President Eisenhower said, Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil, and youre 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 nations history. It was the great Babe Ruth who said, Baseball was, is and always will be the greatest game in the world. Part of baseballs 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 yesterdays success or put its failures behind and start over again. Thats the way life is, with a new game every day, and thats 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 states 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 IDs 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 arent 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.