There has been a lot of talk recently about the pros and cons of the Electoral College. Here are a few more points to ponder. The only Founding Father to sign all four documents integral to the creation of our country was Roger Sherman. Sherman helped draft our Constitution and was an important figure in the debate on the Electoral College. He was also a former Congressman and United States Senator representing his home state of Connecticut. In 1787, he wrote, “The only real security that you can have for all your important rights must be in the nature of your government. If you suffer any man to govern you who is not strongly interested in supporting your privileges, you will certainly lose them.” 

I agree with my predecessor, former Representative and retired Special Agent of the FBI, Jim Sacia, about his opinion of the Electoral College. I also agree with Allen Guelzo and James Hulme, who wrote a column about the Electoral College in the Washington Post on November 15, 2016. In it they wrote, “There is hardly anything in the Constitution harder to explain, or easier to misunderstand, than the Electoral College.”

Guelzo and Hulme make some interesting points about the Electoral College. Did you know that our Constitution spends more time describing the Electoral College than it does any other specific issue?

They also point out two common mistakes that critics make in their analysis of the Electoral College. The first is that the founders were leery of direct democracy. Guelzo and Hulme refer to the constitutional debates in which there was significant vacillation between delegates on directly electing the President or having the President elected by Congress.

They point out the latter’s supporters were “not trying to undermine the popular will, but to keep it from being distorted by a president who mistook popular election as a mandate for dictatorship.”

That is why our Founding Fathers built our Constitution the way they did. They had only recently gained independence from a king and his empire. Federalism serves as a safeguard for individual states, and local control for local issues. The Electoral College is a key component of American federalism. Guelzo and Hulme suggest that abolishing the Electoral College would begin the process of “dismantling federalism,” including the Senate and even states themselves.

The second mistake that critics of the Electoral College make is arguing that it had anything to do with slavery. At no point in the record of the Constitutional Convention or from James Madison’s notes was slavery mentioned in the discussion about the Electoral College. Furthermore, the Electoral College was not mentioned at any point in the Convention’s debates over slavery.

Instead, Guelzo and Hulme assert that the Electoral College contributed to the end of slavery. They wrote, “Abraham Lincoln earned only 39 percent of the popular vote in the election of 1860, but won a crushing victory in the Electoral College. This, in large measure, was why Southern slaveholders stampeded to secession in 1860-61. They could do the numbers as well as anyone, and realized that the Electoral College would only produce more anti-slavery Northern Presidents.”

If we want an example of what our country would be under a direct democracy, we don’t have to look far. Illinois is a direct democracy. By the end of this term, one party will have controlled the Illinois House for 94% of the time since 1983. Over the same period, one party will have controlled the Illinois Senate for 72% of the time.

By comparison and over the same span, the United States Congress has changed leadership 4 times, and one party will have held control for 56% of the time. The real contrast is the United States Senate. Party leadership has changed in the US Senate 7 times over the same period, and the leadership distribution is even.

In Illinois, each House member’s district was drawn to contain 108,734 people. Many House districts to the east of us are geographically smaller than the city of Freeport. The 89th District is over 100 miles wide from corner to corner. 56% of Illinois House and Senate districts east of us are located in an area smaller than the 89th District.

Maybe it’s time for us to consider a little constitutional federalism right here in Illinois and bring some balance back to Springfield.

Our district’s geography is one of the reasons we conduct Mobile Office Hours. It’s harder for constituents to pop in to the district office in the 89th than it is in most of the other districts. We are almost finished with Mobile Office Hours this quarter, and have been to sixteen (16) cities and villages throughout the 89th District. Our last stop will be in Lena on August 23rd from 10am to 2pm.

Provide your feedback to Rep. Stewart on important state issues today:

State Representative Brian Stewart thanked Governor Bruce Rauner for signing food safety legislation Stewart sponsored on Tuesday, August 14 at Agriculture Day at the Illinois State Fair.

“Food safety is of critical importance to Illinois families,” said Rep. Stewart after Tuesday’s bill signing.  “Ensuring Illinois conforms with federal guidelines and is implementing best practices with everyone on the same page is important for not just Illinois’ agricultural community, but also for consumers.”

Stewart’s legislation, Senate Bill 2752, amends the Meat and Poultry Inspection Act to ensure Illinois’ statutes conform with federal food safety inspection statutes regarding what is considered “adulterated” meat or food.  The Illinois Department of Agriculture was a proponent of Stewart’s legislation and urged its passage during the Spring legislative session.

“Whenever we need to bring Illinois’ statutes in line with federal guidelines on food safety, we should leap at the opportunity to protect business from unequal application of the laws as well as protect consumers, who are increasingly in tune with what’s in the food their families consume.”

Senate Bill 2752 was signed on Tuesday at the Orr Building on the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield.

“The General ever desirous to cherish virtuous ambition in his soldiers, as well as to foster and encourage every species of Military merit, directs that whenever any singularly meritorious action is performed, the author of it shall be permitted to wear on his facings over the left breast, the figure of a heart in purple cloth… The road to glory in a patriot army and a free country is thus open to all.”

With these words, General George Washington of the Continental Army commissioned the Badge of Military Merit on August 7th 1782. The medal was awarded to three noncommissioned officers of the Continental Army, each receiving the award directly from General Washington himself.

In 1932, the United States War Department (precursor to the current Department of Defense), authorized a new medal, the Purple Heart Medal, to be issued to soldiers who had received either the Meritorious Service Citation Certificate, Wound Chevron or the Army Wound Ribbon on or after April 5th, 1917 – the day prior to the United States entering the First World War. After the creation of the Legion of Merit, the Purple Heart has only been awarded to those who have received wounds in military service.

The medal had been designed at the direction of Army Chief of Staff, General Douglas MacArthur, by Army heraldic specialist Elizabeth Will. Her design has withstood the test of time, and serves as a testament to General Washington’s orders concerning the Badge of Military Merit. The War Department designated the Purple Heart Medal as the official military decoration to succeed the Badge of Military Merit, making it the oldest award given to members of the United States Military.

