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 www.repbrianstewart.com 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
https://www.ifishillinois.org/regulations/2018FishingGuide.pdf

Fishing Info visit
https://www.ifishillinois.org/

Fish question email Fish Dept. at
DNR.Fisheries@illinois.gov

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 BestinIL.com 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 www.repbrianstewart.com 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 www.repbrianstewart.com 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 www.repbrianstewart.com 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 www.repbrianstewart.com. 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 www.repbrianstewart.com and use the form to send me an e-mail.


***Guest Column***

In 1998, James Hunter wrote a book called The Servant: A Simple Story About the True Essence of Leadership. With over 3 million copies in print, The Servant is an excellent book on leadership. Hunter writes, “Leadership is not about personality, possessions, or charisma, but all about who you are as a person. I used to believe that leadership was about style but now I know that leadership is about substance, namely character… Thoughts become actions, actions become habits, habits become our character, and our character becomes our destiny.”

Speaking of character, the City of Freeport Fire Department has had 3 notable retirements recently, Battalion Chief Brian Bruce, Fire Inspector, Robert Bush and next week Deputy Chief Robin Gorsline. In addition Public Works Director Tom Dole also has retired. They have all served Freeport with distinction for over 30 years, and Tom Dole over 35 years. I had the privilege of joining Inspector Bush at Calvary Lighthouse Church’s special “Honoring Public Officials Service” last November in Rochelle, Illinois.

It takes character to be a first responder. It takes character to do it every day for over 30 years. Thank you Gentlemen for showing us what character looks like.

This week also honors two professions, the often unsung heroes of our classrooms and our clinics and hospitals. It is National Teacher Appreciation Week. The first National Teacher Day was declared by Congress in 1953. The National Educators Association began to push to renew National Teacher Day in 1980, and the NEA began observing National Teacher Day in March each year until 1985.

The National Parent-Teacher Association began designating the first full week in May to honor teachers as National Teacher Appreciation Week in 1984. In 1985, the NEA Representative Assembly voted to change the date of National Teacher Day from March to coincide with National Teacher Appreciation Week.

I am sure we can all think of at least one or two teachers who made a difference in our lives. We know that a better education means a better future for our children. It takes character to show up every day to make a difference in our children’s lives. Take a moment and thank a teacher for their hard work and dedication.

It is also National Nurses Week. The first week honoring nurses was called “National Nurse Week”, and it was held in 1954 from October 11th through October 16th. The dates were chosen to coincide with the 100th anniversary of famous American nurse Florence Nightingale’s mission to the Crimea. It wasn’t until 1974 that the next National Nurse Week was designated by President Richard Nixon.

In the 1980’s nursing organizations, including the American Nursing Association, began to lobby for a National Recognition Day for Nurses and President Ronald Reagan proclaimed “National Recognition Day for Nurses to be May 6th in 1982. In 1990, the ANA Board of Directors expanded the observance to National Nurses Week from May 6th to May 12th, Florence Nightingale’s birthday.

In every clinic and hospital across our nation, nurses are working to make sure their patients receive quality health care. The next time you see a nurse, thank them for the character they demonstrate doing their job each day.

Leadership takes character. It requires knowing what the job is, and doing that job to the best of our ability. If the job is cutting lumber, and you are sharpening pencils, it does not matter if you’re the best pencil sharpener in the business. You’re not doing your job.

Take the job of state representative. My job is to propose and vote on prospective legislation to grow our economy. I have written about several specific bills I have filed in the past several months. One of those bills, House Bill 5233, will make it easier for companies to locate in Illinois.

Currently, Illinois law requires a company seeking to take advantage of state business incentives, to obtain an incentive package from a neighboring state. This hurts our chances of attracting new businesses to Illinois and beating any incentives offered by neighboring states. HB5233 removes the requirement.

Another of those bills is House Bill 4787 which will help rehabilitate structures in downtown Freeport and other cities.

What we need are more legislators proposing common sense solutions like HB5233 and HB 4787 in Springfield. What we do not need are legislators to have emperor like authority to dictate how and where a business should operate, or what any one person should or shouldn’t do.

It is easy to criticize and throw peanut shells from the cheap seats, or around the morning coffee table. There are plenty of critics. We need more people to participate in a healthy community discussion about what all of our elected officials and our citizens can do to fulfill their duty and help our community move forward - together. We need more character.

