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***Guest Column***

Last week was a busy one in Springfield. Things are moving again. Rank-and-file members of both parties negotiated a deal at the lunch table to send emergency funds to colleges, universities and students across Illinois. It was a temporary fix, but I’m optimistic that both sides are beginning to agree on things. The Governor signed the appropriation measure Senate Bill 2059 into law this week which released $600 million from the State’s Education Assistance Fund. The Comptroller has stated that although there is only $345 million in the Education Assistance Fund, it is enough to immediately pay student MAP grants and she will work closely with colleges and universities to avoid further cuts and closings. The Education Assistance Fund should have the $600 million on hand by June 30th.

***Guest Column***

Well, it was an interesting week in Springfield. We worked on several important issues. The Democrats pushed through a $3.9 Billion spending plan (Senate Bill 2046) which was essentially the same one they proposed before, except with a slightly larger price tag. Just like before, this one has no funding mechanism, no way to pay for it. What it amounts to is a false promise to Illinois families and only adds to the stack of unpaid bills on the Comptroller’s desk. I’ll tell you about our Comptroller, Leslie Munger.

Comptroller Munger, the state’s chief financial officer and the one responsible for cutting the checks to pay state bills, likens this situation to a family budget. According to Comptroller Munger, it’s like a family sitting down at the kitchen table with $100 and trying to pay down a $7,000 stack of bills. A family can’t afford to spend or budget this way. The State shouldn’t either. The Democrats $3.9 Billion spending bill that was passed this week just adds to the mountain of unpaid bills. It is an IOU with no way to ever pay it back; an empty promise to the people of Illinois.
***Guest Column***

I just arrived back in northwest Illinois after spending the past week in Springfield, though we should have been back to work the entire month of March it appears the next seven weeks will be very busy.  No budget resolutions were discussed yet, but many pieces of legislation were debated in committees and sometimes in a manner not conducive to good government but nonetheless argued on their merits.  There were 2,181 House Bills and 1,194 Senate Bills introduced this year and it never ceases to amaze me as to the content of some of these bills.  Here are a two of those bills.

***Guest Column***

The 2016 primary election is one for the record books.  Across the 89th District, individual precincts, city wards, and entire counties reported record early voter turnout and record voter turnout for a primary election.  I’m excited and reinvigorated by the enthusiasm expressed for our local and national elections.  I hope the trend of increased voter participation and involvement in our local elections continues.

I’d also like to express my humble gratitude for receiving 17,396 votes across the 89th District.  By comparison, in the 2014 primary, I garnered 11,834 votes of your trust.  The political guys tell me by increasing your vote totals by 47% percent in 2 years means we’re doing something right. This is a “we,” because you and I talk weekly, and then I take your ideas to Springfield; and frankly, our common sense approach has been resonating down there.  Your ideas are a reflection of the weekly column, and I appreciate the communication; however, this week I want to set the ground for a debate – one to further occur on social media this week - about convictions and compromise.

***Guest Column***

“Spring ahead, Fall back.”  I’ve recalled which direction we change our clocks with that little mnemonic for years now.  Historically, the Germans were the first to implement Daylight Savings time with the hope of saving energy.  We, the US, followed suit in 1918, but often cited along with energy savings is that it was a part of wartime rationing.

It’s interesting to ponder the points of history that we highlight annually and how our memory of events changes over time.  For the younger audience, take some time this week to talk to a grandparent, friend, or neighbor that is over the age of 75.  With age, supposedly, comes wisdom.  With age, the experience of change and watching generations grow and change has to be fascinating.

I am mindful of how we retell stories each year trying to offer some insight or different perspective than previous versions of the story.  I find this especially fitting for the State of Illinois government.  We’re now over a week into our month long break from Session.  I know my colleagues and I would prefer to have an open debate, real discussion, and real votes; instead, I find myself writing the same story trying to offer a different insight into the quagmire of Illinois government.
Unwillingness to Compromise

This past week was the last scheduled day of session for an entire month.  Yes, I said an entire month. The next session day scheduled is for Monday, April 4th.  You are probably thinking with that long of a break we must have solved all the states problems; not exactly.  Did we solve the budget crisis No.  Did we vote on meaningful reforms to help alleviate some of the mounting financial pressures No.  Did we do anything that is going to make things better today than yesterday? No, we did none of the above.

As the Speaker of the House was ready to call for adjournment on Thursday evening, neighboring State Representative Tom Demmer (R-Dixon) stood to make a motion to not adjourn so that we could continue to work on the budget.
After deliberating behind the podium for around five minutes, the Speaker replied that Rep. Demmer’s motion was “out of order” and thus proceeded to rapidly adjourn, denying the opportunity to debate the motion.  The Speaker and staff behind the podium literally ran out the door.

 Obama and Budget Address

View from the 89th District's House Seat (Rep. Stewart)
President Obama addressed the Illinois General Assembly last week for the first time.  While a number of sitting American presidents have visited Springfield and the Illinois State Capitol Building, only four have given addresses to joint sessions of the legislature.  The last President to speak in front of the General Assembly was Jimmy Carter in May of 1978.  Herbert Hoover spoke in June of 1931, and William Howard Taft addressed Illinois legislators in February of 1911.

It was a very interesting day in the Illinois Legislature when President Barack Obama came to Springfield and addressed a joint session of the Illinois House and Senate.  It is historical in the sense that a sitting President addressed the General Assembly in Illinois or any other state for that matter.  Regardless of your politics, party, ideology or whether or not you support his agenda his remarks were insightful as to what is going on in Illinois and in this country for that matter.