This past week, we celebrated the Purple Heart’s 236th birthday. Over 5,000 Illinois veterans have been awarded the Purple Heart. These and others like them are the people General George S. Patton was talking about when he said, “The real hero is the man who fights even though he is scared.”

Thank you to the brave men and women who were wounded in their military service. You served the cause of freedom, and we are grateful for your example and sacrifice.

For those who don’t know, Saturday August 11th is Freeport Cruise Night. In the late 70’s, the Freeport Street Machines, a local car club, sought permission from the city to have a “cruise” through downtown to demonstrate the hard work their members put into their cars. This year marks Cruise Night’s 40th anniversary, and it is expected to be a huge event, with thousands of show vehicles and nearly 11,000 people. If you haven’t been to Cruise Night, this year is the year!

It’s hard to believe summer is almost over. Now is the time many of the bills passed during the Legislative General Session are signed by the Governor. I was pleased when Governor Rauner signed House Bill 4476, a bill I sponsored to remove the requirement that a person cited under the Illinois Vehicle Code sign a ticket for a petty offense. The bill also ensures that out of state traffic violators are subject to the same legal process as Illinois residents if they fail to appear for their assigned court date.

The Illinois State Police (ISP) and local departments spends thousands of dollars annually for the paper required for an alleged violator’s signature. To put this in perspective, the ISP issued 151,379 citations in 2016 alone. HB4476 is a common sense solution that will produce cost-savings for state and local governments while increasing officer safety.

Legislators are preparing for the Veto Session. Far too often, government emphasizes politics instead of people, power instead of principle. It is important for public officials at every level of government to remember - not all of us have the luxury of a multi-billion dollar family inheritance. Most of us have to work for a living and make our own way.

I believe that we need common sense solutions that reward our Midwestern values of hard work, dedication, creativity and entrepreneurship. We have talked about many area businesses and ventures that exhibit those very values in the past few weeks. I believe there are countless more people in Northern Illinois with the same values, starting businesses, or with ideas about a new business. And many of them could use a little help.

My ongoing commitment is to pursue common sense solutions to help create good jobs, increase opportunity, and strengthen people in Northern Illinois and through the rest of the state. I do not think small businesses should have to struggle while Springfield is focused on incentivizing a large city to the east of us. I think we can do better. I think we should do better because working families deserve it.

State Representative Brian Stewart announced today that Governor Bruce Rauner has signed a bill Rep. Stewart sponsored, House Bill 4476, which will remove the requirement that a person cited under the Illinois Vehicle Code must sign a ticket for a petty offense.  The bill further provides that when an out-of-state resident fails to appear for a court date, the procedure is the same as for an Illinois resident.

“The Illinois State Police spends thousands of dollars annually for the paper that is required for an alleged violator’s signature.  In 2016, the Illinois State Police issued 151,379 paper citations,” Rep. Stewart explained.  “Not only will this produce a cost-savings for the State and Local governments but will increase officer safety by not requiring they get a signature for petty offenses.”

Currently the Illinois Vehicle Code requires a person to sign a traffic citation when required by Supreme Court Rule.  House Bill 4476 amends this requirement out of the Vehicle Code.  The Illinois State Police and the State Police Command Officers Association were proponents of the legislation, which passed the House 109-2.  Governor Rauner signed the legislation into law on August 3, 2018.

In 1790, United States Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton founded the Revenue Marine which was renamed the Revenue Cutter Service in the 1860’s. In 1848 collaboration between private citizens and the US government created the United States Life Saving Service to save the lives of the victims of shipwrecks. In 1915, the two agencies were combined to form the United States Coast Guard. 

We honor the Coast Guard on August 4th, National Coast Guard Day. Take a moment this Saturday to think about the men and women in our Coast Guard and their brave service.

Northern Illinois County Fairs are in full swing. This weekend, folks can enjoy Fairs in Ogle County (Oregon, Illinois) and Jo Daviess County (Warren, Illinois). Next week is the Carroll County Fair in Milledgeville, Illinois.

If you have never been to a County Fair, they are definitely worth the price of admission. It is more than the pork chop sandwiches and elephant ears, though both are definitely delicious. At a County Fair we have the chance to learn about our friends and neighbors, to see the livestock they’ve raised, the vegetables they’ve grown, to watch them in tractor pulls and other events. I agree with the old saying, “There’s something that feels so all-American about a County Fair.”

Over the past few weeks we have been discussing local economic engines and celebrating their unique achievements. Today, I will share the last two success stories we visited with Erika Harold.

Motivational author, Jamie Notter, wrote, “Innovation is change that unlocks new value.” In the mid-1990’s, Pearl City Elevator, a full service agricultural cooperative, and the Adkins Energy Cooperative understood the need to add value to corn for local producers. They decided to team up, forming Adkins Energy LLC, and began processing corn by 2002.
65 years ago this past Friday, the United States and South Korea signed an armistice with the People’s Republic of China and North Korea, ending the Korean War. Millions of Koreans and Chinese lost their lives alongside 50,000 Americans.

On Friday we remembered those war veterans, prisoners of war, and those killed in action by flying the flag at half-staff and continuing to share the stories that shaped our history. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Freedom isn’t free.

It is by the sacrifice of so many brave men and women that we enjoy the benefits of this great nation. We have an opportunity to take risks, improve our lives, and provide for our families. We can also count ourselves blessed by celebrating the successes of others.

Over the past few weeks I have been doing just that, celebrating the successes in Northern Illinois. It was Ghandi who said, “As human beings our greatness is not so much in being able to remake the world as in being able to remake ourselves.” I definitely agree, and it’s a trait common to many of the places I visited last week with Erika Harold. Here are some more of them.