Happy Mother’s Day and hope everyone remembers their Mother on her special day.

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 www.repbrianstewart.com and use the form to send me an e-mail.
Illinois State Police Director Leo Schmitz is urging Illinois firearms owners to file paperwork early as the first wave of the 10-year Firearm Owners Identification cards come due for renewal.

More than 50,000 FOID cards are due for renewal between June 1 and Aug. 1. The General Assembly amended state law in 2008, allowing FOID cards to be valid for 10 years. The timing of the law change creates a glut of renewals this summer, and could cause a backlog at the Department. State Police are recommending to renew your FOID Card now.

Applicants can visit the ISP's Firearm Services Bureau website at ispfsb.com to renew online. The cost of the card is $10. Applicants must be Illinois residents and include their Illinois Drivers License or State ID card number. Applicants under the age of 21 must have a parents' signature on the application. Anyone who needs assistance with FOID card renewal, and those who prefer paper applications, can call 217-782-7980 and select menu option 0.

Applicants should make sure the name and address on FOID applications match the records on file for them at the Secretary of State's Office, otherwise the renewal process will be delayed.

## 


***Guest Column***


I agree with Bern Williams who wrote, “The day the Lord created hope was probably the same day he created Spring.” I definitely hope that the teasing is over and spring has finally sprung. The sun is shining and the temperatures are finally on the rise. It can be argued that the sun is shining on taxpayers because the Illinois House of Representatives has been in recess this past week. I pray our luck holds when the House reconvenes May 8th.

There are two important noteworthy national events going on this week that have been on my mind. April 29th through May 5th is Small Business Week. Most of you may know that I am currently involved in the operations of 21 small businesses employing hundreds in Northern Illinois so this week is very important. And this Saturday marks the 144th Kentucky Derby.

Small businesses received their first assistance from the Reconstruction Finance Corporation created in 1932 during the Great Depression. In 1953, Congress passed the Small Business Act that created the Small Business Administration (SBA). Ten years later, President John F. Kennedy declared the first National Small Business Week, with the purpose to educate small business owners about how the SBA could help small businesses.



Today, not only does the SBA utilize National Small Business Week to inform small businesses about resources they can use to improve or expand their business, it recognizes and awards excellent small business owners. Deborah Sweeney, writer for Business.com, wrote, “According to the SBA, more than half of Americans own or work for a small business. Entrepreneurs also help create two out of every three new jobs in the United States, yearly. Since the week-long event (National Small Business Week) began in 1963, the number of small businesses created has continued to rise. Fewer businesses are failing, too.”

It is important for our state to empower and expand small business opportunities. This can be done by cutting red tape, and putting the right incentives in place to help new businesses start up, and existing businesses expand. I sincerely hope that the Illinois General Assembly works to pass laws that make sense and help businesses create jobs, especially in Northern Illinois.

It has been said that, “The Kentucky Derby is billed as the most exciting two minutes in sports. Held every year on the first Saturday in May at the World famous Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, the most glamorous horse racing event of the year draws spectators from all over the world.” The Derby truly is steeped in tradition, from the big hats to the Mint Juleps.

Colonel Meriwether Lewis Clark, Grandson of William Clark of the famous Lewis and Clark expedition, attended England’s Epsom Derby in 1872 on a trip to Europe. He later spent time with the French Jockey Club, a group that developed the Grand Prix de Paris Longchamps. Colonel Clark returned to Kentucky with the desire to bring a spectacular horse racing event to the US.

His uncles, John and Henry Churchill, leased the land in Louisville, Kentucky to be used for the racetrack. Colonel Clark formed a club of enthusiastic local horse racing fans called the Louisville Jockey Club. The club dues raised enough money to build the track’s clubhouse, grandstand, stables and porter’s lodge. They opened the gates to the track on May 17th, 1875 for the first Kentucky Derby.

In 1883 the racetrack adopted the name, Churchill Downs. Churchill Downs holds the record for the longest-running continuous sporting event in the United States, the Kentucky Derby.

Hats were part of the Kentucky Derby extravaganza right from the start. Colonel Clark envisioned a horse racing spectacle that was a lodestone for upper class attendees in the European style. The Europeans required “Sunday best” attire for their crème de la crème events, including gowns, parasols, and of course, hats.

