- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 6, 2014

May 1, 2014

The (DeKalb) Daily Chronicle

Motorcycle helmet law not necessary

Illinois is one of a growing number of states that do not have helmet laws for motorcycle riders.

The state has seen motorcycle fatalities increase - up seven in 2013 compared with the previous year, when the total accounted for more than 15 percent of all motor vehicle fatalities despite motorcycles accounting for only about 4 percent of all vehicle registrations in Illinois.

DeKalb County had only one motorcycle fatality in 2013, and none were recorded in 2012 or 2011, according to data from the Illinois Department of Transportation. There have been none this year, either.

The question that is often posed when talking about motorcycle safety is whether there should be a helmet law in Illinois.

Riders long have held that the choice to wear a helmet is a part of the freedom and experience of the open road. That freedom is one of the reasons some people buy a motorcycle in the first place.

While we strongly encourage all motorcycle riders to use common sense and wear a helmet, we don’t see a need for the state Legislature to step in and force the issue.

This isn’t a mass public safety concern that requires government oversight. The onus should be on the riders to exercise personal responsibility, but it should be their choice. A state law isn’t necessary.

In the meantime, riders and drivers need to be on the lookout for each other. Drive and ride defensively, check your blind spots, don’t text while driving, signal when turning/changing lanes, etc. Riders should take safety and training classes and understand the power of what they ride.

And no matter what you drive, don’t do it impaired. Scott Haas, project coordinator with the Motorcycle Safety Project at Northern Illinois University, noted that the drug-and-alcohol culture in the motorcycle world causes the most safety problems.

That’s something we should focus on fixing, rather than taking away a personal choice.


May 4, 2014

The (Crystal Lake) Northwest Herald

One more costly tax hike remains

We’re very thankful that two ill-conceived, job-killing tax hike schemes died in the General Assembly in recent weeks.

That’s two down, and one - making the 67 percent temporary income tax increase permanent - to go.

House Speaker Michael Madigan pulled his proposed constitutional amendment for a “millionaire tax” because he did not have the three-fifths majority needed to put it on the Nov. 4 ballot. And an effort to amend the Illinois Constitution to switch from a flat tax to a progressive tax based on income stalled in the Senate because Madigan could not deliver the 71 votes needed in the House.

Illinois caught a break for once. Taxpayers and businesses already are struggling in a state that’s toxic to both. The state’s anemic economy and recent polls expressing the depth of Illinois residents’ disgust and desire to leave speak volumes.

Allowing our spendthrift state lawmakers to jack up taxes to whatever rates they see fit would further drive businesses and taxpayers out of the state. It would make attracting talented people to take jobs in Illinois more difficult. It would be yet another poison pill for a state with the third-highest unemployment and the worst credit rating in the nation, and the worst projected 2014 job growth rate. And of course, the second-highest rate of people moving elsewhere.

Lawmakers who supported a progressive tax claimed that the vast majority of state residents would see a lower tax rate.

State lawmakers have until the end of session May 31 if they want to make the increase permanent by simple majority. After that, the number of votes needed leaps to three-fifths until Jan. 1. Or lawmakers can pull the same trick they did three years ago - wait until after the election and increase it by simple majority in the January lame-duck session. That’s how six outgoing state lawmakers - including two who campaigned against a tax hike and then voted “yes” - ended up with cushy government jobs.

It’s become apparent that it’s too much to ask for state government to live within its means. But is it too much to ask for state lawmakers to keep a promise made to taxpayers? Just this once?

Even if it was a hollow promise that Quinn and Co. never had any intention of honoring?


May 4, 2014

Belleville News-Democrat

How low can Illinois sink?

If you could live anywhere, where would it be? Half of Illinois residents told Gallup pollsters: Not in this state. They said that if they could leave, they would.

That gives Illinois the dubious distinction of being the most undesirable locale in the nation. If it were an isolated result, it wouldn’t be that big a deal. But it fits right in with most other polls, surveys and rankings — on everything from the jobless rate to public pension funding to workers’ comp — that show Illinois as one of the most undesirable spots to live and do business.

Instead of being known as the Land of Lincoln, we are now the undisputed armpit of America.

If only finding a solution were a simple as defining the problem. The shortsighted Democrats have a power lock on Springfield, and have gerrymandered legislative districts to protect incumbents. And so they ignore the red flags like this poll and continue to conduct business as usual without fear of getting voted out of office.

Even Gov. Pat Quinn has a good shot at re-election, even though he wants to make higher taxes permanent and just had records about a costly, ineffective anti-crime program subpoenaed by prosecutors.

They say people get the government they deserve, but Illinois residents deserve better than this.


May 4, 2014

The (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan

Cancer issue points to larger problem

The numbers paint a disturbing picture.

The National Cancer Institute and Centers for Disease Control report Illinois has the 19th highest cancer death rate in the country. The state also has the 14th most cancer incidences.

Those statewide numbers aren’t good, but they could be worse. As we report in today’s paper, beginning on the front page, the state’s worst cancer and health problems are in Southern Illinois.

There are 102 counties in Illinois.

A surprising number of the most unhealthy counties are in our part of the state. Even more troubling is that many of these health issues are preventable, including those related to the high incidence of cancer in our region.

Many of the region’s counties have the highest percentage of smokers in the state. Hardin County leads the state, followed by Massac, Pulaski and Alexander counties. Proximity to lower-priced tobacco products in nearby Kentucky, the national leader in smokers, is a likely contributing factor in the higher rates of smoking in Southern Illinois.

It should surprise no one that those counties with the most smokers are near the bottom of the list when it comes to length and quality of life. Plus, many local counties are in the top 20 when it comes to lung cancer deaths. The link between lung cancer and smoking is well-documented. Heck, it’s documented on cigarette packages.

Still, it’s not smoking alone that has caused this dramatic downstate public health problem.

Much of Southern Illinois is dealing with major socio-economic problems, including a high unemployment rate. Lack of work, leads to lack of money, which leads to a poor diet and lack of medical care.

Most Southern Illinois is rural, which means clinical care isn’t always readily available. Major hospitals and medical providers are more sparse in the rural regions than the more metropolitan areas of other parts of the state.

It adds up to an unhealthy and often-deadly equation.

However, there are ways to battle back against known health risks. We have control of some of the contributing factors to poor health and early mortality.

Armed with the knowledge that our residents are more prone to poor health choices and deadly diseases, we must work to educate the young on these issues. It may be too late for some, but the next generation need not follow in unhealthy footsteps.

Schools, parents, doctors and communities must band together, get our kids on the right path and keep them on it. We should be upset that we rank so low in measures of healthy living.

The numbers can change, but we must change first.

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