- Associated Press - Monday, July 13, 2015

July 11, 2015

The (Joliet) Herald-News

Procrastinating politicians put public at risk of peril, pain

“Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today,” Benjamin Franklin is famous for saying.

As a multitalented Founding Father, Franklin lived by that motto. He was a printer, author, postmaster, civic activist, scientist and diplomat.

He was a key 18th-century political figure.

And, most important, he was a statesman, negotiating key treaties that got the fledgling nation off to a good start, signing the Declaration of Independence, and helping to fashion the U.S. Constitution.

Franklin didn’t achieve his status as a statesman by putting off important business until some undetermined future date. He promptly did the work at hand, and then moved on.

Illinois’ 21st-century political figures could learn a lesson from Franklin.

Illinois’ key political leaders - Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic legislative leaders, House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton - knew they would be at loggerheads a long time ago, probably since Election Day last November, and certainly since Rauner was inaugurated in January.

But as the weeks and months passed, they kept putting off realistic budget negotiations, and putting them off, and putting them off.

Instead, the Democrats in the Legislature approved a budget they knew Rauner would not sign, intending to put him in a difficult spot.

That’s politics, but it’s certainly not statesmanship.

Rauner carried through on his threat to veto the budget (except for education funding), and the stalemate continues.

Last year, we chided Gov. Pat Quinn for putting off his budget address until after the primary. We noted Quinn would have achieved hero status from members of the Illinois Procrastinators Society, if such a group existed.

But this year, state leaders have done much more than put off one speech. They’ve put off financing for the entire state.

Democrats who run the Legislature - the leaders of whom are largely responsible for the years of fiscal mismanagement that has landed Illinois in the quagmire it’s in - need to realize they don’t have a rubber-stamp governor.

Rauner needs to realize he can’t get all the reforms he wants.

Franklin’s bifocals create clear vision, both close at hand and at a distance.

Likewise, Illinois leaders need to embrace a clear-sighted budget that serves both immediate and long-term needs.

And they need to do it today. Don’t put it off until tomorrow.


July 10, 2015

The (DeKalb) Daily Chronicle

Allow cameras in nursing home rooms

We support a bill in Springfield that would allow for video and audio monitoring devices in nursing home rooms to help combat and prove abuse.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office said Illinois has more than 860 nursing homes with more than 76,000 residents. Those numbers likely will increase as the state’s population ages. As a result, the roughly 5,000 complaints filed each year alleging abuse, neglect or theft of property by nursing home staff also are likely to increase. The Illinois Department of Public Health found 106 allegations to be valid in 2013.

Allowing residents to install audio or recording devices in their nursing home rooms should help deter abuse of nursing home residents. It also should help prove incidents of abuse, neglect or theft that might have been swept aside in the past because of a lack of evidence.

One key part of the bill makes it fair and not an invasion of personal privacy: All residents in a room would have to approve the installation of a camera. If one resident wants a camera installed but a roommate does not, then it will not be installed.

The legislation, House Bill 2462, also prohibits a nursing home from retaliating against anyone for using the devices.

Three other states allow for the use of audio and recording devices in nursing home rooms. The bill is awaiting a signature from Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner.

We urge Rauner to follow suit and sign this piece of legislation that would help fight abuse, neglect and theft in Illinois nursing homes.


July 10, 2015

The (Champaign) News-Gazette

A distressing case

The law is about rights, wrongs and remedies, and there are many wrongs for which there are no remedies.

The fatal shooting of Dog, the chocolate Labrador who died at the hands of a Champaign police officer, falls into that category.

A federal jury in Urbana on Thursday rejected a request for compensation by the dog’s owners.

While the jury’s verdict shuts the book on this upsetting case, Officer Andre Davis’ actions are not free from criticism. Far from it. His decision to open fire on a dog fight resulted in a one-day suspension, and his superiors later instituted a rule barring police from breaking up dog fights with gunplay.

But it was that errant judgment that barred the city from any liability for Davis’ conduct.

Davis’ lawyer, Thomas Yu, argued that Davis acted improperly but that “mistakes are not compensable” because they “do not rise to the level of a federal violation.”

As if these facts were not bad enough, here’s one more to chew on.

The dog Davis shot was defending itself against an aggressive pit bull.

This is a horror story for the dog’s owners. Their grief and rage over what occurred is perfectly understandable. But it ought to distress ordinary citizens as well.

Police officers are human and sometimes make mistakes and act rashly. Even in that context, it’s hard to see how the facts played out as they did here.

The sole consolation is that given the volume of gunfire the only casualty was someone’s beloved pet.


July 9, 2015

The (Belleville) News-Democrat

Escaping the budget hole

You’ve gotta love the state employee unions aligning themselves with Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner: politics and strange bedfellows, you know.

Rauner basically said: “We can pay them. We’ve done it before.” Our state’s lawyer, who is also a likely Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan’s daughter, basically said: “No, I don’t think you legally can.”

Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger, caught in the middle, asked a judge: “I can pay them, right? Just like we did before?”

The judge essentially said: “Nope. No budget, no pay.” And added that it was the state’s own fault that its computers were too old to separate the federally mandated payments - a known problem since 2007, when we last played Illinois budget chicken.

So to the federal judge we go, Rauner and AFSCME hand-in-hand on appeal.

Folks, instead of spending all this time, energy and taxpayers’ money on lawyers, federal penalties and interest, instead of Rauner and Madigan sticking their thumbs in each others’ eyes, instead of putting our elderly and disabled residents’ care at risk, wouldn’t it be easier to pass Rauner’s five remaining Turnaround reforms and balance that budget?

The July 15 payday approaches. When the political splits hit the fan, don’t forget to blame the guys who spent 30 years getting us into this hole, and not the guy who just showed up with the ladder.

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