Col. Clark originally used the Louisville Jockey Club’s upper class women to attract more upper class attendees to the Derby. The result was a Kentucky Derby that was as much about fashion as it was about the horse race. Once the Derby was televised, hats became bigger and more colorful.

The Mint Julep was chosen and promoted by Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby in 1938, ostensibly to add another unique aspect to the event. The Old Forester Mint Julep is now the official drink of the Kentucky Derby. Almost 120,000 mint juleps are served during the Derby weekend.

The Kentucky Derby truly is an awesome spectacle. I look forward to watching it this weekend. Then it will be back to Springfield, fighting for common sense legislation that will make life in Northern Illinois better.

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

This last week in Springfield has me thinking about common sense more and more. Democrats on the Judiciary Committee have run roughshod over what I believe are common sense solutions. It certainly seems that common sense isn’t so common, and I began to wonder how the term originated.

Common sense made its first appearance in the book De Anima (Of the Soul), written by famed Greek philosopher Aristotle in 350 B.C. He described common sense more as a sense of common things and also as the place where our consciousness comes from because, “it makes us aware of having sensations at all.”

Centuries later, the Romans shaded Aristotle’s idea of common sense in three ways. First, the Roman, “sensus communis,” represented widely accepted ideas that originate from our souls. Second, it referred to mankind’s natural intellectual capacity. Lastly, it was used to describe the public attitude or spirit.

Common sense continued to evolve over the centuries. It developed the definition it has today through the contribution of Thomas Reid. Reid was the founder of the “Scottish School of Common Sense”. Reid wrote, “If there are certain principles, as I think there are, which the constitution of our nature leads us to believe, and which we are under a necessity to take for granted in the common concerns of life, without being able to give a reason for them – these are what we call the principles of common sense; and what is manifestly contrary to them, is what we call absurd.”
Reid’s philosophy was a strong influence on many of our own Founding Fathers, including Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. It also had a significant impact on the father of modern capitalism, Adam Smith.

I agree with W. Somerset Maugham who wrote, “With a little common sense, a little patience, and a little sense of humour you can live well on this planet.” I was disappointed to witness how much common sense was lacking in votes taken by the House Judiciary Subcommittees and the Judiciary Criminal Committee last week.

The Sex Offenses and Sex Offender Registration Subcommittee voted down House Bill 4318. After a rapist gets out of prison they can move right next door to their victim. You read that correctly. There are no living restrictions for a convicted rapist when it comes to their victim. HB4318 established a 1 mile radius living restriction between a rapist and the victim.

A registered sex offender cannot live within 500 feet of a school. Surely it is reasonable to protect rape victims from living next door to their rapist. The Subcommittee Democrats argued that rapists do not need any additional restrictions after being released from prison.

The Judiciary Criminal Committee voted down House Bill 4586. As I have written before, HB4586 extended the same protections to Illinois DCFS employees that DHS workers, corrections officers, police officers, fire fighters, and other first responders have under current law. We filed this bill in response to the horrific and brutal attack on DCFS investigator Pamela Knight in September of last year.

Pamela Knight’s family issued a statement in response to the vote. Her daughter, Jennifer Hollenback wrote, “Speaking for myself as a lifelong democrat, I understand that enhancing criminal penalties doesn’t always deter crime. I don’t believe that philosophy applies to this bill. We are not talking about mandatory minimums. We are talking about legislation that protects social workers working in some capacity for the state of Illinois… I am devastated by the vote cast by the democrats, in the Judicial Criminal Committee. We are supposed to be advocates for social issues. We are supposed to be a party for the people. How can we ask child welfare workers to keep children safe, if we can’t keep our child welfare workers safe?”

To Jennifer, her family, and to DCFS workers across the state of Illinois, I say, I will not give up the fight. We cannot let this injustice happen to other families.

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick said, “We have drained common sense out of our politics. The more we focus on tactics and games, the more good people check out and give up.” I agree. We need common sense. We need to put partisanship aside and get things done for Illinois. My sincere hope is that my colleagues across the aisle start by reconsidering their votes on HB4318 and HB4586.


