Springfield

The last week of session is coming to a close and we have yet to agree on a budget that will begin on July 1st. However, it’s not from a lack of effort. Working groups have been meeting for months to negotiate a bipartisan budget. Instead, Democrat leadership walked away from the table and crafted a budget that mirrors previous years’ budgets, leaving Illinois in snowballing debt.

House Speaker Mike Madigan introduced a $36 billion budget during a press conference on Memorial Day, $4 billion more than the expected $32 billion in revenue for FY2016. The Speaker made it clear that Democrat leadership would work with the Governor to find revenue to fund the $4 billion, but would not negotiate a bipartisan budget.

Only a tax increase will adequately fund the extra $4 billion the House Speaker wants to tack on to the budget. The last income tax increase he and his party passed to fix a budget deficit generated billions in revenue but did nothing to resolve Illinois’ financial woes.

Speaker Madigan’s unbalanced budget violates the Illinois Constitution. Article VIII, Section 2 (b), states that “The General Assembly by law shall make appropriations for all expenditures of public funds by the State. Appropriations for a fiscal year shall not exceed funds estimated by the General Assembly to be available during that year.” The Illinois legislature repeatedly undermines the Constitution by passing budget after budget that exceeds funds available.

Illinois does not have the financial resources available to sustain its spending habits without significant reforms, reforms that must be made by cutting unnecessary expenses. It’s time for Illinois government to learn to live like you and I have—within our means.

Lincoln Sculpture Unveiled 

Local artist Ramon “Jay” Castro crafted and donated a 27 inch bronze sculpture of Captain Abraham Lincoln to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum this past week. The sculpture was created to remind the nation of history of the Black Hawk War of June, 1832, which included citizen soldier Abraham Lincoln. The experience of the conflict the young militia captain witnessed certainly reflected on decisions he would later make as President.  

The not-for-profit project, sponsored by Stephenson County, is aiming to place a 7 foot bronze sculpture of Captain Abraham Lincoln at the Black Hawk War Memorial, located near Kent, Illinois, site of the 1882 Kellogg’s Grove Battle. The Lincoln sculpture will complement the National Historic Plaque, laid in 1969.

The sculpture will be on display at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in honor of the project and local artist. Donations for the project can be mailed to, Captain Lincoln Sculpture, State Bank of Freeport, PO Box 778, Freeport, Illinois 61032.

Memorial Day

On Memorial Day the House honored and remembered those who were called to serve our country. Thank you to all the men and women who have sacrificed their lives so that we can live ours. We also cannot fail to forget the families who have lost a loved one for their country. It is a true honor to know we live in the best nation in the world. Please don’t neglect to remember the fallen. They sacrificed their freedom for yours. As we honor our fallen heroes and as we consider the recent shenanigans in Springfield, let us consider an apt quote by Mark Twain: “patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.”  

Representatives from the Illinois Department of Transportation will be making a stop in Galena this coming Friday as part of their statewide listening tour. The Galena Chamber of Commerce will host the event at the DeSoto House Hotel located at 230 S. Main Street in Galena, Illinois.

The event is open to the public who wish to express their concerns or introduce an idea to help create a better transportation environment for the Northwest Region of Illinois. People who cannot make the event can still participate by filling out the SURVEY online.

Invitation from IDOT -

"The Illinois Department of Transportation and Acting Illinois Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn, in coordination with the Illinois Capital Development Board, invite you to take part in a series of informal public meetings being conducted throughout the state.

This dialogue, emphasizing quality of life and economic growth, will establish priorities for future investment in our transportation system.

These meetings are intended to be a listening tour, sparking discussion that ultimately leads to a package of recommendations that can be presented to Governor Rauner and General Assembly for consideration this spring.

Dates and locations will be updated as additional meetings are confirmed.

Our mission is to start a statewide conversation that lays the groundwork for a realistic, sustainable plan for bringing our infrastructure into the 21st century."
State Representative Brian Stewart (R-Freeport) recognized Christ Lutheran Church of Stockton on the occasion of the church's 125th anniversary by introducing House Resolution 496. The celebration of the 125th anniversary of the establishment of Christ Lutheran Church will be held on October 3 and 4, 2015.


A military event at Apple River Fort State Historic Site will be recalling the service of the Illinois Militia during the Black Hawk War this Saturday. The focus is the militia company of Captain Clack Stone. Military pageantry, martial drill, musket demonstrations, and much more!




