- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 26, 2018

June 21, 2018

Belleville News-Democrat

Illinois losing workers; we are, too, plus getting older

Illinois is losing its workforce and the population is getting older, according to new population estimates. The story is the same in St. Clair and Madison counties.

The nation grew its workforce by 450,000 people between July 2016 and July 2017, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates. Illinois lost 41,000 working-age people.

Economist Orphe Divounguy, of the Illinois Policy Institute, said remaining Illinoisans should be worried.

“Illinois is losing its workforce to other states because of its bad economic policies. A shrinking workforce has serious implications for the long-term health of our state’s economy,” Divounguy said. “The state should be focused on making it an appealing decision for working-age people and young families to plant roots in Illinois through policies that will reduce the cost of doing business and improve living standards.”

St. Clair County saw a total population loss of 7,863 between 2010 and 2017. It lost population in every age category younger than 55, and the median age went from 37 to 38.5 years old.

Madison County lost 3,911 residents. They saw a bump in the millennial population, which is similar to Chicago’s numbers. They lost a large chunk of people in their older working years as the median age went from 38.7 to 40 years old.

There are two governor candidates who should be talking about addressing these losses. Do they plan to tax Illinois’ way to prosperity or create a climate where young families will find good jobs and solid educations for their children?

There are two county board chairmen seeing more people vote with their feet, and not choosing them - twice as many in St. Clair County. What are their plans to reverse the trends - hoping for cargo at an expensive airport and hoping wages will rise for all those warehouse workers?

Ask the questions, or else wave goodbye to the kids and grandkids.

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June 23, 2018

Rockford Register Star

Region needs action plan to improve students’ reading

A child’s ability to read is an important part of his or her development and education. Children who cannot read by third grade are four times less likely to graduate and high school dropouts are three times more likely to wind up in jail than graduates.

Every student who does not complete high school costs society an estimated $260,000 in lost earnings, taxes and productivity.

Two other troubling statistics: 75 percent of Americans who receive food stamps perform at the lowest two levels of literacy, and 90 percent of high school dropouts are on welfare.

If the data hold true, the region is in for a world of hurt.

Third-graders are not reading at grade level and no matter the school district, students are not meeting standards.

Whether it’s the Sharefest model we suggested a couple of weeks ago or a different strategy, the key is to take action. Reading problems will not work themselves out.

Individualized learning plans, volunteer tutors and summer school are some of the strategies that can be used. Fixing the problem will require a long-term commitment.

This is not a recent problem. The lack of reading proficiency by third grade has been an issue for decades.

President George W. Bush in his 2003 State of the Union address said: “All skills begin with the basics of reading and math, which are supposed to be learned in the early grades of our schools. Yet for too long, for too many children, those skills were never mastered.”

Third-grade proficiency is important because up until then children are learning to read. Beginning in fourth grade, they should be reading to learn. The better they know how to read, the better they will learn math, science and all the subjects they need to know to succeed in life.

Poverty, which is prevalent throughout the region, is a factor, but cannot be used as an excuse.

Children can learn. If you doubt that, give a kid a smartphone and watch him or her do things you never knew you could do with a phone. It’s a matter of tapping into that learning potential.

Ideally, parents would prepare their children to show up ready to learn before they enter preschool. They would read to them at least 20 minutes a day and would find books they enjoy to keep the love of reading alive.

However, in low-income households parents working two or three jobs don’t have the time or energy to work with their children. Even so, parents need to emphasize the importance of education as a vehicle to escape poverty.

Parents who don’t care are an impediment, but we can’t allow children to fail because of poor parenting. Breaking the cycle of poverty requires advocates to intercede and help children. That will benefit all of us.

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June 25, 2018

The (Champaign) News-Gazette

Seizure power to get review

The authority of the state and federal government to seize private property has become an important tool in the war on crime.

There are few areas of the law where the government has more power than in its authority to seize the private property of citizens who run afoul of the law.

Consider the Indiana case of a small-time user and dealer who sold $500 worth of illegal drugs in controlled buys overseen by police.

Tyson Tims was arrested and prosecuted for his criminal misconduct. But that was not the only serious punishment he suffered as a consequence of his criminal conduct.

Authorities seized Tims’ sports utility vehicle, valued at about $40,000, because Tims used it during the commission of his crime.

Just deserts? Or a gross abuse of a government power too easily invoked?

The U.S. Supreme Court will take up that important question in its fall term that begins in October.

Because it’s a case involving Indiana state law, rather than federal law, it poses an especially complicated question that goes beyond whether a seizure of this nature represents an excessive fine that is barred by the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled in 2016 that the application of the state’s civil forfeiture law was unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment. That ruling was unanimously overturned by the Indiana Supreme Court.

The Indiana Supreme Court ruled that the state appeals court erred because the Eighth Amendment prohibition against excessive fines does not apply to the states, but instead solely to the federal government.

In overturning the appellate court decision, the Indiana Supreme Court said it elected “not to impose federal obligations on the state that the federal government has not mandated.”

The Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution was originally intended as a collection of restrictions on federal, but not state, authority. The framers of the U.S. Constitution left it to the drafters of the various state constitutions to decide what protections to provide their citizens.

That changed in the aftermath of the Civil War, when the 14th Amendment was ratified in 1868.

It reads in part: “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

That means that portions of the Bill of Rights apply to state actions. But which ones?

“Does the (14th) Amendment ‘incorporate’ the Bill, making the Bill’s restrictions on federal power applicable against states? … Or, on the other hand, can a guarantee in the Bill ever lose something in the translation, so that only a part of the guarantee - perhaps only its ‘core’ - applies against state governments by dint of the 14th Amendment?” Yale Law School Professor Akhil Reed Amar asked in a book devoted to this subject.

The bar against excessive fines has not been incorporated through the 14th Amendment to the states. But under the facts of this case, it could be.

Lawyers and judges will have the last word on this complicated subject, the fine points of which can make even the heads of well-informed citizens spin.

But the authority of government officials - state and federal - to seize property poses a serious threat to all kinds of people, not all of whom are criminals.

This power calls for measured judgment, a characteristic too often lacking in those who hold powerful positions. Besides, power that can be abused always will be used. That’s why it must be checked.

One could say that about this case - seizing a $40,000 vehicle over a $500 illegal drug sale certainly seems excessive. But there have been cases far worse than this one that have made the news, and that explains why the high court is taking up a most important question involving citizens and their property rights.

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