Ron Lawfer was born on the Willow Valley Dairy Farm, a farm his father former Illinois State Representative I. Ron Lawfer started after returning home from his service in the Korean War. The younger Ron and his wife, Julie, have been married for 37 years. With their son John and his bride to be Elise, they have transformed what was a traditional dairy farm, where Ron remembers milking the cows right into the pail, into a state of the art robotic milking facility.

Oprah Winfrey once said, “The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.” I believe this is also true for our communities. It is so easy to focus on the challenges we must overcome that we often lose sight of the victories we have won.

I had the privilege of sharing many of the successes in our community with Erika Harold last Wednesday. Erika Harold is a candidate for Illinois Attorney General, a successful lawyer, and was crowned Miss America in 2003.

Erika visited Stephenson County twenty years ago, before she ever considered running for public office. She was bullied so badly when she was in high school that her parents had her switch schools. The following year she gave several speeches throughout Illinois on the importance of standing up to bullies. Two of those speeches were at Freeport and Le-Win High Schools.

Erika is on a “listening tour” of Illinois, visiting communities across the state to celebrate their achievements and understand their challenges. We made a total of 14 stops on our community tour and I would like to share some of the things we learned throughout the day.

Nestled along the Stephenson/Carroll County line is Hunter Haven Farms, owned by the Doug and Tom Block Family, a 1,000 head dairy farm in Pearl City, Illinois. Their father originally bought a small family farm in 1950, and they have turned it into a 1600 acre powerhouse dairy operation.

In 1997, they converted from a 90 cow farm to an 800 head dairy farm. That conversion has helped Hunter Haven Farms become a major milk supplier to dairies making Swiss cheese. Doug estimates their farm, “produces enough milk (on an annual basis) to make enough Swiss cheese to supply the population of the city of Chicago for a year.”

Between 2005 and 2008, the Blocks installed a 260 kW anaerobic digester (AD) gas-fired combined heat and power (CHP) system and a second 130 kW genset to comply with increased government regulatory issues, and rising energy costs. Doug said, “At the time, we never knew our energy costs would rise so much. We just wanted to make our operations more energy efficient.”

The machines produce natural gas from cow manure, cutting heating costs, while also creating solid “byproduct” that can be used as bedding for cows. Both products generate savings for the farm, with approximately 40% on the energy side, and 60% on the animal bedding side.

Congratulations to Doug and Tom, their families and staff for their hard work and innovation. You make Northern Illinois proud!

Later in the morning we visited Pearl Valley Eggs a couple of miles from Hunter Haven Farms. Owner Ben Thompson gave us a tour of the offices and packaging facility.

Pearl Valley’s genesis is similar to Hunter Haven’s. Ben’s dad, Dave, was a school teacher in Joliet, Illinois who began hatching eggs for his grade school classroom experiment. The chicks eventually retired from the classroom to the Thompson farmhouse, and eventually, Dave began selling the eggs to other teachers in his elementary school.

Dave’s love of eggs persisted, and in 1987, he bought the farm between Pearl City and Kent that would become Pearl Valley Eggs. Today, the Thompson’s employ about 230 people at the main plant, producing 1.7 million eggs a day.

The farm produces every sort of egg, from non GMO, organic, brown, white, and cage free. They also produce egg liquids like the egg whites some folks buy in the carton at the grocery store and dried egg powders.

The chicken manure is dried and screened before being packaged and sold as compost and fertilizer products.

Pearl Valley eggs are distributed from California to Florida, are sold in Mexico and even in Dubai. If you’ve bought an egg from WalMart, Costco, or Sam’s Club, chances are it came from Pearl Valley Eggs.

Both Hunter Haven and Pearl Valley Eggs have concerns about making sure people understand the challenges in agriculture today. Doug Block has said, “My concern is, 75 percent of the people are making rules for the 25 percent of us who work in production agriculture, and the 75 percent don’t have the knowledge of the care that goes into good production agriculture.”

Ben Thompson believes people need more information and hands on experience to understand egg production. He said, “We have an open door policy. Whether you’re USA Today or a grade school class, we welcome everyone who wants to learn about our eggs.”

I was honored to visit these farms, and I was proud to share them with Ms. Harold. Northwest Illinois is home to many success stories and I will continue to share more of the places we visited and the stories we heard in next week’s column.

Sally is back in the office this week. If you have any additional thoughts or ideas, you can reach me 815-232-0774, or visit my website at and use the form to send me an e-mail.

The Illinois Department of Transportation announced today that a road closure will be installed in Jo Daviess County.  The road closure will be on US 20, three miles west of Stockton.  The closure will begin on Monday, July 23, 2018 starting at 8:00am and is scheduled to conclude Monday, September 17, 2018.  A marked detour will be in place utilizing IL 73 south to US52/IL64 west to IL 84 north back to US 20.  Workers will be performing bridge repairs.

There’s an African proverb that says, “If you want to go quickly, go alone.  If you want to go fast, go together.”  Whether it’s events like Workation in Lanark every June, or the Pecatonica River Clean Up at the end of this month, there are good things happening throughout Northern Illinois.

With summer in full swing, it is important to continue recognizing and celebrating our communities’ achievements, successes, and contributions.  I had the unique opportunity to attend two events in Northern Illinois this past week that I would like to share.

The first event, was an Open House for National Park Service representatives of the U.S Department of Interior and was hosted by Galena City Beautiful and The Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design in Galena, Illinois.  The National Park Service was doing a site visit and is considering designating the City of Galena as a “National Historic Landmark.”

When talking about the opportunity, Museum Vice President Kieran Conlon stated, “The City of Galena certainly fits these criteria because of our city’s importance in the early growth of the United States… the development of the Upper Mississippi River Valley and for the one-of-a-kind collection of superior landmark buildings in the country.”

