Joined the Northwest Illinois Criminal Justice Commission meeting in Sterling! We discussed training opportunities, current issues, and future legislation.



I was honored to congratulate and recognize FHN's Dr. Rebecca Pedersen with the 2017 Illinois Rural Physician Excellence Award and to commend her for her selfless service and dedication to her patients and our community with Illinois House of Representatives Resolution 701.








SB 403 provides credit of up to $750 for eligible taxpayers

CHICAGO (Nov. 16, 2017) — Gov. Bruce Rauner signed into law today a tax credit worth up to $750 for property owners in 18 Illinois counties where flood damages were sustained in July.

The bill, signed at the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago this morning, creates a natural disaster credit that eligible, affected property owners may apply to their 2017 Illinois income taxes. 

Included counties are Cook, Lake, Kane, McHenry, Alexander, Clinton, Jackson, Marshall, Union, Woodford, Carroll, Henry, Jo Daviess, Lee, Ogle, Rock Island, Stephenson and Whiteside — all of which were declared state disaster areas by the governor last summer. 

“July’s severe storms pushed rivers and lakes over their banks across a wide swath of Illinois,” Rauner said. “Many home and business owners are still working to restore their properties after the inundation of water, debris and mud they suffered through, in some cases for weeks. In northeastern Illinois counties, the flooding was unprecedented. This tax credit offers a measure of much-needed relief.”

State Rep. Barbara Wheeler said the tax credit will be welcome news.

“Unfortunately for many families impacted by this type of disaster, once the initial shock wears off, the reality of financial hardship caused by the devastation can be just as traumatic as the event itself,” said Wheeler, R-Crystal Lake. “In the past, state government has not always responded quickly enough to provide the relief needed for this financial stress. 

However, this time the governor and legislature acted quickly, and I know many of the families still trying to recover are grateful.”

State Rep. Tony McCombie, R-Savanna, agreed.

“I appreciate the governor taking quick action to sign the Flood Victims Tax Credit into law,” McCombie said. “Victims of the floods this year did not receive federal assistance, so this incentive is a small measure we can take to help and be good neighbors.”

“This summer’s flooding was devastating to many northern Illinois residents,” said state Sen. Dan McConchie, R-Hawthorn Woods. “This tax credit is one more tool in the toolbox.”

“While some residents have recovered, many are still working to rebuild,” said state Sen. Melinda Bush, D-Grayslake. “This tax credit will help ease the financial burden and help local residents get back on their feet.”

Qualified properties include a taxpayer’s principle residence or land owned by a small business, but not a rental or leasing business. The allowable income tax credit will be the lesser of $750 or the deduction allowed under the Internal Revenue Code for each taxpayer who owns qualified property in a county declared a state disaster area.

The bill provides that township assessors shall issue eligibility certificates for appropriately requesting property owners, and that assessors shall certify to the Illinois Department of Revenue listings of flood-damaged properties.

The fiscal impact to the state is estimated at $4.6 million, based on damages previously reported to the Illinois Emergency Management Agency.

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I had the opportunity to talk with fellow Veterans and Representatives David Harris (R-Arlington Heights), Jeane Ives (R-Wheaton), and Dan Swanson (R-Alpha) about our time serving and what it means to us. Thank you to all those who served, thank you to their families, and may we honor those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.