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

***Guest Column***

President Eisenhower said, “Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil, and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field.”  Future Farmers of America is teaching tens of thousands of students across our country, including hundreds right here in Northwest Illinois, leadership skills while providing insight into “career success through agricultural education.”

Our FFA students have done us proud this year at the state competition.  Congratulations to the Eastland FFA members who were selected as Illinois State FFA Proficiency Winners late last month.  Eastland student, Bradley Johnson, was a state winner in Beef Production Placement. Emily Denekas earned the distinction for Home and Community Development.  Payton Erbsen was a State winner in Forage Production, and Delana Erbsen was named the State Star Discovery Farmer.  Connor Erbsen was interviewed as a State Finalist for Star Farmer.

Agriculture is a major component in our economy.  Farmers are definitely ready for warmer weather to arrive.  Spring has had a difficult time getting to us.  Last Monday the Chicago Cubs Opening Day game was postponed because of snow!

Baseball has also been on my mind.  It is a sport that is uniquely American.  While it has been embraced in parts of Latin America and Japan, the sport has dominated our national psyche for more than half of our nation’s history.



It was the great Babe Ruth who said, “Baseball was, is and always will be the greatest game in the world.”  Part of baseball’s heritage is the Opening Day.  The Opening Day for each baseball team has been a significant event for major league cities for over 100 years.  Cincinnati, home of the first professional baseball team, celebrates the Reds Opening Day game as a city-wide holiday.

Like Easter, Opening Day signifies rebirth and a fresh start.  It symbolizes hope.  There is even a book written by long time sports columnist Thomas Boswell titled “Why Time Begins on Opening Day.”

Hall of Famer and legendary Cleveland Indians pitcher Bob Feller explained why he thought baseball influenced Americans.  He said, “Every day is a new opportunity.  You can build on yesterday’s success or put its failures behind and start over again.  That’s the way life is, with a new game every day, and that’s the way baseball is.”

The General Assembly started the bulk of this session Monday April 9th.  We have a new opportunity.  We have an opportunity to put the vitriol and the ideological entrenchments of the past few years behind us.  We have an opportunity to pursue common sense solutions to our state’s problems.

We could start with a commitment to only spend as much as we have.  Chicago Democrats keep raising our taxes and fees and the budget is not balanced.  We do not need the same tired lines about paying our fair share and raising more taxes.

Families in Illinois work hard to put food on the table and save for a rainy day.  They also pay more taxes than families in any other state in our country.  They do not need more taxes.  They do not deserve more taxes.  What they do need is a common sense government, and my goal is to work with my colleagues, Republican and Democrat, to achieve it.

One common sense solution is reforming our welfare system.  Welfare reform, including requiring photo identification, received the highest positive response rate from the legislative survey I sent out late last year.  That is one of the reasons I filed House Bill 4549.
HB 4549 requires Illinois LINK cards to include the name and photo of the primary card holder. We require photo ID’s to apply for jobs, to obtain medical care, and to travel on planes or drive cars.  It is perfectly reasonable to require LINK cards to include a photo ID.

Illinois’ neighboring state, Missouri, added photos to their SNAP benefit cards in 2011 as part of a comprehensive welfare reform overhaul that included drug testing requirements.  The Commonwealth of Massachusetts approved a similar measure in July of 2013.  Democrat House Speaker Robert DeLeo said, “What this is about is to stamp out fraud and abuse.” Massachusetts began issuing the cards in November of 2013.

The state of Maine followed Massachusetts in 2014 after soliciting advice from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) on how to implement the program without risking the loss of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) funding. 

It is time for us to do the responsible, reasonable thing and pass welfare reform so that the people who need a hand up aren’t forced to suffer or wait because of people who are abusing the system.  It is a common sense solution to a problem that needs solving and I sincerely hope it is called for a vote.

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

The Easter Holiday is upon us. Families throughout Northern Illinois are taking children on Easter egg hunts as adults are wrapping up their Lenten commitments. Beautiful dresses and handsome suits will fill church aisles this Sunday, as countless hams roast slowly in the oven for family dinners. Easter is a time of hope, rebirth, and redemption.