There are currently 87 National Historic Landmarks in Illinois including Chicago’s Adler Planetarium, and the Shedd Aquarium, Abraham Lincoln’s home in Springfield, Starved Rock in LaSalle County, and the John Deere Home and Shop in Grand Detour.
Rock Island is the site of the Rock Island Arsenal, which served as the site of a Union prison during the Civil War.  And of course, Galena is home to the only National Historic Landmark in the 89th Legislative District, the Ulysses S. Grant home.

Conlon said, “As a National Historic Landmark, the designation would position Galena on an equal national par with The Historic Districts of Charleston, South Carolina, Savannah, Georgia, Williamsburg, Virginia - for sure, other important American Landmark Cities… (and) will have significant economic and prestige impact on our community and on our developing tourist industry.”

Rose Noble, President and CEO of Greater Galena Marketing Inc., agrees with Conlon that National Historic Landmark status for Galena will have a major impact.  She has said, “This would be a great recognition for Galena and Illinois… travel impacts many jobs in Jo Daviess County, and this recognition has potential to draw significant visitors to our area.  We also know every traveler who visits Galena, comes back on average 3 times!”

This is great news for Galena and Northwestern Illinois.  It was my privilege to attend the Open House, share in the excitement, and offer my support.

After leaving Galena, I traveled down US Route 20 to The Rafters in Lena, Illinois where the Northwest Illinois F-4 Jet Memorial Committee hosted a fundraiser to bring an F-4 Phantom fighter jet to Lena’s Northwest Illinois Aerial Combat Memorial.  Committee Chairman, Terry Yount, said the project started with discussion between friends on Facebook, one of whom was a former Air Force mechanic. The gentleman was lamenting how one of the F-4 Phantoms he had been responsible for had been shot down for “target practice.”

*** Freedom is nothing but a chance to be better”***

As I shared last week, we celebrate our nation’s birthday on July 4th because it is the date at the top of the Declaration of Independence.  Choosing Independence Day serves as a reminder that the American experiment is most of all about freedom.  Our second President, John Adams, when writing about the Declaration of Independence and its anniversary, said, “It will be celebrated … with pomp and parade … bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other.”  He was right!

Why the Founding Fathers chose to declare independence in the middle of the summer heat eludes me.  Thankfully, this 4th of July was not the hottest one we’ve had.  I remember a few short years ago in 2012, temperatures were over 100 degrees Fahrenheit which makes this year’s Independence Day temperatures of 90-93 degrees seem a bit cooler in hindsight.

I love the 4th of July.  I love how we as Americans choose to celebrate our freedom.  I love family picnics.  I love the fireworks.  And most of all, I love the parades.  I love seeing our communities come together to celebrate freedom and to show the next generation what celebrating freedom looks like.

Take a moment to remember the most recent 4th of July parade you saw.  Maybe it was years ago.  Maybe it was this past week. What did you see?

***“No act of kindness… is ever wasted. –Aesop”*** 

On a quiet street in the city of Lanark, Illinois sits a quaint white building.  The bell and sign in the front herald the Lanark First Brethren Church.  This small community congregation has a history of serving Lanark for 130 years even raising funds to send a team of volunteers to minister in Alaska until 2015.

In 2016, the Church was at a crossroads.  The congregation chose to try a different sort of ministry project right in their own backyard.  They called it Workation - giving volunteers an opportunity to take a week to volunteer right in their own proverbial backyard while still having the opportunity to sleep in their own beds every night.

Organizers wanted three things.  First, they wanted to provide the opportunity to volunteer to more people.  Second, they wanted to help more people.  And third, they believed Workation should be non-denominational.

They estimated that Workation would attract 8 to 10 volunteers and conduct 10 to 12 projects a year, estimating roughly 200 volunteer hours each year.  They were wrong.  No one anticipated that it would develop into the single largest community service program in the Church’s history.

On Thursday June 14th, the Illinois FFA made history at the State Convention.  Delegates to the Convention elected five young women to each of the state chapter offices.  I wish a hearty congratulations to the new President Sophia Hortin of the Fisher FFA Chapter in Champaign County, Vice President Eliza Petry of the Rochelle FFA Chapter in Ogle County, Reporter Shaylee Clinton of the Mount Vernon FFA Chapter in Jefferson County, Secretary Miriam Hoffman of the Earlville FFA Chapter in LaSalle County, and Treasurer Taylor Hartke of the Teutopolis FFA Chapter in Effingham County.  I look forward to the great work they will do this term.

It was author Charles Bowden who wrote, “Summertime is always the best of what might be.” Summer definitely is the best time to enjoy weekends full of festivals and parades throughout Northern Illinois.

Last weekend, many counties enjoyed “Ag Breakfasts” sponsored by their local county Farm Bureaus.  I had the pleasure of enjoying the Stephenson County Ag Breakfast on Saturday which served over 3,000 people at the Stephenson County Fairgrounds.  On Sunday morning I joined the Jo Daviess County Ag Breakfast in Warren, Illinois.  And on Sunday afternoon, I visited the town of Polo, Illinois at their Town and Country Days Festival and marched in the parade.

There will be three festivals this weekend throughout the 89th District.  The Milledgeville Jamboree is scheduled from Friday through Sunday and will include a 5K run, bags tournament, concerts, a softball tournament, and a car show.
Lanark will be hosting its Old Settlers Days this Friday through Sunday as well.  Old Settlers Days also hosts a 5K run, softball tournament, and a car show, along with Its Kids Quarter Mile Run, Saturday morning breakfast at the fire station, pony rides and various tractor pulls throughout the weekend.

And Scales Mound will be celebrating its 165th Anniversary this weekend!  The festivities will include tug of war, concerts, mud volleyball, baseball games, a petting zoo, bags tournament, knocker ball, a 4H Breakfast on Sunday, and more.  Congratulations on the anniversary Scales Mound!

Lastly, the Illinois Bicentennial Commission will dedicate the new Captain Lincoln statue at Black Hawk Battlefield Park in Kent, Illinois this Saturday at 1pm.  The statue will mark where Captain Abraham Lincoln buried soldiers killed in battle with Sauk and Fox Indians in 1832. 