House Bill 4147 gives DCFS workers the same protections as police and firemen 

Springfield…Today, State Representative Brian Stewart (R-Freeport) filed House Bill 4147 to make attacking a DCFS workers in performance of their duties an aggravated battery and a Class 1 felony.   
House Bill 4147, filed this week, would make battering a Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) in the performance of his/her official duties or in response to their official duties an aggravated battery and a Class 1 felony.  Aggravated battery subject perpetrators to more severe penalties when facing prosecution and sentencing.
“My deepest sympathies and get well-wishes go out to the victim of this horrible attack, her family and everyone in her DCFS family.  Everyday DCFS workers put themselves at risk to protect the most vulnerable children in our communities,” said Rep. Stewart. “This legislation will give DCFS workers the same protections as policemen, firemen, and peace officers who also put themselves in harm’s way.”    
This legislation is in response to the September 29th tragedy where a 59-year-old DCFS worker in Milledgeville was checking on a child when she was viciously assaulted by the child’s father.
State Representatives Tony McCombie (R-Savanna) and Tom Demmer (R-Dixon), and John Cabello (R-Rockford) who will be co-sponsoring HB 4147, expressed their support of this legislation.
“I continue to pray for the victim of this senseless act of violence. It’s unfortunate an act of violence was inflicted on a DCFS worker in order for legislation to be proposed, however, this bill will to give DCFS workers the additional legal protections they deserve,” said Rep. McCombie.
“It’s unfortunate that this type of measure is needed, but the safety of these state employees charged with protecting child welfare is paramount.  Their work in protecting children and stepping into dangerous situations warrant additional penalty for those who cause them harm in the performance of their duties,” said Rep. Demmer.
Current law makes it an aggravated battery and a Class 1 felony offense when the suspect causes great bodily harm, permanent disability, or disfigurement to peace officers, community policing volunteers, firemen, private security officers, correctional institution employees, or certain Department of Human Services employees.

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It was my honor to congratulate the 2017 Quadcross World Champion Chad Wienen of Galena, Illinois this week.


It is always a great experience welcoming foreign diplomats to Northwest Illinois. This afternoon I had the pleasure of hosting a group from ZIMBABWE who were here under the auspices of the US State Dept International Visitor Leadership Program. They were Mr. Obey Shava, Legal Practitioner; Mr. Kenneth Mtata, Zimbabwe Council of Churches; Loreen Sani, Combined Harare Residents Association; Claris Madhuku, Director Platform for Youth Development; Kurai Makumbe, Chief - Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission; Patience Zirima, Director Media Monitors; Gerald Matiba, Director, Christian Legal Society; and Wilson Nharingo, Director Zimbabwe Liberators Platform. After a great discussion on managing elections, and a visit to the Lincoln Douglas Debate Site, lunch of course at Union Dairy.




This afternoon I had the distinct honor and humbling privilege to present along with Senator Tim Bivins, Representative Tom Demmer and Congressman Adam Kinzinger - Illinois Senate Joint Resolution 34 honoring the life of Marine Lance Corporal Alec Catherwood, who at 19 years of age sacrificed his life in service to our freedom and was killed in combat in Afghanistan. To his parents, Kirk & Gretchen Catherwood and his entire family we are grateful for his honorable and faithful service to our nation.










Dixon… State Representatives Tom Demmer (R-Dixon), Tony McCombie (R-Savanna), and Brian Stewart (R-Freeport) urged prayers and community awareness following a brutal attack on a DCFS Child Protective Investigator at a child welfare check on Friday, September 29th in Carroll County.

The three legislators offered the following statement today:

“This tragic attack highlights the dangers faced by our child welfare officers every day and the profound need to continue to educate communities on eliminating violence, especially domestic violence.  Along with our fellow legislators, we offer our prayers to the family of the DCFS Investigator, as well as to her co-workers and fellow employees who are saving lives in Illinois’ child welfare system every day.  This is terribly frightening and traumatizing for all of our hardworking Child Protective Investigators, but this incident shows how important their work is in protecting children from violence and harm.”

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Freeport…. State Representative Brian Stewart released the following statement in reaction to Governor Rauner signing HB 40: 
“Today Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed House Bill 40, which provides taxpayer funding for abortions.  Using taxpayer money for abortions means that people who hold a sincere moral opposition to abortion will now be forced to pay for them, which essentially takes away choice for all my pro-life constituents,” said Rep. Stewart.  “In a time when Illinois has $15 billion in unpaid bills this is neither the time nor the place to start a new government program estimated to cost tens of millions of dollars.  Our state is facing unprecedented challenges, and this bill only adds to those challenges. ”  
Honored this afternoon to welcome to the Lamoreux Farms in Northwest Illinois a delegation from China to promote public private cooperation for Agriculture with Illinois farmers. 

