- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 30, 2015

September 23, 2015

The (DeKalb) Daily Chronicle

Harvest time means safety time

President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was not a noted agriculturalist, nevertheless proclaimed the first National Farm Safety and Health Week in 1944.

Realizing the importance of farming and ranching in achieving victory in World War II, FDR sought to encourage safer practices to preserve life and limb down on the farm.

The goal remains valid today; despite numerous technological advances, agriculture remains a dangerous occupation.

According to data from 2013, the most recent information available, about 500 people died that year in agriculture-related accidents, at a rate of 23.2 deaths per 100,000 workers, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

President Barack Obama, in proclaiming this week the 72nd National Farm Safety and Health Week, noted that farmers “face considerable hazards in the course of their daily responsibilities.”

Obama reported on efforts his administration has taken to “mitigate and reduce risks” to farmers and farm workers, particularly in the areas of hazardous chemicals, machinery, silos, and grain elevators.

“I call upon the agencies, organizations, businesses, and extension services that serve America’s agricultural workers to strengthen their commitment to promoting farm safety and health programs,” Obama said.

America’s commitment to farm safety has grown over the years. As hazardous situations are detected and publicized, ag leaders, organizations, and the government come together to devise solutions to lessen the risk.

Grain bin safety is a case in point. After a spate of grain bin entrapment deaths in 2010, widespread effort was focused on improved prevention and rescue techniques.

Previously, after tractor rollover accidents claimed many lives, sustained efforts were directed toward creating rollover protective structures.

Collisions between motorists and slow-moving farm equipment on rural roadways prompted the Illinois Farm Bureau to produce a Rules of the Country Road pamphlet that encourages common-sense practices for sharing the road safely.

With harvest season fast approaching, motorists and farmers would be wise to review the 12-page pamphlet, which is available online.

Farm safety isn’t just the business of farmers; it is everybody’s business.

Please be alert and stay safe this harvest season.

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September 23, 2015

The Belleville News-Democrat

Slaying the Illinois gerrymander with a mighty pen

Thank Massachusetts Gov. Elbridge Gerry, who in 1812 drew political districts to favor his candidates that were so distorted that they resembled a salamander. The term “gerrymander” was born, and continues as a proud tradition held dear by our own state lawmakers.

Look at our congressional map or state legislative maps: Not only do they look like the classic gerrymander, but the writhing seems to be working to beget future generations of gerrymanders. Collinsville is carved up by three different U.S. representative districts. Lebanon and East St. Louis residents’ state concerns are treated as one. Belleville and Brooklyn issues are treated the same way.

There is hope that the gerrymander could become extinct in Illinois. Independent Maps is a bipartisan coalition pushing to amend the state constitution so state legislative districts are drawn by an independent commission. Unfortunately they can’t change the way congressional maps are drawn through an amendment.

The group only needs 290,216 signatures from Illinois voters for a constitutional amendment, and they have reached the 300,000 mark. Still, they intend to collect double that, or 600,000 valid signatures from Illinois voters, because they know the folks in Springfield will challenge every signature that challenges their ability to hold on to power.

You can help create the tidal wave that can wash Illinois clean. MapAmendment.org is where you can obtain copies of the petition and instruction so that your petition is challenge-proof.

Unhappy with Springfield’s inability to do anything but spend more of your money? Send them a message wrapped in a constitutional amendment.

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September 25, 2015

Sauk Valley Media

A legacy of safety and health

State Rep. Don Moffitt may not be as well known in the Sauk Valley as other lawmakers, but the 68-year-old Gilson Republican, who announced he will step down after next year’s election, nevertheless has had an impact on many local residents, whether they know it or not.

Moffitt, an 11-term lawmaker who represents the 74th District, including southwestern Lee County and much of Bureau County, sponsored legislation to require safety arms on the front of school buses that swing out when the bus stops.

The arms prevent children from crossing in front of buses where the drivers can’t see them.

No one knows how many young lives that law has saved, but we do know that we hear much less about that kind of tragic accident these days.

Moffitt helped establish a No-interest Revolving Fire Truck Loan program. Many fire protection districts and departments across the state have benefited, and so have the residents they serve.

Moffitt sponsored a bill to close a loophole in the smoke detector law. The result is that motels and hotels are required to have working smoke detectors protecting every room. Think about that the next time you stay in a motel.

Before Moffitt got House Bill 5183 approved, no minimum standards existed for ambulances that provide critical care transport. Neither did standards exist for professionals who provide that service. Now they do.

And Moffitt successfully pushed for passage of the DNA/Genetic Testing Privacy Act, which prevents discrimination by insurance companies and employers on the basis of genetic test results.

The veteran lawmaker has led by example as far as personal responsibility for one’s own health is concerned.

About 3 years ago, Moffitt embarked on a weight-loss and personal fitness program after his doctor warned him that obesity was threatening his future health.

Over 2 years, he lost 100 pounds and reaped the benefits of a healthier lifestyle.

Then, he encouraged other legislators to eat healthier by launching an informal “fitness caucus.” He also worked to have healthier snack choices offered in vending machines at the State Capitol and at state-owned rest stops.

Moffitt has served the public in numerous capacities over the years. He’s been a teacher, mayor, alderman, county board member, and county treasurer, not to mention a state representative since 1993. He also has a background in farming.

Moffitt plans to serve out the full term that voters elected him to in November. We appreciate that dedication.

From school children to senior citizens, Illinoisans are safer and likely healthier because of Don Moffitt. That’s a legacy we are pleased to salute.

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