Cuban artist Mario Fernandez once said, “Rise above the storm and you will find the sunshine.” Last Monday brought with it ferocious storms especially to the east in Rockford, Illinois.  We all look forward to sun shining again.

The same can be said of Illinois state government.  And while it seems as though there’s nothing but storms brewing in Springfield, periodically, the sun shines through.

One example is House Bill 4472.  I filed this bill at the beginning of the Spring Session in order to help law enforcement and protect the citizens of Illinois.  This bill was the result of a traffic stop where a driver was pulled over for following a tractor-trailer too closely and heavily tinted windows.

After obtaining the Driver’s License the officer returned to their squad.  Shortly thereafter, the officer went back to the vehicle and checked for proof of insurance.  During that exchange, the officer found the vehicle contained illegal drugs and two loaded hand guns.

At the time, Illinois law did not require out of state drivers to provide proof of insurance.  The officer mistakenly believed they had authorization to return to the vehicle and ask for proof of insurance.  As a result, the courts ruled it an unqualified return and dismissed the case.
HB4472 provides our officers consistency when enforcing the law on Illinois roads.  It closes the loophole and allows officers to ask all drivers for proof of insurance – regardless of what state the vehicle is registered in.  Springfield needs more solutions like HB4472 especially when it comes to balancing the budget, reducing taxes, and growing our economy.

Once we agree on solutions that will move Illinois forward, the key will be sticking to our guns. Some may remember how Kansas tried to balance their budget and cut taxes in 2012.  While they did cut taxes, instead of balancing the budget, they chose to deficit spend.  According to the FY2018 Kansas Governor’s Budget report, Kansas set spending records in fiscal years 2013, 2015, and 2017.
While Kansas ratcheted up spending, it also increased taxes in 2013, 2015, and 2017.  In its report Rich States, Poor States 10th Ed., the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) describes it saying, “Perhaps the most important complexity to keep in mind is the Kansas tax reform plan was never fully implemented as intended.”  The ALEC report goes on to say that states should avoid the Kansan pitfalls and, “Pursue lower taxes, but resist the ever-present temptation to overspend.”
Illinoisans are familiar with overspending.  We saw what happened during the last tax hike. Money that was supposed to pay down the pension debt and bill backlog was spent on more government programs.  The same thing is happening with the current tax increase.
With legislation like HB4472, Springfield has demonstrated that the sun can shine through and we can come together to pass common sense solutions.  I am hopeful that we can extend such successes to our finances in the coming year.
If you have any additional thoughts or ideas, you can reach me or Sally at 815-232-0774, or visit my website at and use the form to send me an e-mail.

In 1981, President Ronald Reagan said, “When we honor our flag we honor what we stand for as a Nation – freedom, equality, justice, and hope.”  In case you were wondering why you saw so many flags this week, June 14th was Flag Day.

Honoring our flag dates back to our own Revolutionary War.  The first President to proclaim Flag Day on June 14th was Woodrow Wilson in 1916.  Congress established National Flag Day on June 14th in 1946.  If you pass by a flag, take a moment to remember what it stands for and think about the brave men and women who fought so that flag might still wave.

One of the challenges in a legislative district as large as the 89th is its size.  The 89th District covers all or part of six counties in Northwestern Illinois.  Many folks in the 89th District from East Dubuque and Hanover to Chadwick and Milledgeville don’t have the same luxury of dropping in on the district office in Freeport as folks do in bigger cities.

That’s why I continue to hold mobile office hours throughout the 89th District every year.  This month I have scheduled the first mobile office hours of 2018 in Galena at the Visitor’s Center, in East Dubuque in the Public Library on June 21st, in Mount Carroll in the Courthouse Community Room, and in Lanark in the Public Library on June 22nd.  Others are in the works and we will issue news releases for each location with specifics to local news outlets and post details on our website and social media pages.

Constituents will have an opportunity to visit with knowledgeable staff and ask questions, and also obtain important information about fraud prevention, health care, end of life care, civil rights, and the legislative process.  My staff and I look forward to meeting you and helping in any way we can.

Future columns will continue to explore and expound on Illinois’ recently passed budget.  I believe the budget discussion in many ways extends beyond dollars and cents to reflect our principles and priorities.

In a commencement address at Hillsdale College in 2016, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas when speaking about how his upbringing shaped his principles, said, “If there was to be independence, self-sufficiency, or freedom, then we first had to understand, accept, and discharge our responsibilities.  The latter were the necessary (but not always sufficient) antecedents or precursors of the former.  The only guarantee was that if you did not discharge your responsibilities, there could be no independence, no self-sufficiency, and no freedom.”

Many of us can relate to Justice Thomas.  We share similar upbringings and hold many of the same principles.  My own journey included growing up in public housing, and working from an early age.  It included a hunger and determination to be sure the promise of America became a reality for me and my family.

That hunger drove me every day through my service in the US Army.  That determination drove me every day during my tenure as a Stephenson County Sheriff’s Deputy.  That hunger drove me to start my first business and many more.  That determination drives me every day to serve my customers and my constituents to the best of my ability.

I do not believe that we need budgets built on old, tired, failed agendas.  I do not believe we need Springfield bureaucrats and leadership writing a budget that tells us that they know better what’s best for us.

We need to move forward and leave behind the thinking that the best measure of government is the number of people “served”.  It’s thinking like that which led to the creation of almost 7,000 government bodies in Illinois.  Some are inefficient, wasteful and need to be eliminated.   
If Springfield ran McDonald’s, they would open a store in Death Valley because it is underserved, and people are entitled to enjoy McDonald’s wherever they may be.

I do agree with screenwriter David Milch, who wrote, “Every man’s entitled to hope.”  I believe everyone is entitled to hope.  I believe that the promise of America is that each of us has the hope and opportunity to fulfill our purpose and live with dignity.  It takes work.  It takes hard work.  In America, it can be done.