The delegation was led by Mr. Lubiao ZHANG the Deputy Director General of the China Ministry of Agriculture. The team from China consisted of Mr. Weibing GU, Division Director of International Cooperation; Ms. Dian JIAO, Deputy Division Director; Mr. Chao LI, Deputy Division Director Ministry of Finance; Mr. Guomin ZHOU, Deputy Director General Agricultural Information Institute; and Ms. Yiwei YIN, Interpreter. 

The Illinois Beef Association was represented by Joni Bucher, President of the IBA Board of Governors and Reid Blossom, Executive Vice President. Lou,Sue & Nathan Lamoreux and John, Marilyn & Dan Lamoreux and their families and staff did an outstanding job and are just one of the many excellent representatives of Illinois Farming !!



Rep Stewart attended the ComEd Ribbon Cutting on September 14th for their newest Smart Meter Deployment Center and installation of one of Freeport's first smart meters. The great staff at ComEd has begun installing over 33,000 smart meters in the area.


Equifax, an Atlanta based credit-rating agency, suffered a security breach on July 29th that exposed sensitive information of millions of Americans. Such information included social security numbers, driver’s license numbers, credit card numbers, birthdays, and addresses. It has been determined that 5.4 million Illinois residents have been affected by the breach.

The company has set up a website where you can check if your personal information was affected by the breach: www.equifaxsecurity2017.com.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan has opened an investigation into the recent security breach, and called on Equifax to provide free credit freezes to all Illinois residents in the wake of the breach. She urges Illinois residents to take the Equifax breach seriously and take steps to protect themselves from the possibility of identity theft:

  • Seriously consider placing a credit freeze on your credit reports with all 3 consumer reporting agencies: TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax;
  • Regularly request your free credit reports, inspect them closely, and promptly dispute any unauthorized accounts;
  • Inspect all financial account statements closely and promptly dispute any unauthorized charges;
  • Consider placing alerts on your financial accounts so your financial institution alerts you when money above a pre-designated amount is withdrawn;
  • Beware of potential phishing emails; don't open any email messages or attachments from unknown senders and do not click on any unknown links. Fraudsters will frequently send coercive and misleading emails threatening account suspension or worse if sensitive information is not provided. Remember, businesses will never ask customers to verify account information via email. If in do6ubt, contact the business in question directly for verification and to report phishing emails; and
  • Be on the lookout for spoofed email addresses. Spoofed email addresses are those that make minor changes in the domain name, frequently changing the letter O to the number zero, or the lowercase letter l to the number one. Scrutinize all incoming email addresses to ensure that the sender is truly legitimate.
With questions on the data breach, you can contact Equifax at 866-447-7559, or the Illinois Attorney General’s Identity Theft Hotline at 1 (866) 999-5630.
During the past few weeks much has occurred in the General Assembly and it has been covered by the news media from many different points of view.  However, the fact remains that a massive, permanent tax hike was shoved down the throats of the working Illinoisans, their families and small business owners. The personal income tax rate increased from 3.75 to 4.95% which is a 32% increase and the largest permanent income tax increase in state history.  The corporate income tax rate increased from 5.25% to 7%.  In case any of you were wondering I voted NO on the tax increase.  

Stephenson County homeowners interested in learning about the process for determining property taxes are invited to attend a forum on Tuesday, June 27th sponsored by State Representative Brian Stewart and featuring Stephenson County Chief Assessment Officer Ron Kane.



Students between grades 1 through 5 are encouraged to participate in the “Become a Readasaurus” reading club. To take part in this program, please contact your local library to obtain a brochure on the program or print out the document above.

Participants will be asked to read eight books over the course of the summer. Readers who complete the program and return the pamphlet by July 29th will be eligible to participate in an ice cream party and will be presented with an official certificate from the Illinois House of Representatives.

