- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Here are excerpts of editorials from several Illinois newspapers.

January 5, 2021

Chicago Sun-Times

Year of surging gun violence adds to urgent need to plug loopholes in Illinois gun laws

The Illinois Legislature has a chance to save lives by reducing gun violence. But it must act quickly.



The local firearms toll is staggering. In Chicago alone, 769 people were killed in 2020, mostly by guns. More than 4,000 were shot. Just over this past holiday weekend, 30 were shot and six were killed. Gun violence also has increased in cities around the state.

Legislation called the Block Illegal Ownership bill would plug legal loopholes through which guns flow to the criminals who turn streets into killing zones. It passed in the House in 2020 but stalled in the Senate as the Legislature took fewer votes during the pandemic.

The Senate, where the vote will be close, needs to pass the bill by Jan. 13 during its lame duck session or the bill will go back to square one as a new General Assembly is sworn in. If that happens, the state will lose its chance to act quickly to make it harder for dangerous people to get guns and harm others, including children, while giving law-abiding citizens access to guns.

Among its measures, the BIO bill would require point-of-sale background checks for all gun sales, including by private sellers. It would require applicants for Firearm Owners Identification cards to submit fingerprints. It would require Illinois State Police to remove guns from someone whose FOID card has been revoked.

Similar measures have made a big difference elsewhere. A combination of a FOID-type system with background checks on all gun sales has reduced gun violence by 40% in other states. Illegal gun trafficking is 48% lower in states that require background checks, according to the Gun Violence Prevention Education Center-Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence.

And the recovery of guns from someone whose FOID card has been revoked would prevent future shootings like the one in Aurora in 2019 in which Gary Montez Martin killed five people with a gun he kept after his FOID card had been revoked.

The requirement for fingerprinting would reduce a backlog of applications for FOID cards and concealed-carry permits by shortening the time it takes for police to confirm applicants’ identities. According to an updated Illinois State Police website that went live this week, it is taking the state an average of 122.47 days to process new FOID applications and 158.84 days to process non-fingerprint concealed-carry permit applications.

Speeding up the process would benefit law-abiding gun owners.

Last year, Chicago police seized 11,280 illegal guns and made 7,236 gun arrests. Under current laws, it’s too easy for criminals to acquire new illegal guns to replace those police confiscated. The BIO bill would slow the flow of illegal guns and make us safer.

___

January 3, 2021

(Arlington Heights) Daily Herald

Small businesses need help of government and local consumers

Small business owners and entrepreneurs have always been a special breed. Those who succeed are fearless in the face of adversity, creative in promoting their business and nimble in seizing opportunities and adjusting to changes in market conditions. They must be part soothsayer and part gambler.

There’s euphoria when business is good and plenty of sleepless nights when it’s not. Being your own boss means never having to run an idea up the flagpole, yet shouldering the weight of tough decisions. And, in 2020, COVID-19 has made that weight all but unbearable for thousands of small and family businesses in the suburbs and around the country.

They need and deserve help — not just out of neighborly compassion but also in the interest of the local and national economy on which we all rely. According to the Small Business Association’s Office of Advocacy, 99.9 percent of businesses in America have fewer than 500 employees and these businesses account for nearly half the nation’s private sector payroll. From 2000 to 2019, small businesses created 10.5 million jobs, nearly twice the number large businesses produced, and they accounted for more than 65 percent of all jobs created.

The economy clearly needs them, a fact recognized in the passage of two major federal stimulus packages with the prospect of more to come.

Among struggling enterprises, restaurants and bars have gotten most of the attention amid shutdowns and restrictions during the last nine months, but plenty of small boutiques, bakeries, toy stores, antique shops, jewelers, cosmetic stores and more are endangered, too. Many have reported big drops in foot traffic, business lost by the cancellation of such life events as weddings and proms and people not getting together for simple treats like lunch or shopping with friends. Will government stimulus packages be enough to help them?

They’re a start, surely. And, businesses need to know the resources that are available and take advantage of them. The SBA offers a wide range of information online. Government must keep up the momentum of getting assistance to small businesses that need help — while conspicuously working to ensure that resources intended for them aren’t being siphoned away by larger firms that are better equipped to weather this crisis.

But small businesses also need the concerted help of a second category of support — consumers.