I look forward to discussing the budget in further detail in coming weeks.  It was President Lyndon Johnson who said, “You do not examine legislation in the light of the benefits it will convey if properly administered, but in the light of the wrongs it would do and the harms it would cause if improperly administered.”

If you have any additional thoughts or ideas, you can reach me or Sally at 815-232-0774, or visit my website at and use the form to send me an e-mail.

During the period of June 15, 16, 17 and 18, 2018, it shall be legal for any person to fish in waters wholly or in part within the jurisdiction of the State, including the Illinois portion of Lake Michigan, without possessing a sport fishing license, salmon stamp or inland trout stamp.

Fishing Regulations visit

Fishing Info visit

Fish question email Fish Dept. at

Happy Father's Day Weekend! 
Rep. Stewart attends the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics with the Freeport Police Department, Stephenson County Sheriff's Police and the Regional Coordinator from the Rockford Police Department on Thursday, June 14th.

Many enjoyed the parades over the past few weeks, despite the sweltering heat on Memorial Day. Those who marched in Pecatonica’s Memorial Day Parade may have seen a Main Street mainstay, Pecatonica Hardware. Ted Kramer is the owner of Pecatonica Hardware. Ted has owned and operated his hardware store for 51 years. His hard work was recently honored by the website when they ranked Pecatonica Hardware in the Top 10 Best Hardware Stores in Illinois. Ted, you make Northern Illinois proud. Thank you for your hard work.

June is National Dairy Month. Beginning as National Milk Month in 1937, it was originally an effort to stabilize the demand for milk. Today, National Dairy Month is a celebration of the dairy industry’s history as well as a glimpse into its future.

Some may remember the dairy industry’s ad campaign, “Milk, it does a body good.” If only the same thing could be said of some of the decisions made by the Illinois General Assembly for the State of Illinois. The budget was not the only vote made by the General Assembly before it adjourned for the summer.

The Illinois House voted to approve House Resolution 1025. The resolution is an endorsement of amending the Illinois Constitution in order for the legislature to pass a progressive income tax. HR1025’s Chief Sponsor, Speaker Madigan, issued a statement after its passage, saying, “Today’s vote was a promise to taxpayers that as we continue working toward a fair tax in Illinois our focus will be on cutting taxes on the middle class…”

When was the last time Illinois had a permanent tax cut for any of our citizens? The resolution’s supporters want us to believe that raising taxes will stimulate our economy, and help expand small business. As I have written many times, Illinois families pay more in state and local taxes than any other state in the country. Still, our state is running massive budget deficits, dramatically underfunding pensions, and trailing the nation in economic growth by 60%.

Tax hikes yield poorer economic growth than tax cuts. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) compared the economic recovery following the Reagan tax cuts in 1982, and the recovery following the Obama tax increases in 2011. The US economy grew by over 4% annually after the Reagan tax cuts and by an average of 2% after the Obama tax hikes.

What if we need to increase revenue to pay for services? Shouldn’t we sacrifice some economic growth if only for the short term? ALEC also analyzed tax receipts after the Kennedy and Reagan tax cuts and compares them to the Obama administration tax hikes. After the Kennedy cuts, “state and local tax receipts grew by 65 percent..,” after the Reagan cuts, “the real increase was 35 percent...,” and after the Obama increases tax receipts “grew by a meager 6 percent.”

Raising taxes inhibits economic and tax receipt growth, plain and simple. In HR1025, the argument for a progressive tax is because our flat income tax is regressive, specifically benefiting the top 1% of Illinois wage earners. If the resolution’s supporters were truly committed to the top 1% paying their “fair share” in taxes why do Cook County property owners get a tax break? Should paying a “fair share” exclude property taxes?

We know that Illinois’ current economic development model benefits Chicagoland at the expense of rural communities. What is not commonly known is that a house in Stephenson, Jo Daviess, Winnebago, Carroll, Ogle, or Whiteside County pays property taxes on 33.3% of its assessed value. A Cook County resident pays based on 10% of their home’s assessed value, offering a massive tax cut to the millionaires and billionaires who live in Chicago.

What happens when Chicago doesn’t have enough tax money to pay for its schools? It gets money from Springfield. Where does the Springfield money come from? It comes from rural downstate Illinois. If House Democrats wanted the wealthy to pay their “fair share” in taxes they would start by requiring the rich Cook County residents to pay property taxes based on the same assessment ratio as the rest of us in Illinois.

It was Winston Churchill who said, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” Far too often, after delving deeper than campaign season rhetoric, we find the devil in the details. So what is the true motivation behind HR1025?

Majority Leader Representative Barbara Flynn Currie was one of the Chief Co-Sponsors of HR1025. Her remarks during debate indicate the resolution’s true intent. Decatur’s Herald-Review reported that, “Currie says the idea would equalize income distribution.”

Illinois has suffered enough from tired, failed policies. We do not need Chicago politicians trying to equalize anything. It is time for us to come together, work hard, abandon ideological blinders, and enact common sense solutions to grow our economy and move Illinois forward.

If you have any additional thoughts or ideas, you can reach me or Sally at 815-232-0774, or visit my website at and use the form to send me an e-mail.

I was privileged this week to welcome to the Capitol the Ambassador of Spain to the United States, His Excellency Pedro Morenes

I was also privileged this week to welcome to the Capitol the Consul General of the Peoples Republic of China, Hong Lei.

It was the great UCLA men’s basketball Coach John Wooden who said, “The most powerful leadership tool you have is your own example.” Several area student-athletes set a tremendous example at the IHSA Class 1A State Track and Field Finals.

Carmen DeVries from Lena-Winslow/Pearl City claimed the State title in the 400m dash, and also finished 3rd in the triple jump. Emily Offenheiser from Stockton/Warren took home 1st in discus, and 2nd in shot put. Milledgeville’s Rebecca Waite finished 3rd in the 200m dash.