Materials have been placed at libraries throughout Northwest Illinois to make the program accessible to all children in the district, or you can print out the attached portion to get started today. If you have any questions, please contact our office at 815-232-0774.
The General Assembly failed to pass a budget during regular session this year.  That disappointment was felt by Illinoisans across the state – especially those who rely on the necessary social services that our state is currently neglecting.  In my opinion, there is no other word to better describe this ridiculous situation other than “unacceptable.”  It truly is unacceptable.  This inaction prolongs suffering and does nothing to address the very real problems that our state currently faces.

Last week we talked about the ongoing budget battle.  All of us are very aware of the deleterious consequences that stem from operating without a budget.  Necessary social services and our education systems are suffering because of the impasse, and Springfield politicians are earning themselves some much deserved heat from constituents.

This week was our last chance to reach an agreement on the budget before the legislative session came to a close. This week we passed bill after bill – but none of those bills were a budget. Though we currently find ourselves without a resolution to the budget crisis, there is still some hope that an agreement can be reached during a special summer session.

As I write this column, we are still learning about the Illinois Senate’s so-called “Grand Bargain.” In next week’s column we will explore the Grand Bargain, but this week I’d like to focus on what happened in the House.

In the past two months, the General Assembly has voted to spend nearly two billion dollars. And no, these are not appropriations that go to pay down the deficit.  These aren’t even funds that take the place of the budget.  This is money that will be added to our already $5 billion spending gap.

Are you ready for some positive news? The American economy is surging forward thanks to recent economic growth.  In fact, the jobless rate is the lowest it has been since 2007.  The national unemployment rate is currently 4.4% - which is even better than the 4.6% number that economists had predicted.

In last week’s column, we talked about HB 40 – a bill that, at face value, expands taxpayer-funded abortions in Illinois. But at its core, the bill’s primary purpose was to force the Governor into a corner – he had to choose between siding with pro-abortion advocates or pro-life advocates. It truly was a game of “Pin the Tail on the Governor.” It should come as no surprise that I voted “No” on HB 40.

So after a week of political gamesmanship, we still don’t have a budget. But what do we have? The House soundly passed a taxpayer-funded abortion expansion. As the House passes toxic bills that do nothing to improve our state, the window on reaching a budget is closing. With only five weeks left until session ends, we are running perilously short on time.
This week I’d like to pose a question to you, and if you have an opinion on the matter, then I would love for you to send me your response. By the way, now would be a good time for me to mention that we have updated our contact information. You can now send communications directly to my office by visiting “www.ilhousegop.org/contactstewart."

Without any further ado here’s the question I’ll pose to you this week: which is more important to you? Taxpayer funded abortions or a balanced budget? Now don’t think too hard because it really isn’t a trick question. And yes, it really is a “this or that” question.

Why? Because instead of continuing to work toward an agreement that could lead toward fiscal certainty and responsibility, House leadership has opted instead to push a bill that reaffirms taxpayer funded abortions. Though there is absolutely no practical reason to bring HB 40 to a vote, some members on the other side of the aisle are relishing an opportunity to put Governor Rauner in a tough spot.

Thankfully, Governor Rauner has not caved to this shameless political ploy. He announced that if both chambers pass this sideshow of a bill, he will put an abrupt end to the political theater by vetoing HB 40. To that I say, “Bravo, Governor Rauner, bravo!” Do you support the Governor’s decision?

I’m not ashamed to say that I am pro-life, and I’m also not ashamed to say that I am anti-political theater. In fact, I’ll go as far as to say this: how about instead of this nonsensical bill that does nothing to help working families, we work on passage of HB 3096 (the Lincoln Douglas Tax Credit) – a bill that would create jobs for Freeport and other cities across the state. Or perhaps we could pick up where we left off and continue negotiating on a budget compromise.

