From the Desk of Senator Brian W. Stewart (May 10): “Mother’s Day Wisdom for Springfield”

Mother’s Day is upon us again and the year is flying by.  This Mother’s Day weekend has had me thinking about its history and some of the words of wisdom mothers in every corner of our lives have passed on to us over the years.

Anna Jarvis is widely considered the founder of Mother’s Day.  Jarvis focused her efforts on a national day for families to celebrate their mothers.  Her motivation was her own mother, whom Jarvis heard saying this prayer in 1876, “I hope and pray that someone, sometime, will found a memorial mother’s day commemorating her for the matchless service she renders to humanity in every field of life.”

It seems that Jarvis’ mother had a different sort of Mother’s Day in mind.  Time magazine reports that her hope was for a Mothers’ Day, a day for people across America to celebrate the efforts of mothers everywhere and to help mothers in need.

This stuck with me.  Part of my conservatism is the belief that in many cases “We the People” are better solutions to many problems than government is.  As we honor our mothers this Mother’s Day we also have an opportunity to support mothers in need, whether through local pregnancy care centers, or through organizations like the Madonna Renewal Center in Freeport.

What are some of the things you remember your mother saying to you when you were growing up?  Did she ask questions like “Well if Johnny jumped off a bridge, would you jump off too?,” or “How’s that working for ya?”  Maybe she said, “Because I said so,” or “Don’t act a fool!” Maybe we remember our mothers saying things like “Be yourself,” or “Be kind.”

We remember these words, don’t we?  The phrase that sticks with me is “Be better today than you were yesterday.”  It seems that our Illinois Senate has turned a deaf ear to that motherly wisdom this past week with the passage of House Bill 2691.

House Bill 2691 is called the Retaining Illinois Students and Equity (RISE) Act.  The bill expands eligibility for Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants while changing some of the funding requirements. MAP grants help students who have serious financial need pay for college using Illinois tax dollars.

The RISE Act expands eligibility to students who are illegal immigrants.  It also extends eligibility to transgender people who choose not to register for the military draft.

What does this mean?  Well, the RISE Act’s authors thought it very important to “clarify” that illegal immigrants will not be taking funding away from legal Illinois residents.  This is what they wrote, “…making more students eligible to apply… will not automatically add to their cost. However, funding additional recipients would either require additional appropriations or shifting dollars from other low-income students who are currently eligible.”

In 2017, 168,000 Illinois students were eligible for MAP grant funding.  They didn’t get any. Now the RISE Act’s authors want us to believe that adding 3,500 more eligible students per year will “not be taking funding away” from students who are currently eligible for the program, even though the Illinois Student Assistance Commission says they will cost $9 million.  Adding more students without a plan to pay for them isn’t being better.  It’s more of the same.

Another question I have about the RISE Act is why any MAP grant funding would be withheld from a student who hasn’t registered for the draft?  Selective service is a federal institution and it currently only requires men to register, despite a recent Supreme Court decision.  Women don’t have to register for selective service to receive MAP grant funding.  Now illegal immigrants and transgender people don’t have to either.

The RISE Act also takes the cap off grant funding.  Currently, funding is available for a total of 75 MAP paid credit hours.  After 75 credit hours, a student needs to be categorized as a junior by their academic institution to qualify for more funding.  The goal is for students to demonstrate progress towards the goal of finishing their education.  The result has been to limit funding for students who are forced to take remedial classes.

So not only have we increased the cost of the program by $9 million to newly eligible applicants, but we have also taken off the caps of a program that couldn’t provide funding to 58 percent of applicants before any of these changes.  This is what The Machine’s leadership looks like Illinois. “How’s that working out for ya?”

There’s more.  House Bill 3233 is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Transportation Committee on May 14.  This doozy of bill increases the state’s gas tax to 44 cents per gallon, increases the driver’s license fees to $60, and increases our vehicle registration fees to $148!

Do we need to improve infrastructure?  Absolutely we do.  And I would understand increasing the gas tax if it raised enough revenue to meet all our infrastructure state and local needs, and would sunset once construction is completed.  Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s part of the plan.

You can still do something to stop this tax.  At the bottom of my website’s homepage, there is a link on how to file a witness slip so you can express opposition to House Bill 3233.  You can also look the bill up on and tell the bill’s sponsors “Don’t act a fool!”  We don’t need more taxes. We need to reform spending!

If you have any additional thoughts or ideas, please visit my website at and use the form to send me an e-mail.

Want to stay up to date with your Senator?

Sign up for the District E-Newsletter below: