excited to hear when a company announces that it is expanding in our area. Even better, we love to hear that a company is leaving another state and setting up shop in Illinois, though I must admit, as of late we’ve heard more about businesses leaving our state than entering.

We can point to any number of reasons as to why companies have chosen to pack up and leave Illinois for another state: cumbersome regulations, the burden of worker’s compensation, high property taxes, or even the state budget stalemate – just to name a few. The one thing that is certain is that we don’t want businesses leaving Illinois. All that leads us to the question: what are we doing to stop businesses from crossing the border?

If we can agree on the obvious premise that Illinois can’t compete with other states’ lack of red tape and favorable tax climate, then we can see that a mechanism to keep jobs in our state is necessary. For that reason, the Economic Development for a Growing Economy (Edge) Tax Credit Act is imperative if we want to minimize the damage that Iowa, Indiana and Wisconsin are doing to our local economy. In fact, all three of those states also have a version of Edge to lure businesses away from Illinois.

I think of the Edge program as being our last line of defense against a constant onslaught of neighboring states who are poaching our businesses left and right. And if you don’t think other states are actively working on recruiting Illinois businesses, then look no further than the billboards scattered along I-94 near the Illinois-Indiana border.

Messages that read “Can you spell deficit? We can’t” and “Envy is a sin, but moving here isn’t” are unmistakably taunting Illinois residents as they drive the corridor. I will readily acknowledge that the Edge program is far from perfect. This year I introduced House Bill 3105 which would strike the portion of Edge legislation that mandates a company must show that an investment could not be made in-state without the tax credit. In my opinion, the current language makes it difficult for small businesses to prove this before a committee. Small businesses often do not have the resources to employ an army of attorneys. And though I will be the first to tell you that the Edge program could be better, I adamantly believe that it is necessary to keep Illinois competitive regionally.

Even as we debate the merits of saving jobs and keeping businesses here in our state, some lawmakers thought it would be a good idea to spend $1.5 million on software that would translate the Illinois General Assembly website into Spanish. At first, this may not sound like a terrible idea, but that’s only because you haven’t heard the punchline yet.

In a classic case of the government trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist, the sad humor is that the free market already has a solution. But wait, there’s more. Not only does the free market have a solution; the free market has a FREE solution. Google Translate is a 100% free application – and it works well.

I would like to thank my colleague Representative Keith Wheeler (R-50, Aurora) for demonstrating the effectiveness of the free technology by translating the entire text of the bill into Polish. When he was asked how difficult the software was, Rep. Wheeler (who runs an I.T. company) responded, “It just took one click.”

And here’s the kicker: my friends on the other side of the aisle wanted to spend $1.5 million on translating the ILGA website into one language. Google Translate can convert text into 100 languages.

Please consider the two topics of discussion this week: tax credits that save jobs, and software that is literally a waste of money. I don’t like to highlight the dysfunction in Springfield, but I do believe it is necessary that we re-focus our priorities to consider what we can do to grow Illinois both in population and job creation.

In the meantime, I would urge all of us, especially my colleagues in the General Assembly to remember that the free market is the only way to create jobs. If we support businesses that create jobs instead of coming up with more “good ideas” on how to spend more money, then perhaps we could see economic growth in Illinois. As someone once said, “There is no problem too great that the government can’t make it worse.”

As always, you can reach me or Sally at 815-232-0774 or e-mail us at repstewart@gmail.com. You can also visit my website at www.repbrianstewart.com or on Facebook.
From the Prairie Advocate:

FREEPORT – Hundreds of area students gathered Saturday in the Highland Community College Student Conference Center for their regular monthly Servant Leadership training session, but their March meeting brought something more to the table – it also was a celebration of the program’s 20th anniversary.