But instead of passing a balanced budget, we find ourselves grappling with an issue that came to the forefront simply because House leadership calculated that it would hurt the Governor’s standing with either pro-life advocates or pro-abortion advocates. Yes indeed, putting the Governor in a political bind is far more important than working to pass a balanced budget.

I’ve said before that the legislature loves nothing more than to play kick the can. I’m beginning to think that I should amend my previous statement and add another game that has been very popular in Springfield lately – pin the tail on the Governor. I mean, why focus on the issues that matter when we have a prime opportunity to stick it to the Governor, right?

Well I’m fed up with the games. We need to immediately resume working on a balanced budget. No more stopgap spending plans that don’t even come close to fully funding social services. No more finger pointing. And especially – no more political theater just for the sake of sticking it to the Governor. From your calls and e-mails I know that the vast majority of you want us to pass a balanced budget, and that’s exactly what I will continue to work toward.

But until such a time as House leadership decides that our state is more important than partisan politics, I’ll continue doing whatever I can to help the district. That’s why this week I invited Lieutenant Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti to Freeport to meet with our newly elected Mayor. And that’s why last week I spoke with the Governor about the needs of some of our local employers. Budget or no budget, I will fight for the best interests of the 89th District. You have my word on that.

And as for the budget, I remain optimistic that we will eventually set aside our differences and work together on a balanced and long term solution. Am I foolish for remaining optimistic? Perhaps. But as Winston Churchill said, “I am an optimist. It does not seem too much use being anything else.”

As always, you can reach me or Sally at 815-232-0774, or visit my website at www.repbrianstewart.com and use the contact form to send me an e-mail.
Please be advised State Representative Brian Stewart will no longer be monitoring the email address repstewart@gmail.com. If you would like to reach the Representative, you are encouraged to fill out the contact form on his state website by clicking here. Thank you for your understanding.

Look forward to hearing from you!
***Guest Column*** 

As many of you know, former Freeport Mayor Richard (Dick) Weis recently passed away. He will forever be remembered in Freeport as the “Big Kahuna” who had the big heart.  If every public servant and politician modeled their life after Dick Weis, the world would undoubtedly be a better place.  It was my honor to present Illinois House Resolution 287 honoring former Mayor Weis’s life and his career of public service – both as an elected official and a private citizen.

If you didn’t know anything else about Dick Weis, all you need to know is what his family has asked of those who wish to honor his memory.  His service information reads: “In lieu of flowers, please honor Dick’s life by doing a random act of kindness for someone in need.”  What a truly wonderful man and what a wonderful family he leaves to carry on his legacy.

A few weeks ago, I mentioned House Bill 3096 – which creates the Lincoln-Douglas Tax Credit for a qualified rehabilitation of a historic structure located in the seven cities of which the Lincoln-Douglas debates occurred.  Since that column, I received several calls and e-mails asking for more information on the bill.

To properly explain the bill in context, we need to take a step back and take a quick look at another successful tax credit – The River Edge Redevelopment Zone Program (RERZ). The RERZ is also sometimes referred to as the “River’s Edge Tax Credit.”

The RERZ tax credit saw enormous success in spurring economic development in five cities: Aurora, East St. Louis, Elgin, Peoria and Rockford.  Landmarks Illinois estimates that between those five cities, over $200 million dollars in private economic development has come as a direct result of that tax credit.  Our neighbors to the east in Rockford have received the lion’s share of that economic boom landing over $120 million in developments with even more expected to come.

Ask just about any downtown Rockford business owner what has contributed to the downtown’s resurgence, and they will tell you – “It’s the River’s Edge tax credit.”  Many of us have enjoyed a meal or perhaps even a beverage at the Prairie Street Brewhouse in downtown Rockford.  The next time you’re eating dinner on the docks and you’re watching the boats float down the Rock River, just remember that none of that would be possible if it were not for the River’s Edge tax credit.  Nearly one dozen projects like this have been made possible through the tax credit.

The RERZ credit became law in 2010, and at the end of last year, Governor Rauner signed an extension to keep the credit alive through the end of this year.  And just this week, the Rockford City Council approved another multimillion dollar project – a downtown hotel – that would have never come to fruition without the existence of the RERZ credit.

