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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Motivational author, Jamie Notter, wrote, “Innovation is change that unlocks new value.” In the mid-1990’s, Pearl City Elevator, a full service agricultural cooperative, and the Adkins Energy Cooperative understood the need to add value to corn for local producers. They decided to team up, forming Adkins Energy LLC, and began processing corn by 2002.