And last weekend, in the Boys Class 1A State Track and Field Finals, Forreston’s AJ Christenson took first place in the 300 meter Intermediate Hurdles and in the 110 meter High Hurdles. Lena-Winslow/Pearl City’s relay team of Ty Chrisman, Isaiah Bruce, Gaige Schwartz, and Rahveon Valentine took 2nd place in the 4x100 meter relay, and 3rd place in the 4x200.

Thomas Edison said, “There is no substitute for hard work.” Our student athletes are proof of that. Congratulations to all our state competitors and finalists for your hard work and success this season.

If Albert Einstein’s words, “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity,” are true, then Illinois faces tremendous opportunity. Last week I outlined a few of the challenges confronting our state. The legislature adjourned this week, and we have had an opportunity to witness the response to our fiscal crisis.

The Illinois General Assembly passed House Bills 109 (Budget) and 3342 (Budget Implementation) on Thursday, and people should be concerned about the difficulty it will bring for five reasons.

1. Pensions: The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago pegs Illinois pension debt at $111 billion, according to the Illinois Policy Institute. Moody’s Investor’s Service estimates our pension debt at $250 billion. Why the disparity?

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) explains the difference between the Chicago Fed and Moody’s estimates in the 10th edition of their report Rich States/Poor States. States and organizations estimate pension debt based on how much money is available to invest at a specific rate of return. The higher the rate of return, the lower the pension debt is.

Organizations like the Chicago Fed are most likely using what the ALEC report calls, “the simple, unweighted average discount rate” of 7.37%. Moody’s is most likely using a more conservative rate of return, similar to the ones used by the Hoover Institute, or the ALEC report’s own rate of 2.344%. Both Hoover and ALEC estimate Illinois pensions to be less than 30% funded.

The new budget does not address underfunded pensions, nor have any efforts been made to reform pensions in order to reduce the debt burden.

2. Unpaid Bills: As I mentioned in last week’s column, Illinois’ total backlog of unpaid bills is topping $204 billion. This amounts to over $41,000 in debt per Illinois family. Nothing in HB109 or HB3342 addresses how Illinois will begin paying its bills on time and the total of what we owe vendors as of today stands at $7.04 billion.

3. Unbalanced: This makes the same $300 million assumption of the Thompson Center’s sale value. It also includes over $600 million in “interfund borrowing”. Such “borrowing” is a way to cover spending when tax receipts can’t. Lastly, the estimate of increased revenue for the next fiscal year is almost double our average economic growth, which puts the budget out of balance by as much as $1.5 billion, according to the Illinois Policy Institute.

4. Waste: This budget appropriates over $180 million from the “Road Fund” for former President Obama’s Presidential Center. It is unclear what the money is for, or how it will be used. One legislative group is being allocated $50,000 to hold a national convention. It is unclear if it is the only legislative group receiving these funds, and if so, why it qualifies, what the process was to qualify, etc…

5. Time to Review:
JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings saga is 1216 pages long. HB 109 is 1245 pages long! The Senate had the bill for 5 hours before voting. The House had it for 4 hours before voting. Combined, the General Assembly took less time to read the budget than the total run time of the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. How can we be expected to make the right decisions if we don’t take the right amount of time to consider them?

Fuzzy budgeting, wasteful spending, mounting deficits, snap decisions, and a backlog of unpaid bills don’t make for a successful business. They don’t make for a successful state either. These are some of the reasons I chose to vote no. We need a better process to get better results and I will provide more budget information in future columns.

Thankfully, something good happened in Springfield last week. The General Assembly passed Senate Bill 3105. The legislation, “permits a child protective investigator of a Child Protective Service Unit to request assistance from local law enforcement officers”. This provides DCFS investigators with some measure of protection to avoid being viciously assaulted, as investigator Pam Knight was last September, which ultimately resulted in her death.

If you have any additional thoughts or ideas, you can reach me or Sally at 815-232-0774, or visit my website at and use the form to send me an e-mail.
Olivia Klinefelter, who is going into the 6th Grade in the Eastland School District, was my page for the day on Friday. Her chauffeur for the day was her father, Jim. Olivia thanks for being my page and you did an outstanding job!

***Guest Column***

This past week was National Emergency Medical Services Week (EMS). Many of us can’t imagine not being able to call 9-1-1 for an ambulance during an emergency. That wasn’t always the case.

EMS services did not become a national priority until 1966, when President Lyndon Johnson read the report Accidental Death and Disability: The Neglected Disease of Modern Society, in which he learned that more people in America died in vehicle accidents in 1965 than the total number of American casualties in the Korean War.

The report started the snowball rolling. The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) was founded in 1968. By 1969, the first EMS curriculum was published. The first paramedic training was developed and implemented in the early 70’s. By 1972, the University of Cincinnati created the first residency program for Emergency Medicine.

It was ACEP who influenced President Gerald Ford to authorize the first National EMS week in 1974, and it was recognized every November for the next four years. It was reinstituted in October 1982. In 1992, the observance was moved to May in order to set it apart from Fire Prevention Week and has been held every May since then.

The next time you pull over for an ambulance, remember, the people inside are doing good work, work that was created to save peoples’ lives. Thank you to all the Emergency Medical Personnel and physicians and medical staff who make a difference for people in emergencies every day.

It was also announced this month that both Stockton and Freeport are home to 3 of the 327 designated economic development zones in Illinois. The zones were determined through an exhaustive process by Governor Rauner and the Illinois Department of Commerce as Opportunity Development Zones, and were approved by the US Treasury Department.

Opportunity Development Zones were created as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. They are a community development program designed to encourage long term investment in low-income communities. They serve as a tax incentive for investors to put unrealized capital gains into Opportunity Funds. The Opportunity Funds are used to invest into the Opportunity Zones to spur economic development and create jobs.

It was President John F. Kennedy who said, “Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer but the right answer.” I am excited to see how Opportunity Zones will perform. As I have detailed in the past, Illinois has focused its economic development on Chicagoland at the expense of rural communities. It is important to try common sense new approaches and transition away from our anemic economic growth model.