It worked for Rockford, so why not Freeport?  That’s why I introduced HB 3096.  My bill would give those seven communities across the state a chance to improve their historical downtowns through a tax credit that is much like the RERZ.  This is something that Illinois’ bigger cities have already had the opportunity to utilize, but up until this bill the mid-sized cities had been left out.  If my bill passes – Ottawa, Freeport, Jonesboro, Charleston, Galesburg, Quincy and Alton would all be eligible for this tax credit.  Currently the six representatives of those other cities (both Republican and Democrat) have signed on to my bill, and I will be working to recruit more co-sponsors in the future.

This bill would be a game-changer not only for Freeport, but also for the entire region.  As we saw in Rockford, when private investments were made in the downtown, employers added jobs. HB 3096 means investment, opportunity and jobs for the 89th District, so that is why I will be working hard to do everything I can to push this extremely important bill.

I can’t help but think of Field of Dreams when we talk about economic development.  The iconic line from the movie was, “If you build it, (they) will come.”  But I guess in this case, the situation is only slightly different.  In this case, the quote should be “If you pass it, they will build.  And if you build it, they will come.”

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.
***Guest Column*** 

This week I wish I could report to you that the Illinois General Assembly passed a long-term solution to the state budget crisis.  Unfortunately, that did not happen.  Instead of fixing the problem, the House voted to pass another stopgap spending plan House Bill 109 – one that funds some of higher education and social services but effectively kicks the budget can down the road for six more months.

This legislation was passed by the House and is headed to the Senate which will most likely vote on the bill later this month.  To be clear, this bill does nothing to address any of the problems Illinois is facing other than education and social services – and even those are being addressed inadequately.  The Governor called the stopgap spending plan a “failure.”  He shares the same opinion as many of us in the legislature who want a balanced budget that actually ensures, as he says, “the problem (can be) fixed.”

Though I was disappointed to see the passage of yet another “duct tape fix,” as the Governor refers to the stopgap measure, there was some positive legislation that came out of Springfield this week.  Earlier this year I introduced HB 465, a bill that would amend the municipal code to extend Pearl City’s tax increment financing (TIF) district which is set to expire.  I am pleased to announce that the bill passed the House and will be presented to the Senate by Senator Bivins.

Another bill that received a lot of attention this week was HB 496.  This bill, which passed the House almost unanimously, would allow voters the right to dissolve a township by referendum. The township and municipality must be coterminous (or mostly coterminous) for this to happen, and the township trustees or 10% of registered voters in the township must initiate the referendum.

I received some calls this week that involved some misunderstanding surrounding the bill.  To clarify, there is no automatic consolidation attached to this bill.  The bill merely gives citizens the right to choose whether or not they wish to operate a Township if their municipality could provide the same services.

It's not every day that you see a bill of such magnitude passing the Illinois House with only two objections, but this bill was seen as an obvious choice for many in the General Assembly.  Illinois has more units of government – almost 7,000 – than any other state.  According to the Illinois Policy Institute, these units of government create a cumbersome bureaucracy that drives up property taxes statewide.

By contrast, Florida (which has a higher population than Illinois) has roughly one quarter the units of government compared to Illinois.  It is also little coincidence that Illinois – the state that has more units of government than any other state – has been found to have the highest overall tax burden of any state.

Each year WalletHub conducts a state by state study of effective tax rates.  Their findings include all state and local taxes and rank each state by taxpayer-friendliness.  According to the study, Alaska is the most taxpayer-friendly state with an overall effective tax rate of 5.64%.  Illinois finished dead last – ranking 51st, with our overall effective tax rate estimated to be 14.76%.

After seeing this, it should come as no surprise that our state is losing population to our neighbors.  We must address this growing problem, and I believe that this week we took a small step towards doing just that.  Now it’s time for the Senate to pass this bill so Illinoisans can decide for themselves.