In high-profile shopping districts like those in Geneva, Naperville, Arlington Heights and Libertyville, and in small downtowns in Cary, Wauconda, Antioch and others, survival for many businesses will depend on local shoppers.

“We really, really need local support,” Kristine Knutson, the owner of How Impressive! gift and stationery store in Libertyville, told our Susan Sarkauskas ahead of a Small Business Saturday this year that was held without the traditional festivities meant to draw people to shopping areas.

In other words, to save the businesses that form the backbone of our communities, we need to commit to spending money at them and resist the urge to simply push buttons to buy from businesses on the other side of the country or the world.

The SBA estimates 1.2 million small businesses operate in Illinois, employing 2.5 million people, or more than 45% of the workforce. Spending locally is the complement to government assistance that will boost the chances for these shops to succeed and buttress the state’s overall economic recovery.

You’re likely familiar with some of the small businesses nearby, but you might be surprised by how many others you don’t know about and the goods and services they provide. Do a little research and find other options for services and for buying life’s necessities, gifts for a friend or relative or to treat your yourself and family.

Check out local Chamber of Commerce websites to find detailed directories of local businesses or post a note on local social media pages to solicit ideas to address your needs. A quick check of a businesses’ website or a phone call can confirm location, hours, inventory and policies for in-person shopping and online purchasing and delivery. Drive around town and note interesting shops that would be worth a look.

Local elected officials and chamber leaders must continue to search for grant money and alert business owners of their availability and provide help with applications.

Small local businesses are working hard to stay afloat. Some have gotten help from landlords, cut inventory and left positions unfilled when employees quit. Many are being creative with online offerings and have boosted services such as hand-delivering online purchases and curbside services. Others have increased use of social media and texting to reach out to valued customers and to try to find new ones.

What’s clear is that small and family-owned businesses will face increased challenges to stay alive now that the holidays are over. How can we help? Government assistance is critical, to be sure. But consumer awareness and support is the real key.

Think local, shop local and spend local.

___

January 1, 2021

Mattoon Journal Gazette & Charleston Times-Courier

Wage hike is a double-edged sword

This is a situation that defies any kind of satisfactory solution.

Beginning Jan. 1, the Illinois Department of Labor increased the statewide minimum wage to $11 per hour, $6.60 for tipped workers. That’s a $1-per-hour hike after a pair of increases in 2020 — to $9.25 in January, then to $10 in July.

Unfortunately, there are people working minimum-wage jobs who are trying to take care of families with those jobs. Fortunately, the hourly wage increase – which will rise to $15 in 2025 – is aimed to help just that type of individual.

But the world is significantly different than it was in 2019, when the increase was signed into law. The amount of optimism about the Illinois economy may have been excessive. But even the most pessimistic at the time had no suspicion of a worldwide pandemic and how it would impact each and every individual.

This worst-case scenario piles on to many of the fears opponents of the increase cited in their arguments against it. An increase in the minimum wage wasn’t necessarily going to add to the numbers of the employed. Small businesses might struggle with finances if their costs to operate rose too high.

The double whammy was COVID-19 and the forced shutdown of many businesses. Struggles to cope with the new world combined with a wholesale change in the economy, and some businesses closed. As pandemic restrictions were loosened, business owners dug into their bags of tricks and found innovative ways to attract customers. They had fewer employees and fewer customers, but they were surviving.

Then came the triple whammy of the second wave and closures. Those who barely survived the first wave closed their doors.

Now they weren’t employing anyone.

Optimism will be required for businesses to reopen. Effort will be required for them to be successful. An increase in labor costs will add to the struggle.

Increasing the minimum pay to $11 an hour doesn’t begin and end with entry-level positions. There are certainly employees who hired in at lower wages and now are making $11 an hour now. Does an employer just leave those employees at that rate, and hire someone new who will be making the same amount as an employee with a year of experience?

While many businesses suffer, the ones who can least afford the expense will be hit the hardest. And the businesses hit the hardest are the ones minimum wage workers seek out.

Or perhaps not. Unemployment benefits can be, in some cases, beneficial enough that workers are disincentivized to apply for jobs. That was already shown during the lockdowns and stimulus bills earlier this year.

The arrival of the minimum wage increase is a blessing. Higher pay for workers is always preferable. But those increases often come at a cost, and the cost right now will at least initially cause a portion of pain.

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