Easter has typically been the milder holiday, sandwiched as it is between New Year’s and Independence Day, both raucous affairs in their own right. However, like Christmas, Easter did have a movie named after it, Easter Parade. An exchange between the hero, Don, and the heroine, Hannah, is particularly appropriate. When talking about Don’s inviting her to perform with him, Hannah says, “No, I mean it. You're the most wonderful dancer I've ever seen. You could get anyone to dance with you. You could get the very best.” Don replies, “I don't want the very best. I want you.” When you think about it, Don’s words capture just what Easter is all about.

Easter itself celebrates the most important event in the Christian religion. I started searching for other notable historical events that also happened on Easter Sunday and speak to the hope and opportunity it offers. I found the story of American contralto Marian Anderson.

Anderson was born on February 27th, 1897 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and was the oldest of three girls. She joined the choir at Union Baptist Church when she was only six years old, earning the nickname “Baby Contralto.” Two years later, her father bought her a piano. She so impressed her family and church choir, they raised $500 to pay for professional voice training.

Anderson’s training paid off. She won a contest conducted by the New York Philharmonic Society and sang at Lewisohn Stadium in New York City. She performed at Carnegie Hall in 1928, and later won the Julius Rosenwald scholarship which provided her the opportunity to perform in a musical tour through Europe.

By the 1930’s, Anderson and her amazing voice was famous throughout the Western world. She performed at the White House for Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, the first African American to receive the honor. Legendary musician and conductor Arturo Toscanini told Anderson, “A voice like yours is heard only once in a hundred years.” In 1955 she became the first African American member of the New York Metropolitan Opera.

She sang our National Anthem for Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Inauguration in 1957, and at John F. Kennedy’s Inauguration in 1961. In 1957 she was named Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She became an official delegate and goodwill Ambassador to the United Nations in 1958. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963 the same year she sang at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. These are only some of her achievements, and perhaps her greatest moment was the concert she gave on Easter Sunday at the Lincoln Memorial in 1939.

Anderson’s manager, Sol Hurok, was organizing a performance in Washington D.C. The chosen venue was Constitution Hall, the largest concert hall in our nation’s capital to this day. The hall was built in 1929 by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) to house the organization’s annual convention.

The DAR told Anderson and her manager that there were no dates available for her to perform in their facility. Reality was that the DAR had a policy that the hall only be available for white performers. In many ways, our country was still recovering from the horrors of the Civil War. At that time segregation was prevalent, and the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. was scarcely ten years old.

News of the rejection leaked and the public uproar including Mrs. Roosevelt resulted in the first concert to be performed at the Lincoln Memorial. Approximately 75,000 flooded the mall and millions more listened to the performance on the radio. Anderson closed her concert saying, “I am overwhelmed. I can’t tell you what you have done for me today. I thank you from the bottom of my heart again and again.”

Let’s fulfill the spirit of this Easter season. Let’s choose to offer hope and opportunity to those around us. Let’s remember how far we have come, and keep working for a better future. Happy Easter!

If you have any additional thoughts or ideas, you can reach me or Sally at 815-232-0774, or visit my website at www.repbrianstewart.com and use the form to send me an e-mail.
Abraham Lincoln once said, “If elected I will be thankful; if not, it will be all the same.” Illinois finished a spirited and intense primary election this past week. The joys and stings are still fresh. Last Tuesday was not the first such primary.

How many of us remember the Republican primary of 1994? It was then that former Governor Jim Edgar was challenged in the rimary by the late Jack Roesser. Jack ran against Governor Edgar because he believed the Governor was going to raise our taxes and use more taxpayer dollars to fund abortion.

How about the Republican Senate primary in 1998? Governor Edgar endorsed Loleta Didrickson who was challenged by Illinois State Senator Peter Fitzgerald in the race to see who would run against Senator Carol Moseley Braun that November. Against all odds, the challenger Fitzgerald won.

The Democrats have had some big primaries too. In 2002, Congressman Rod Blagojevich ran against former Attorney General Roland Burris and former CEO of Chicago Public Schools Paul Vallas. Vallas lost to Blagojevich by 2.03% of the vote. The rest, as we know, is history.

2002 was a big primary year locally when Jim Sacia won his first election for State Representative in the 89th District against four opponents. Yes, Illinois has a history of intense primaries.

It was FDR who talked about how government should not be “twirling its thumbs.” Instead, he said that government should roll up its sleeves. He promised Americans that government “will keep our sleeves rolled up.”