EVENT INFORMATION

WHEN: Saturday, May 23, 2015, 10am – 3pm

WHERE: Apple River Fort State Historic Site
                311 East Myrtle St.
                Elizabeth, IL 61028

CONTACT EMAIL: sheilac@sandprairie.net

CONTACT PHONE: 815-828-8028




Through the I-Cash program, the Illinois State Treasurer's Unclaimed Property Division connects state residents with their unclaimed property.

Formerly called Cash Dash, the unclaimed property program was re-named I-Cash in 2012. The law that created the unclaimed property program was established in the early 1960s as a consumer protection initiative.

Almost everybody knows somebody with unclaimed assets: One in eight Illinois residents has an asset to be claimed in I-Cash. Assets include everything from stocks and CDs, to safe deposit boxes and valuables.

The names of 780,000 additional residents were added to the public web database after the state recently double-checked claims from years 1976 to 1992 – a time period before a computer-system upgrade streamlined the database's maintenance.

Click HERE to check today
Supreme Court Strikes Down Pension Bill
The Illinois Supreme Court has ruled against a 2013 law that sought to fix Illinois’ pension crisis. Senate Bill 1, which was passed in the House by a vote of 62-53-1, aimed to reform the way we fund our states’ pension system.  The court ruled that the measure former Governor Pat Quinn signed into law violates the Illinois Constitution. When I read SB 1 back in 2013 I believed that the bill was unconstitutional and that is why I voted “No.”  The legislation prohibited pension benefits from being “diminished or impaired,” which is exactly what the Illinois Constitution states in order to protect employee’s pensions.  We have to reform the system, but we have to make sure that we do it while abiding by the Illinois Constitution.

Workers Compensation Reform
House Speaker Michael Madigan called a Committee of the Whole on Wednesday to hear arguments for and against Governor Rauner’s planned workers’ compensation reform.  The session included testimonials by workers affected by workers’ compensation in Illinois and some surrounding states. Out of the nine panels that provided testimony, only one was allowed to represent employers who actually pay for workers’ compensation.

Illinois ranks number 7 for highest workers’ compensation rates, and, while some reform took place after a 2011 bill, most employers have not seen the improvements they were promised when the bill was passed. Additionally, employers can end up being responsible for injuries that resulted from a previous job or that are only partially a result of the employee’s current position.  We need reforms that will root out the fraud and abuse within the system.  To allow businesses to flourish in Illinois and to keep them from moving to other states, Illinois must find a way to ensure creating jobs doesn’t mean unnecessary financial burdens for businesses.

FY16 Budget Games
Leaders from the House, Senate and Governor’s office have been holding budget working group meetings that have been going on for weeks now.  Both sides are discussing possible solutions and trying to find common ground for a bi-partisan budget.  However, Speaker Mike Madigan decided to show his party’s dominance in the House after ramming through budget bills while undermining the budget process. Sixteen multi-billion dollar appropriation amendments were filed just hours before they were called for a vote.  These amendments were never talked about in the budget working groups and they were never heard before a committee.  Hundreds of pages of new spending, no debate on where the revenue was coming from or how we were going to actually pay for it, and I had to decide in mere hours how to vote.   

All Republicans took a stand to vote “present” in response to the disingenuous political games that were being played.  We face at least a $4 billion dollar deficit in the FY16 budget.  We need to work together as we were elected to do and find a bi-partisan solution to fix the fiscal crisis. Unfortunately for Illinois, the partisan politics I saw at play this week concerning the budget will do nothing to help our fiscal crisis.  Spending reductions have to be made to put our state back on sound financial footing.

Illinois Peace Officers Memorial Day
This past Thursday was Illinois Peace Officers Memorial Day honoring law enforcement officers who have given their lives in performance of their duties.  Today, over 900,000 law enforcement officers serve and protect us across America.  Last year alone, 126 officers were killed in the line of duty and so far in 2015, 42 officers have been killed in the line of duty.  I give my heartfelt and sincere thank you to the families of those officers who paid the ultimate sacrifice to keep us safe.

