***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.