“In 20 years, our servant leaders have clocked more than a million hours of community service in our 4-county region,” Highland Community College Servant Leadership Coordinator Kim Pool said. “They've completed thousands upon thousands of service projects and helped countless community agencies through volunteerism.”
***Guest Column*** 

I recently filed House Bill 3096, which would create the Lincoln-Douglas Historic Tax Credit. If approved by the legislature and signed into law, Freeport would benefit from one more tool to entice developers to invest in Northwest Illinois. As of today the bill is in the Revenue & Finance Committee, I will do everything I can to move this bill along quickly.
Another bill that I filed was House Bill 3555, which is an amendment to the Illinois Unified Code of Corrections. The purpose of the bill is to save taxpayer dollars from being squandered on legal costs when the defendant has the means to pay for his or her own legal costs.

Drew Peterson was arrested, charged and convicted of murdering his wife. Most of us remember the media story surrounding the case. After Mr. Peterson was already incarcerated he was also charged with conspiracy to murder the State’s Attorney who had prosecuted him, so that brought about another trial.

For his second trial, the court appointed a private legal team to defend Mr. Peterson, and those legal fees totaled $264,000. This cost was born entirely by you and me – the Illinois taxpayers. The United States Constitution unequivocally grants anyone accused of a crime the right to an attorney. In fact, every arrest includes the reading of “Miranda warnings” (otherwise known as Miranda rights) which specifically details the arrestee’s right to obtain legal counsel.

In Drew Peterson’s case, he could very well afford to retain private counsel, but the state still stepped in to pay his legal bills. When the judge who oversaw the case was asked about how that had happened, Judge Richard Brown said, “If I were to tell the defense ‘you can’t spend any more,’ then in fact I think it could be said later the defendant wasn’t given a fair trial.”

That’s certainly a legitimate concern. The last thing we need is a mistrial that would result in more wasted tax dollars. But this is where I believe the Illinois General Assembly has an opportunity to right this wrong for future trials.

The text of H.B. 3555 reads: “If it is determined that the person is indigent and eligible for representation by the public defender, the expense of the prosecution shall be paid by the Department (of Corrections).” Under the new legislation, only those inmates who are found to be unable to pay private legal fees will be given representation by a public defender.

No one will lose legal representation as a result of this bill, but those who can afford to pay for their own representation will now be expected to do so. Given the nature of our current fiscal environment, it is imperative that we go line by line through our state expenditures. I believe that this bill will save the state millions – and it’s something that both sides of the aisle can agree on as a common sense reform.

In a statement released by the Governor’s office, Governor Rauner announced his support for the new law by saying, “Taxpayers are on the hook too easily for inmate legal bills… In a time when financial resources are tight across state government, there are better uses for the more than $200,000 the state is paying to defend Drew Peterson.”

If my bill is passed by the General Assembly and signed by the Governor it won’t solve our budget shortfalls or bring the stalemate to an end, but every step helps when trying to balance a budget. As we go line by line through our budget we should remember the words of our favorite debt-free proponent, Dave Ramsey: “A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.”

As always, you can reach me or Sally at 815-232-0774 or email us using the contact form on our website at www.repbrianstewart.com
House Republican Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) and a group of Illinois House Republicans presented House Resolution 58 to a group of state police officers, recognizing the 95th anniversary of the Illinois State Police Department.

The Illinois State Police Department was formed on April 1, 1922 under the direction of Superintendent John T. Stack; its motto is, “Integrity, Service and Pride”.

Today, the Illinois State Police has 21 patrol districts, seven investigative zones, six operational forensic science laboratories, and five regional crime scene services commands under the helm of Director Leo P. Schmitz.

As of 2017, more than 60 state troopers have paid the ultimate sacrifice by giving their lives in service to the state and its citizens. The Illinois State Police Heritage Foundation’s Memorial Park will soon be constructed in downtown Springfield.

“We recognize the Illinois State Police Department on its 95th anniversary and thank them for their service, and wish them many more successful years,” Durkin said.
***Guest Column*** 

We all know that Illinois is in a state of turmoil. We’ve been guilty of kicking the can down the road one too many times, and for decades we have been neglecting our pension payment obligations. I’ll be the first to say that I don’t envy the Governor’s current position.