Mothers Day
This Sunday, we celebrate Mother’s Day.  I, for one, am thankful for all the hardworking mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers throughout our region who have raised children with a strong work ethic, character, and determination.  I know I would not be where I am today without the influence of my mother, and so many throughout our area are no different.  English poet George Herbert once said that “one good mother is worth a hundred schoolmasters.” Mothers, you have the most important job in the world—you teach your children to know right from wrong, to value hard work over laziness, to develop strong character.  While every child needs a good father and an army of fantastic teachers, you, moms, teach the most.  Thank you for the effort you put into raising great kids.
Visitors to Springfield

As busy as Springfield is, I always look forward to seeing familiar faces from Northwest Illinois. This past week, it was my privilege to welcome regional mayors and county officials Jim Gitz of Freeport, Don Schaible of Hanover, John Huggins of Lanark, Betty Steinert of Whiteside County, and Kim Gouker of Ogle County.  George Gaulrapp and David Gross of ComEd attended Springfield events with me, as did Freeport Park District Commissioner Ken Collin and Executive Director Jack Carey and Highland Community College President Joe Kanosky.

The Caswell family from Stockon
I was also privileged to host members of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority in Springfield for Delta Day Advocacy.  Joining me were LaMetra Curry-Chatman, Anne Edwards, Luevinus Muhammad, and LaFrancine Baker.  Dan, Beth, Laura, Liesa, and Sarah Caswell of Stockton also visited. I had the privilege to host members of the Highland Community College Student Senate, Rodney Boss, Liz Schemel, McKenna Reed, Jordan Kaiser, and Alexa Buss.

Members of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority
Area bank leaders Gregg Roegge of Rushville State Bank, Bill Wubben of Apple River State Bank, Kerry Hoops of German American State Bank, and Scott Arnold of Durand State Bank joined me for the Community Bankers Association of Illinois Legislative Reception. Area Realtors Angela Stodden of United Country Heartland Realtors and Pam Borowski of Realtors Association of Northwest Illinois joined me for the Illinois Association of Realtors Legislative Reception.  And finally, last but certainly not least, I was pleased to welcome students and parents from the Pecatonica Middle School classes of Mr. Chris Dertz and Ms. Jennifer Dunham.

If you are in the Springfield area over the next month, please let my office know so we can arrange a visit.  I would love to meet with you personally.

Budget Cuts Restored

After a seeming constant barrage of bad news concerning the FY15 budget and cuts being made to fill the deficit, we had a bit of good news this week.  The bipartisan Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability projected an additional $300 to $500 million in expected revenue from income taxes this year.  The economy has improved over the last year, and the improvement generated extra tax funds for the state.

Governor Rauner plans to use the extra tax dollars to restore $26 million worth of cuts that he made on Good Friday, right before the legislature left for spring break.  The cuts affected programs for the disabled, the poor, autism programs, and the Illinois hotline for smokers who are trying to quit. While some of the services had to shutter their doors from lack of funding, they will be able to reopen with the additional revenue.

The $300 million cuts agreed to in late March by both the Governor and the Illinois Legislature are still in effect.  Illinois faces a $6 billion shortfall in FY16, and the remaining extra tax revenue may be used to partially fill that hole.

Legislative Interns

I’m excited to announce that over the summer, I will be appointing up to 5 legislative interns.  My goal is to provide opportunities for our Millennials to return to our area instead of seeking employment and internship opportunities elsewhere.  The lack of jobs as well as decreased community and civic engagement leads to a further disenfranchisement of our youth, but I believe the flood of young people leaving our region can be stopped if area business and civic leaders seek to engage our youth.

The internship positions will involve researching issues that face our region; interaction with business, non-profit, and civic leaders; promoting a community development project; engaging in civic and community affairs; learning to understand local and state politics, special interest groups, and government.  The interns will also engage in personal study outside the 100 hours of required fieldwork and office responsibilities including additional readings, writing, and preparatory work.

Interested persons can apply immediately by submitting a resume, cover letter, and completed application.  Applicants must be able to commit to 100 hours, but the hours can be flexible with the exception of a few specific dates.

While past academic performance is an integral component of our selection process, top candidates will demonstrate a well-rounded approach to work, academic, sporting, civic, and other life engagements and accomplishments.

Benjamin Franklin is attributed with the following quote: “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”  My generation can no longer sit and watch as our young people move away to bigger cities with more opportunities.  Now is the time to provide opportunities for them here to involve them in the workings of our region.

As always, you can reach myself 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.