From the Desk of Senator Brian W. Stewart (April 26): “A Tale of Two Amendments”

President Theodore Roosevelt said, “Get action.  Seize the moment.  Man was never intended to become an oyster.”  His words are no surprise coming from one of the most active Presidents in our history.

I believe that action is important, especially when it’s the right thing to do.  It was Frankish Emperor Charlemagne who said, “Right action is better than knowledge; but in order to do what is right, we must know what is right.”  That sounds reasonable to me.  Using the right knowledge to do the right thing for the right reasons sounds even better.

As slow as Springfield can be, sometimes it moves quickly.  Do you remember how fast the massive minimum wage increase passed earlier this year, without considering any options to protect the jobs of working men and women in downstate Illinois?  Your Illinois Senate can move fast when it wants to.  It will also pull back when voters act.

Take the progressive income tax amendment as an example.  Illinois has a requirement that a notice for a hearing on a constitutional amendment has to be posted for six days before the hearing.  On April 9, the Senate voted to waive the posting notice requirement for the amendment before it could be put on the agenda of the Senate Executive Committee.  Voters mobilized within hours, submitting thousands of witness slips in opposition to the amendment, and its Third Reading was postponed until after the Senate reconvenes in May.

I’m sure you’ve heard the story that a vote for the progressive tax amendment is a vote for “protecting the middle class.”  Well, if that’s the case, why doesn’t the amendment freeze or cap the middle-class tax rates?  Corporate tax rates are the only ones capped by the amendment.  Why is it so important to cap tax rates for Illinois corporations and not middle-class families?

Let’s take it a step further.  If a progressive tax hike were about “protecting the middle class” why are we proposing raising taxes on plastic bags, cigarettes, and gas?  Even now, New York is considering rescinding its regressive plastic bag tax.  Cigarette and gas taxes definitely hurt lower- and middle-class families harder than the wealthy too.

As I’ve shared many times, I am opposed to the progressive tax amendment for several reasons. The biggest reason is that the amendment doesn’t specify how the money will be spent.  We’ve seen The Machine squander revenues from the last two income tax hikes.  There’s no reason for us to believe they won’t do it again unless they commit to paying off our bills and fully funding our pensions.

Second, I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.  Our spending problem is the reason we have a revenue problem.  We need to reform our pension system and spend your tax dollars wisely.

Lastly, reforming our spending problem will help us cut property taxes.  If we don’t make sure homeowners see a decrease in property tax bills and reform our long-term spending issues, property taxes will drown any income tax relief for working families.

We need to be honest about the size of our problem.  Everyone should have some skin in the game to help solve it.  And then we can work on solutions … together.

If the progressive tax amendment is an example of how quickly Springfield can shift gears, then the Fair Map Amendment shows us just how frozen the process can be.  Consider the history. The Fair Map Amendment effort was spearheaded by the League of Women Voters in 2010, and failed to gather the required number of signatures to get on the ballot.

They tried again in 2014, and filed their petitions with enough signatures to get on the ballot. Former Cook County 8th Subcircuit Court Judge Mary Mikva threw it off the ballot.  They tried a third time in 2016.  This amendment was ruled unconstitutional by the Illinois Supreme Court and thrown off the ballot.

On January 30, 2019, State Senator Julie Morrison filed an amendment, Senate Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 4, to take redistricting out of the hands of elected officials and partisan committees.  This is important because nearly half of the state legislative races were uncontested in 2018, with 82 percent of the contested races being won by landslide votes (greater than 10 percent).

It was President Ronald Reagan who said, “There are no easy answers, but there are simple answers.  We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right.”  It is right to remove politicians and sitting legislators from drawing their own districts.  It is right to establish an independent redistricting commission to protect constitutional rights, and transparently draw the legislative districts in Illinois.  And it is time to melt the ice and get it done.

If you agree, you can take action.  Please visit my website  To the right of my photo on the home page you will see the Fair Maps petition.  Please fill it out.  Share it with your friends by email and on social media.

If you have any additional thoughts or ideas, you can visit my website at and use the form to send me an e-mail.  Let’s do the right thing … together.

Brian Stewart

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