Brian's Column 02-13-2015

Last week in Springfield, we were given our committee assignments.  For the 99th General Assembly, I will serve on the Agriculture & Conservation, Appropriations-Public Safety, Human Services, Judiciary-Criminal, Labor & Commerce, Revenue & Finance, and Veterans’ Affairs.  I believe the array of committee assignments represents the interests of the 89th district, as well as taps my unique experience as a State Representative.  I served in the Army (Veteran’s Affairs); I am retired Stephenson County Sheriff’s Sergeant (Judiciary-Criminal); I run several small businesses (Labor & Commerce and Revenue & Finance); and I’ve worked to create strong ties to the agriculture leaders and industry, so I can represent our farmers and agri-business well.  Human Services will allow me to assist in providing services to those in our region with disabilities and to families in need.  Appropriations-Public Safety maintains purview over the Illinois Department of Transportation and the Illinois State Police, and I will continue to bang the drum for another 25 years, if necessary, about Highway 20 and other road projects.
In recent days, Illinois has seen what it looks like when a politician keeps his word.  Whether you agree with him or not, you can trust that the Governor will do what he says he will.  Governor Rauner stated in his State of the State Address that his goal was to make Illinois the most competitive and compassionate state in America. 
Two examples:
Governor Rauner established the Local Government Consolidation and Unfunded Mandate Task Force of which Lt. Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti will be Chair.  Illinois leads the nation with nearly 7,000 units of local government, which is higher by 1,800 more than any other State.  Some of these unnecessary layers of government are why hardworking families end up paying some of the highest property taxes in the nation.  Illinois shares more than $6 billion in revenue with local governments but imposes more than 280 state-imposed unfunded mandates on local governments which costs our communities billions.  
Illinois has 905 school and community college districts, the 3rd highest in the country and Illinois school districts have had at least 140 unfunded mandates since 2000.  Now, not all mandates are bad, some can save taxpayer dollars or help provide better services, but that is exactly what this task force will be looking into.  Streamlining local government functions and school districts will help reduce costs and freeing local government from unfunded mandates imposed by the state will save local taxpayers money.  Every dollar saved through this Task Force process adds up and ultimately goes back into the taxpayers’ pocket.
Governor Rauner also explained in his State of the State Address that he plans to reform the criminal justice system, and, on Wednesday of this past week, he started the process of doing just that by creating the Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform.  The commission will examine the current criminal justice system and sentencing structure to develop comprehensive and evidence-based strategies to improve public safety.  The commission is responsible for recommendations to the Governor that will effectively improve public safety outcomes and reduce the prison population by 25% by the year 2025.  I was honored to be asked by the Governor to serve as a member of this commission.
While I know that some in our district will disagree with the Governor’s recent actions, I believe all of us can respect a Governor who acts on his promises. “There are many qualities that make a great leader,” says Rudy Guiliani. “But having strong beliefs, being able to stick with them through popular and unpopular times, is the most important characteristic of a great leader.” Our state and country need more of that kind of leadership.


As always, you can reach me or Sally at 815/232-0774 or email us at repstewart@gmail.com. You can also visit my website at www.repbrianstewart.com or follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus.

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