Brian's Column 12-04-2015

Bipartisanship Wins, More Work to Be Done  

In case you missed it, a lot happened this past week in Springfield. Governor Rauner and the four legislative leaders held a semi-public meeting to discuss the current fiscal woes and the budget impasse.  House members passed a bipartisan appropriations bill that funds critical state services and we reformed the Illinois Unemployment Insurance Act (IUIA) that will help with small business growth.

The meeting between Governor Rauner and the four legislative leaders should have happened a long time ago, but now is better than tomorrow.  Televised live via the internet, the Governor and four leaders made an opening statement, each explaining their position on how to move forward.

By addressing the concerns of each legislative caucus, a resolution to the budget impasse, however hopeful, should now be closer than ever.  The reforms later passed by the Illinois House regarding the IUIA are a step toward bipartisanship and compromise.  By reforming cumbersome regulations, relieving barriers to growth, and making the government more accessible to all, we are laying the foundation of Illinois’ economic turnaround.  I’m not saying it’s a new day in Illinois, I’m saying signs of movement toward passing a budget are better than the past six months.

The following day in Springfield was mostly positive.  We passed an appropriations bill, Senate Bill 2039, that spends more than $3.1 billion dollars on critical state services such as 9-1-1 operations, domestic violence shelters and services, all veterans’ homes, LIHEAP program, mental health, local road funds, and much more.  It also includes $1 billion dollars for payment of lottery prizes.

Furthermore, we reformed the Illinois Unemployment Insurance Act which will achieve cost savings to employers.  House Bill 1285 prevents a $470 million tax increase on small businesses and employers by eliminating the 2016 “rest stop”, a maneuver used if sufficient funds aren’t available and eliminates the Social Security Offset which provides greater financial security to elderly and disabled workers.  Finally, HB1285 strengthens the misconduct provisions of the IUIA to ensure greater protections against fraudulent claims for employers.  Overall, these reforms – agreed to jointly by the Governor, the business community and labor organizations – represent a significant step forward in strengthening Illinois’ economic engine: small businesses.

Finally, as we approach a new legislative session in January, I would encourage anyone with a legislative idea to submit them to me via the contact form located on my website (http://www.ilhousegop.org/contactstewart).

I have been hosting meetings with local leaders such as school officials, law enforcement, elected officials, Chambers of Commerce and small businesses, agribusiness and others to discuss new ideas for legislation or reforming current laws.  As you ponder legislative ideas, be mindful of a quote by Marco Rubio, “As I’ve learned in my time in the state legislature, important legislation is always a work in progress.”

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.