***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
House Republican Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) and a group of Illinois House Republicans presented House Resolution 58 to a group of state police officers, recognizing the 95th anniversary of the Illinois State Police Department.

The Illinois State Police Department was formed on April 1, 1922 under the direction of Superintendent John T. Stack; its motto is, “Integrity, Service and Pride”.

Today, the Illinois State Police has 21 patrol districts, seven investigative zones, six operational forensic science laboratories, and five regional crime scene services commands under the helm of Director Leo P. Schmitz.

As of 2017, more than 60 state troopers have paid the ultimate sacrifice by giving their lives in service to the state and its citizens. The Illinois State Police Heritage Foundation’s Memorial Park will soon be constructed in downtown Springfield.

“We recognize the Illinois State Police Department on its 95th anniversary and thank them for their service, and wish them many more successful years,” Durkin said.