Though I am encouraged about some small victories this week, I find myself repeating the same refrain I have been singing since I first was elected to the Illinois House – we need a balanced budget!  Then – and only then – can we become successful in bringing our state back and making Illinois a better place for all of us.

This week, the House made a mistake in not working on a long-term solution to the budget, but we also took a positive step on the journey of reforming Illinois.  I am proud to see that there was bipartisan support – almost unanimous support – behind a commonsense reform bill this week. But we still have a long way to go. As someone once said, “To get through the hardest journey, we need take only one step at a time… but we must keep on stepping.”

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.

***Guest Column***

On Tuesday, April 4th, voters across the 89th District go to the polls to cast their vote in the Municipal General Election. Historically, turnout for local elections has been as low as the single digits, and never has it reached as high a turnout as November elections. This sad reality has always baffled me because I think local elections are more impactful on our daily lives than national elections are.

Of course, national elections for congress and the presidency impact our income taxes, but local elections determine the direction of our community. Beyond our own current status, it’s not a stretch to say that our vote could in some small (or perhaps large) way play a role in our children’s and grandchildren’s future. And I don’t care who you vote for, I just hope that you exercise the most sacred freedom that we have in the United States.

Whenever I am fortunate enough to have the opportunity to speak directly to young people, I consistently make an effort to highlight the importance of voting. Someone told me the other day that he takes his son and daughter with him into the voting booth so that they understand from a young age that voting is important. I thought that was a wonderful idea!

So here is my challenge to you this week: let’s be a good example for younger generations by exercising our right to vote. And when you vote, make sure you tell your kids and your grandkids that you voted. Let’s take this opportunity to teach the next generation an important civics lesson.

This past week I was in Springfield for a week of committee hearings. One of the more notable happenings is that House Democrats released their “Comeback Agenda” this week. This is obviously in response to the “Turnaround Agenda,” the plan released by Republicans in June of 2015. Though I find many of the points in the Democrat’s “Comeback Agenda” to be lacking, I am heartened to see that my friends on the other side of the aisle are actually putting forward a plan.

If you’ve been reading my column, then you know that I have been calling for a bipartisan approach to addressing our state’s fiscal woes. I remain optimistic that Democrats and Republicans can come together and find a compromise that will result in a balanced budget that puts our state back on track.

Though much of the Democrat’s “Comeback Agenda” is antithetical to nearly everything I believe will spur growth, we can safely say that we have passed an extremely important threshold: both sides have now produced definable proposals. It is my hope that we start working together on a compromise that is good for Illinois and ends the budget crisis.

We all know that we cannot continue down this same path. Failed policies have left us with one of the highest overall tax burdens in the country, and good people are leaving Illinois in droves. The good news is that Democrats and Republicans have both presented their plans. Now it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to work on finding common ground. I believe it can be done!

Lastly, I’d like to take a moment to mention House Bill 769 which designates Illinois State Trooper Day. April 1st is the day we remember the Illinois Troopers who lost their lives and recognize the ones who risk their lives every day protecting us. From the bottom of my heart I would like to thank Illinois State Troopers for all that they do.

I’ll end this week’s column by quoting the Illinois State Trooper Oath of an Officer: "I solemnly vow to the people of Illinois, upon my honor as an officer and citizen, to discharge the duties of an officer of the Illinois State Police to the best of my ability, to adhere to the rules and regulations of the Illinois State Police, and to adopt the Agency's mission and goals into my everyday life. I pledge to be honest in thought, word, and deed; to maintain unimpeachable integrity; to be just, fair, and impartial; to be steadfast against evil and its temptations; and to give my utmost to protect the rights, property, and lives of our citizens. I shall strive to give thoughtful, intelligent obedience to the commands of my superiors, to make my conduct friendly but impartial, courteous but firm, and charitable to the inadvertent violator. But I shall never compromise with crime and shall, at all times, uphold the Constitutions and laws of my country and the state of Illinois."

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.

**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