This past week Governor Rauner gave his annual budget address. In his speech, the Governor laid out his spending plan for the next fiscal year. Some of his numbers relied on the State Senate to continue negotiations in an attempt to fill a budget gap, and the rest relied on anticipated revenues.

There is little debating the fact that Illinois doesn’t have enough funds flowing in to pay all of our bills. The only question is how are we going to fill that void. To his credit, the Governor has shown a refusal to play another game of kick the can. Previous Governors have relied on accounting gimmicks that raided the transportation and other funds, but Governor Rauner is determined to come up with a long-term solution to a far too long ignored problem.

So where does this leave us? The Governor signaled that it is necessary for the Senate to continue their budget negotiations to achieve a balanced budget. We’ve already seen good progress on that front, though some proposals that have been floated were almost universally opposed.

One of the points where the Governor left no room for debate was in adding to the financial burden born by lower-income families and fixed-income seniors. This means that proposals which included taxing retirement income – or raising taxes on food and medicine – would all be opposed by the Governor.

It’s safe to say that we will probably not have a budget until the Senate has reached an agreement, but an agreement is perhaps not as far off as some might think. As I’ve said before, the Senate has never been closer to a budget compromise. Senate President John Cullerton and Republican Senate Leader Christine Radogno have been meeting regularly, and we can only hope that their meetings will result in an agreement.

Bi-partisan compromise is the only vehicle that can drive us out of this mess. I’ll say it again and again: the Governor can’t fix the state’s budget by himself. It’s going to take Republicans and Democrats working together for the good of the state. Thankfully, that is exactly what we have been seeing, and that gives me hope for the future.

The one thing that we should all remember is that a balanced budget isn’t just about getting your finances to look good on a sheet of paper – it’s about confidence. When businesses know that Illinois is serious about meeting our obligations and serious about keeping our fiscal house in order, then we can expect to see economic growth.

Put yourself in the shoes of someone who is thinking about purchasing a house in a city whose city hall is so dysfunctional that the council can’t agree to a budget. Would you feel confident about buying that house? Even if that house had everything you wanted, it would still have an ominous question mark lingering over it.

For the most part, that’s how many businesses see Illinois. I can only imagine a board meeting in which the question is asked “Why would we even move to Illinois when Wisconsin and Indiana have balanced budgets? We have no idea what new taxes Illinois will place on us the minute we locate there.”

Not only am I thinking about companies that are considering moving here, I also have to think about those companies who are considering leaving Illinois out of fear for the future. That’s not even to mention the companies that very well could add new jobs, but have held off because of an environment of uncertainty. Once negotiations have concluded, we can move forward with a balanced budget, and we can expect a positive economic impact on our region.

“Certainty” and “sustainability” - those are the words that come to mind when considering what it’s going to take for Illinois to succeed. At this point, I’m hoping that bi-partisan cooperation will lead to a healthy dose of both certainty and sustainability for all of us.

As always, you can reach me or Sally at 815-232-0774 or e-mail us at repstewart@gmail.com. You can also visit my website at www.repbrianstewart.com or on Facebook.
From WGN TV:

CHICAGO — A Republican State Representative has introduced a bill that would require inmates with financial resources to pay for their own defense if they’re charged with committing a crime while behind bars. Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner quickly said he supports the bill.

The legislation is in response to a WGN Investigates report that found Drew Peterson’s court-appointed legal team charged Illinois taxpayers $264,000 to defend the former Bolingbrook cop. Peterson was convicted of plotting from prison to hire a hit man to kill Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow. Glasgow was the prosecutor who put Peterson in prison for killing his third wife Kathleen Savio.

“Taxpayers are on the hook too easily for inmate legal bills,” Rauner said in a statement to WGN. “In a time when financial resources are tight across state government, there are better uses for the more than $200,000 the state is paying to defend Drew Peterson.”

