***“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 www.repbrianstewart.com 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 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.