The same holds true today. We had a primary election. We will have a general election in November so your mailboxes should be relatively empty till the fall. And we still have a state that needs help. The January Comptroller report tells us that Illinois has paid almost a billion dollars in late-payment interest penalties alone! So yes, we have a lot of work to do when legislators return to Springfield on April 9th, and I will roll up my sleeves.

We should not be passing more laws to appease a political base or to distract the public from harassment charges in the Speaker’s campaign office. We should pass laws that make sense and help Illinois move forward. Anything less is not worthy of the people’s trust.

An example of a common sense law is House Bill 4548. This bill provides us an opportunity to save tax dollars in rural Illinois. Right now, juveniles who are detained after having been charged with a crime are required to physically appear in court for the initial detention hearing. This is less of a problem in cities like Rockford, Peoria, or Chicago, where juveniles are detained a short driving distance from their respective court house.

In cities like Galena, Mount Carroll, and Freeport, close proximity is not an option. Juveniles are detained in Galesburg’s Mary Davis Home Juvenile Center, or in the Kane County Juvenile Detention Center. Sheriff’s deputies are required to drive two and a half hours to Galesburg or Kane County to transport juveniles to the courthouse for an initial detention hearing that usually lasts less than ten minutes. Not only is this a safety issue for both the deputy and the juvenile it is expensive for taxpayers. It also removes a county deputy from the “beat.” It is difficult for a deputy to effectively fight crime while also driving at least five hours round trip.

After hearing of this issue from our local Sheriffs, I saw a problem that needed solving. So, I filed HB4548. It “establishes a three year pilot program that whenever an appearance of a minor is required in court” who is held at a juvenile detention center, “the court may allow the appearance of the minor to be made by means of a two-way audio-visual communication.” This is already being done for adults that are detained. We have the technology to ensure a fair hearing and save tax dollars at the same time and I think we should get it done this spring.

Now that the primary election is over, we can get on with the important issues facing our state like creating jobs and expanding opportunity in our rural communities. I am looking forward to rejoining my colleagues, as we roll up our sleeves and get to work. In the meantime, congratulations to the primary winners and thank you to everyone who went to the polls for the primary election. You make all the difference.

If you have any additional thoughts or ideas, you can reach me or Sally at 815-232-0774, or visit my website at www.repbrianstewart.com and use the form to send me an e-mail.
***Guest Column***
Congratulations to the Winnebago Boys basketball team and Coach Murphy on finishing second in the Class 2A IHSA State Championship.  It was an exciting season and we are all proud of your achievement. We look forward to next season for all of our area teams.

This past week also saw the National School Walkout protest.  Some students in schools across the country walked out of their classrooms for 17 minutes to protest gun violence in honor of the 17 students who were tragically murdered at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida last month.  Other students and schools chose to address the issue in other ways.

Dr. King said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” However you think gun violence should be stopped, or how people should protest, we can all agree that there is too much gun violence in our schools.  Public safety, in schools and out, is of maximum importance.

The capacity to express our opinions about what we believe without the fear of government retribution is truly American.  I would challenge our students to be confident in expressing your opinions. Also, be tenacious in studying the issues. Do not become complacent in your ideas.

Keep learning, keep stretching your intellect, and do not settle for the easy conclusion for any reason.  Walter Cronkite was right. He said, “In seeking truth, you have to get both sides of the story.”

As we navigate difficult and sensitive issues, let’s never forget, the things that unite us are greater than the things that divide us.  We can and will find answers to the problems we face. How could we not? After all, we are Americans.

That is why elections are so important.  And just a reminder, the primary election day is Tuesday, March 20th.  Early voting is underway. Many communities are deciding more than who will be on the ballot in the fall.  There are important referenda to vote on in the primary. Contact your County Clerk for details on voting or a sample ballot if you have any questions.

It is also important what our elected officials do in office.  One of the bills I sponsored, HB3095, was directed to improving public safety.  Until last year, one of the requirements Illinois had to become an Illinois State Trooper was that candidates have at least a four year college degree before being eligible to apply.

I was honorably discharged from the US Army after having served as a Military Police Officer and as a Military Police Investigator.  That experience would not have mattered if I were to have applied to be a State Trooper as I did not have a four year degree.