Peterson’s defense cost the Illinois Department of Corrections more than it has spent to defend an inmate in 18 years.

A Randolph County judge told WGN Investigates he decided to forego a public defender and appoint private counsel for Peterson because of the complexity of the case. However the judge said it’s not his job to reign in the costs of private attorneys.

“If I were to tell the defense ‘you can’t spend any more,’ then in fact I think it could be said later the defendant wasn’t given a fair trial,” Judge Richard Brown said.

The new bill, sponsored by State Rep. Brian Stewart, R-Freeport, would require the Illinois Department of Corrections to pay for legal fees in similar cases only if it’s determined the inmate cannot afford a private attorney on his own.
***Guest Column*** 

As I am writing this I have just returned from Springfield after two days of session. Two days of session and not much to show for it, unfortunately. Many of you are asking about the so called “Grand bargain” being discussed in the Senate. As a member of the House, I am not a part of those talks, and quite frankly I learn from the same news reports most of you do.

I will say this about the talks: I am optimistic that members of the other chamber are meeting to discuss budgetary issues in a bi-partisan fashion. Even though some of the proposals that are being talked about are beyond that which I can support, the very notion that the two sides are willing to engage each other is encouraging.

For far too long we’ve heard that everyone in Springfield wanted a compromise but no one was willing to make the first move. The legislative chamber resembled something along the lines of a middle school dance where the guys awkwardly stood on one side of the room and the gals stayed on the other. I can think of no better description of the past year than to refer to it as the most ornate and time-consuming middle school dance in world history.

But here we are – finally talking about working together. There is some good news after all. Let’s hope that these negotiations are in good faith and that we can actually achieve the necessary reforms that will allow us to keep school doors open, fund our necessary social services, fulfill our pension promises, and provide a level of certainty that we can use to leverage Illinois as a place to grow businesses and create jobs. That’s the goal, and I hope that’s exactly what we will see.

Now I suppose I should recount what happened in Springfield over the past two days, and I should warn you to brace yourself for an underwhelming explanation. The three takeaways were: 1) we discussed and passed House Resolution 30 Zombie Preparedness Month – yes you read that correctly. No Budget, however we are concerned about Zombies. 2) Lawmakers discussed creating yet another state holiday in which state workers would get one more paid vacation day, and 3) My friends on the other side of the aisle spent almost a whole day complaining about President Trump from the floor of the Illinois House. Oh by the way, after we are done bashing the President maybe we could get around to asking him for a federal bailout. Kidding aside, I don’t believe the charades accomplished much of anything at all. We don’t have a budget, but apparently we have plenty of time to bash the President while on the taxpayer’s dime. That doesn’t sit well with me for some reason. Regardless of how you feel about the President, we, as state legislators, have a job to do. And our job description does not include pontificating on federal issues from the House floor.

Speaking of our legislative job descriptions, I would like to take a moment to share with you my committee appointments this year. I’m proud to say that I have been selected to be on the Agriculture and Conservation Committee – a committee that is very near and dear to the hearts of many of us in Northwest Illinois.

I was also appointed to the Appropriations – Public Safety Committee as well as the Executive, Labor and Commerce, Revenue and Finance, Veterans’ Affairs Committees as well as the Unemployment Insurance, Workers Compensation, Property Taxes, Sales Taxes and Finance Subcommittees.

Finally, I had the honor of being named Republican Spokesperson on the Judiciary – Criminal and the Restorative Justice Committees. Needless to say it will be a busy year legislatively. But most importantly, I plan to use these various committee appointments to be an advocate for Northwest Illinois. At the end of the day, which committees I’m appointed to is not nearly as important as my primary task – to represent you. As your voice in Springfield, I always want to know which issues are important to you. That’s why I have a district office, and that’s why that door is always open.

As always, you can reach me or Sally at 815-232-0774 or e-mail us at repstewart@gmail.com. You can also visit my website at www.repbrianstewart.com or on Facebook.