Currently, Illinois’ economic growth stagnates at 1.2% per year. That’s 60 percent less than our country’s overall economic growth. According to the Illinois Policy Institute, state and local governments “owe more than $203 billion for pensions and retiree health insurance. This is more than $41,000 in retirement debt for every Illinois household.”

The problem has not been getting better. In its 10th Report Rich States/Poor States, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) reported that growth in general fund revenue across the 50 United States has been outpaced by inflation and population growth. State revenues aren’t growing fast enough to keep pace with modest debt. As we know, Illinois debt is anything but modest, and our economic growth lags behind the nation.

The ALEC report goes on to suggest, “The solution to this impasse is not more federal money, gambling revenues, or internet sales taxation. It is not income or sales tax hikes or even slashing essential government services. No, what states desperately need is a return to robust national economic growth combined with fiscal discipline on the spending side of the ledger.”

I agree. As the session continues, I call on my colleagues to focus on common sense solutions that will generate economic prosperity throughout Illinois. Now is not the time for partisan politics. Our circumstances require better. Our constituents deserve better. Let’s deliver better for them.

Lastly, Memorial Day is Monday May 28th. It was President Kennedy who said, “As we express our gratitude we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” Thank you to all the brave men and women who gave their lives so our nation might live.

Let us honor their sacrifice, not only with our words, but also by our deeds. They are all heroes. God bless their memory. God bless their families. And God bless the United States of America.

As always, if you have any additional thoughts or ideas, you can reach me or Sally at 815-232-0774, or visit my website at and use the form to send me an e-mail.
This week I co-sponsored House Resolution 1071 to support funding for childhood cancer and gave my heartfelt thanks to Megan Bugg for her advocacy for the resolution. Megan was diagnosed with Stage 4 Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma and has since been through 90 weeks of chemotherapy, 125 radiation treatments and 3 surgeries. 43 kids every day are diagnosed with a form of childhood cancer. Megan's battle continues and her courage to fight her disease and raise awareness for funding for others is sincerely applauded. The entire chamber was honored to welcome her to Springfield.

***Guest Column***

One of the most important measurements of a community’s success is their crime rate. Rightly or wrongly, the responsibility for crime rates often falls in the laps of our nation’s police departments. Our policemen and policewomen patrol a Thin Blue Line to serve and protect us.

Law enforcement has evolved greatly over the centuries. Starting with volunteer watchmen and part-time constabulary, policing was not centralized into civil police departments until the mid-nineteenth century. According to Eastern Kentucky University Criminal Justice Professor Dr. Gary Potter, Boston organized the first full-time police force in 1838, and was followed by New York City in 1845 and Chicago in 1851.

On May 4th 1963, President John F. Kennedy issued a Proclamation, declaring May 15th as Peace Officers Memorial Day and the week in which May 15th falls as National Police Week, “in recognition of the service given by the men and women who, night and day, protect us through enforcement of our laws.” He also wrote, “Whereas, from the beginning of this Nation, law enforcement officers have played an important role in safeguarding the rights and freedoms which are guaranteed by the Constitution… Whereas it is important that our people know and understand the problems, duties, and responsibilities of their police departments and the necessity for cooperating with them in maintaining law and order; and Whereas it is fitting and proper that we express our gratitude for the dedicated service and courageous deeds of law enforcement officers.”

As many of you know, I am a former law enforcement officer and retired as a Sergeant with the Stephenson County Sheriff’s Police. My law enforcement background is one of the reasons I am the Republican Spokesperson on the House Judiciary – Criminal Committee.

I stand firmly with my fallen brothers and sisters. I stand firmly with their families. I stand behind the Thin Blue Line. I stand with the heroes who protect it, like Mark Dallas, a 15 year veteran of the Dixon Police Department who stopped and incapacitated a shooter at Dixon High School on Wednesday.

Thank you Officer Dallas. You are a hero. And thank you to every police officer who puts on the uniform to protect and serve us every day.

Another important measurement of the success of a community is literacy. Former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan once said, “Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope. It is a tool for daily life in modern society. It is a bulwark against poverty, and a building block of development… a platform for democratization, and a vehicle for the promotion of cultural and national identity... Literacy is, finally, the road to human progress and the means through which every man, woman and child can realize his or her full potential.”

Annan’s view is corroborated by UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. In a 2006 report, they wrote, “Indeed, it is widely reckoned that, in modern societies, ‘literacy skills are fundamental to informed decision-making, personal empowerment, active and passive participation in local and global social community’.”

It is especially important to develop reading skills from a young age. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “More than 1 in 3 American children start Kindergarten without the skills they need to learn to read.” Raising Readers, a program in the state of Maine, reports on their website that “Developing early literacy skills makes it easier for children to learn to read.”

The National Education Association agrees. Their website says, “having kids read a lot is one of the crucial components of becoming a good reader.”
In a departmental report The Condition of Education published in 1998, the US Department of Education uncovered that “the more students read for fun on their own time, the higher their reading scores.”

This is why I am happy to once again announce my annual Summer Reading Program. This Program challenges 1st through 5th graders to “Camp Out With a Good Book” and read 8 books during their summer break. Books for local library programs are acceptable and books over 150 pages may count for two books.

Once a student finishes reading all eight books, they should complete the Reading Program form. The form may already have gone home from your local school. In Freeport, the form is available in the school library or at the Freeport Public Library. It is also available at your local public library or on my website Please return the form by July 31st, 2018 to be eligible.

Kids who have read at least 8 books will be invited to participate in an ice cream party later in the summer at the Union Dairy. They will also be awarded an official certificate from the Illinois House of Representatives recognizing their commitment to reading.

As always, if you have any additional thoughts or ideas, you can reach me or Sally at 815-232-0774, or visit my website at and use the form to send me an e-mail.