- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 21, 2015

July 17, 2015

Chicago Sun-Times

Another priest in the streets

Another priest is ready to work the streets of Chicago to stop gun violence.

Archbishop Blase Cupich has asked to go on patrol with Police Supt. Garry McCarthy in the city’s most violent neighborhoods.

We say to the archbishop: Keep going. Don’t stop there.

Gun violence is a horrific plague. Consider just one day this week, Thursday. Four Marines were killed in Chattanooga, Tenn., in a shooting rampage. In Colorado, James Holmes was convicted of gunning down a dozen people in a packed movie theater in 2012. In South Carolina, a judge set a July 2016 trial date for a man charged with a mass shooting that killed nine black parishioners in a Charleston church.

We need Cupich and other moral leaders to help guide this country away from the slow-motion massacre caused by easy access to firearms. Seize a prominent role in helping Chicago stop the calamitous flow of illegal guns into our city.

As we’ve said before, if this isn’t God’s work we don’t know what is.

Every day, gun violence kills 89 people in America and injures hundreds more. Children die in their homes and in parks that should be scenes of pleasure, not death. Innocent bystanders die waiting for a bus, riding a bike, sitting on a porch. Young men’s mistakes are harshly punished with instant annihilation.

Across the country, mass shootings average one a week.

The shootings do not have to continue unchecked.

In Washington a bipartisan bill, H.R. 1217, would require background checks for all gun sales online and at gun shows. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, which is pushing the bill, cites a recent study that found the 18 states that have expanded background checks on their own have 46 percent fewer women murdered with guns by intimate partners; 48 percent fewer law enforcement officers killed by handguns; and 48 percent fewer gun-related suicides.

Illinois should license all gun dealers, which would help authorities crack down on known sources of illegal firearms; require point-of-sale reporting; strengthen the background-check law and beef up penalties for failing to report lost and stolen guns.

To get common sense gun reforms enacted, we need leaders in the streets. And we all need to follow.

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July 17, 2015

The (Springfield) State Journal-Register

E-cycling gets a boost in Illinois

As the speed at which household electronics - computers, televisions and cellphones, for example - become obsolete continues to accelerate, consumers, manufacturers and communities face a greater responsibility to ensure such items are properly recycled and don’t end up harming the environment.

Think about all of the new and obsolete electronics that occupy space in an average home: multiple TVs of varying ages and the accompanying remote controls; forgotten video game consoles and games; landline phones replaced by cellphones replaced by smartphones; VHS, DVD and Blu ray players; hulking desktop computers made obsolete by lightning-fast laptop computers; portable music devices; piles of cables, keyboards, mice, routers, batteries and chargers; and small kitchen appliances, from more traditional blenders and coffee makers to that bread machine that was a wedding gift and the quesadilla maker that collects dust on a shelf.

Indeed, we live in a digital age, and we enjoy our gadgets.

But while manufacturers are happy to rapidly churn out newer and faster electronics for consumers to purchase, on the whole they haven’t been quite as eager to encourage consumers to recycle their old electronics. There’s a reason for that: recycling electronics is expensive.

Comparatively speaking, recycling newspaper and aluminum cans is a breeze. But electronics, which contain glass, metals and plastics, are a different story. Some of the components, although scarce or expensive to produce, require greater effort to retrieve from the devices they were used in. Disassembly can take time, and toxic substances may be encountered.

Cellphones, for example, contain valuable copper, silver, gold and palladium. Other electronics, such as older TVs and monitors, may contain potentially hazardous heavy metals or lead.

That means resources and events designed to encourage recycling of these items can be hard to come by in some areas. And in the absence of an alternative, consumers may be tempted to dump unwanted electronics in the garbage or simply allow them to collect dust in the basement.

Locally, there’s good news on the electronics recycling front. This week, Gov. Bruce Rauner signed legislation that makes electronics manufacturers more accountable for encouraging consumers and communities to recycle products, prohibits them from charging local governments for the collection of recyclable electronics, and ups Illinois’ electronics recycling goal.

These changes were needed to help ensure expensive electronics recycling - or “e-cycling” - does not become cost prohibitive for communities, causing collection efforts to go the way of console TVs and rotary phones.

Meanwhile, it is hoped the state’s updated e-cycling law encourages more Illinois communities to offer collection events and helps consumers come to realize the importance of recycling in a world where electronics are designed for obsolescence.

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July 16, 2015

Belleville News-Democrat

Legislators get a raise as budget impasse threatens pay for state workers

The Illinois Senate on Wednesday approved a $2.26 billion, temporary budget that Gov. Bruce Rauner has vetoed, as he has repeatedly promised to do.

The partisan impasses leave Illinois without a budget for the fiscal year, which already began two weeks ago.

State workers were paid Wednesday for their first two weeks of work under the fiscally rudderless Illinois government. In the meantime, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is checking with the state’s Supreme Court to see if continuing to do so is kosher with the state constitution.

What if the justices say no? Some 64,500 Illinoisans will just have to go without pay. We strongly suspect there would follow a proportional reduction in the level of services they and their respective agencies offer.

So we’ll all suffer to some measure. Unless, of course, you’re an elected member of the state legislature, the origin of all that rolls downhill. They somehow avoid being sullied, other than by reputation.

At an average rate of $67,836 per year, Illinois lawmakers are among the best paid in the United States. Some make as much as $95,000 to go with a $111 per diem and travel reimbursement.

Last year, Senate Bill 274 was passed during the spring session and signed into law by then-Gov. Pat Quinn. The measure guarantees that salaries for legislators will be funded on a continuing basis, with or without a budget. They had the further audacity to vote themselves a pay raise in advance of the current budget stalemate.

Kudos to State Sen. Kyle McCarter (R-Lebanon) for refusing any pay for the duration of the impasse and to any of his colleagues who follow suit.

Frankly, it’s the least they can do.

Because lost in the political posturing and Springfield’s requisite finger pointing, is that nobody - not House Speaker Michael Madigan, not Senate President John Cullerton, not Gov. Rauner - has proposed any budget that closes even part of state’s $4 billion budget deficit.

In other words, those complicit in this embarrassing mess are going to get paid more for not doing their job, and state workers who want to do theirs may not get paid at all.

If you really want to blame one side of the political aisle or the other, you probably don’t understand the problem. Until some compromise can be made and until those elected get to work on behalf of the people rather than a paycheck, Illinoisans will continue to suffer.

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