BLOOMINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk promoted his proposed Small Business Bill of Rights on Thursday in meetings with Twin City business leaders and students at Illinois Wesleyan University.

Kirk, a first-term Republican, is locked in a close race for re-election with Democratic challenger U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth of Hoffman Estates. 

One element of an earlier version of his Small Business Bill of Rights has been approved. It creates a “fast lane” at the Patent Office for small businesses.

Other elements of his proposal include exempting small businesses from capital gains taxes for 10 years, reducing regulatory and reporting burdens, lowering energy costs with exploration and the Keystone pipeline and lowering heath care costs with lawsuit reform, interstate competition and equal tax benefits for the self-employed.

“We've got to slow down the regulatory rate of this administration,” Kirk told about 15 students from the Young Republicans from IWU and Illinois State University who attended a meeting with Kirk at IWU's Memorial Center.

Kirk said he works in a bipartisan manner "to get stuff done," co-sponsoring many measures with Democrats.

One purpose of his meeting with students was to encourage their participation in politics and urge them to vote on Nov. 8.

Julian Aguilar of Chicago, president of the IWU College Republicans, said, “People around here are focused on the presidential race” and “haven't paid attention to the other elections.”

But the junior in political science and history said the Senate race in Illinois is important to maintaining “the balance of power” in Republican hands.

Aguilar said Kirk appeals to people as a “social moderate and fiscal conservative.”

Speaking with reporters about the presidential race, Kirk acknowledged, “I'm not a fan of Donald Trump,” the Republican nominee.

Regarding Trump's latest feud with House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who has stopped campaigning with Trump, Kirk said, “I would tell Trump to shut the hell up with regard to Ryan.”

He said the Republican Party can recover from the divisions caused by the presidential campaign by emphasizing its long-standing principles as the party of fiscal conservatives and national security hawks.

After his session with students at IWU, Kirk met with business leaders, including representatives of State Farm, at the Marriott Hotel and Conference Center in Normal. Kirk serves on the Senate Banking Committee.

Follow Lenore Sobota on Twitter: @pg_sobota

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