Thankfully, the General Assembly passed HB3095 which became Public Act 100-0011.  Now veterans, who have served honorably, can apply to become State Troopers without a four year degree.  They are still required to pass and complete the same testing and training as those with a college degree.  I believe that those who put their lives on the line for our freedom by serving in the military should not have unnecessary obstacles if they want to continue the fight to keep us safe as civilians.

Legislators return to the General Assembly on April 9th.  We have budgets and taxes to debate and both will dominate the headlines.  I have filed 41 House Bills to be considered for the Spring Session and will provide some details on some of them in upcoming columns.

Abraham Lincoln said, “The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion.” I look forward to the work we have to do in Springfield next month. In the meantime, have a happy and safe Saint Patrick’s Day.

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


Children are the world’s most valuable resource and its best hope for the future.
John F. Kennedy

Many of us know the story of Briar Rose, or as Walt Disney popularized it, Sleeping Beauty. For those who don’t, I will provide a brief synopsis. A King and Queen celebrate the birth of their only child. A curse is placed on the child by a malevolent being who was not invited to the celebration. The child is taken away from the danger to protect her. I won’t spoil the ending, but you get the drift.

Fairy tales are full of heroes and villains, good versus evil. We teach children from an early age that there is right and wrong, good people and bad people. Children learn when they are young that good people are often protectors.

Department of Children and Family Services investigators are protectors. The mission of DCFS begins with three words, “to protect children.” The job is often difficult, thankless, and dangerous. Some did not fully understand how dangerous until last fall.

DCFS investigator Pamela Knight was assaulted on September 29th, 2017 in Milledgeville, IL. Mrs. Knight was taking a 2 year old child into protective custody at the time of the assault.  Tragically she passed away from her injuries on February 8th, 2018.

Twenty-five year old Andrew Sucher was charged with the assault. Since her death he has also been charged with 5 counts of murder in the 1st degree.

I filed House Bill 4147 on November 6th of last year. The bill makes battering a DCFS investigator who is doing their job a Class 1 felony, and includes enhanced penalties. Right now, police officers, fire fighters, and other peace officers are protected by such legislation. DCFS investigators should enjoy the same protection. Representatives Tony McCombie, Tom Demmer, John Cabello, and Stephanie Kifowit are Chief Co-Sponsors. Thirty-two of our colleagues are Co-Sponsors.

After Mrs. Knight’s death, State Senator Tim Bivins filed Senate Bill 2272, on February 14th, 2018. The purpose is the same as HB4147, to protect DCFS investigators while they do their jobs. State Senator Melinda Bush serves as the Chief Co-Sponsor.

It was Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. who said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Mrs. Knight is not the only DCFS investigator who has been assaulted. On November 17th, 2017 the Chicago Tribune reported that at least 12 DCFS workers have been “attacked or seriously threatened” since 2013.

DCFS Director Beverly “BJ” Walker supports HB4147 and was quoted saying, “We welcome everybody’s involvement to figure out what more we could do to protect the workers when they’re out in these dangerous situations.” Senior Deputy Director Neil Skene said, “Our staff are first responders. The severe attack was a stark reminder of the dangers of going into these unpredictable and often hostile situations.”

AFSCME Council 31 is the union that represents DCFS workers. The Tribune reported that they discussed “new measures that might keep child protection workers safe,” with Director Walker. These measures include training improvements, and greater freedom to request police escorts. DCFS workers are not allowed to carry Mace or any other weapon to protect themselves while they do their jobs.

It is easy to understand why some DCFS workers may have been resistant to police escorts, especially prior to the assault on Mrs. Knight, which was particularly brutal. The presence of law enforcement can make families less cooperative. That is not hard to believe.

Additional training is good. Frequent law enforcement escorts are good. I believe that additional protections under the law are also good. HB4147 and SB2272 provide some of those additional protections.

I agree with President Theodore Roosevelt, who said, “Justice consists not in being neutral between right and wrong but in finding out the right and upholding it, wherever found, against the wrong.” We cannot be neutral. DCFS investigators are first responders whose mission it is to protect children. The work they do is difficult, and sensitive, and as we know, dangerous. They have been under assault. It is our duty to defend them.

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