By The Associated Press
March 2, 2018
Will this be the moment America's gun culture changes?
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High students returned this week to a campus to be remembered forever as the site where 17 students and teachers died. But will that shooting spree also be memorialized as the catalyst for effective gun control action in Washington, Illinois and elsewhere? Is this the moment when vocal high school students inspire their generation to demand change - and refuse to back down or lose heart?
We hope so. That hope is tinted by reality: Previously, Americans' anger over such shootings burned hot but fizzled. Lawmakers play for time and eventually bury gun-control proposals.
This time could be different. Why so? Because as we write:
Illinois lawmakers have passed or are poised to pass a series of measures, many of which we support, to tighten gun laws. Those include a ban on bump stocks that turn semi-automatic rifles into machine gun-style weapons and a limit on high-capacity magazine clips.
President Donald Trump is jawboning Congress to send him "one terrific bill" on gun safety, including stronger background checks and restrictions based on age and mental health.
Walmart, the nation's largest retailer, and Dick's Sporting Goods no longer will sell guns to people under 21. Both also are imposing new restrictions on ammunition sales. Company execs didn't need a new law. They needed this: "When we saw what the kids were going through and the grief of the parents and the kids who were killed in Parkland, we felt we needed to do something," Dick's Chairman and CEO Ed Stack told ABC News. Who's next?
Several major corporations, including MetLife, Hertz and Delta Air Lines, have cut ties with the National Rifle Association.
Students plan demonstrations and marches in Washington and across the nation.
Today, arguably more than ever, Americans understand that gun violence is a public health epidemic killing innocent people, just the way a virus does.
This threat demands an urgent national response. Congress, start by assembling public health experts into a Manhattan Project-style effort to pinpoint the best ways to curtail this epidemic. Why isn't there more research into possible solutions? One reason, The Atlantic reports, is a 1996 Congressional amendment that barred the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from using money to "advocate or promote gun control." The amendment, sponsored by the late GOP Rep. Jay Dickey of Arkansas, has exerted a chilling effect for decades.
Six years ago, Dickey, by then retired from Congress, co-authored a Washington Post op-ed that revealed a change of heart. The U.S. government was spending $240 million a year on traffic safety research but almost nothing on firearms safety research, the authors wrote: "Most politicians fear talking about guns almost as much as they would being confronted by one, but these fears are senseless. We must learn what we can do to save lives. It is like the answer to the question 'When is the best time to plant a tree?' The best time to start was 20 years ago; the second-best time is now."
That "now" was in 2012. Nothing happened. How about this now?
March 1, 2018
Marijuana ballot question replaces what lawmakers should ask voters
Illinois state senators last month decided 37-13 that they should ask Illinois voters in November whether recreational marijuana should be legalized, regulated and taxed.
If it were to pass the Illinois House, state lawmakers would not be required to follow the will of the people. The referendum would simply be a giant opinion poll.
What a waste of time.
First, there are already plenty of opinion polls on this subject. The Pew Research Center just asked that question nationally, and found 61 percent of Americans support legalizing pot.
Do Illinois lawmakers really expect a different answer here?
Of course not. What they are after is first, political cover so they can legalize pot and tax the bejeezus out of it, and second, campaign cash before and after their various votes on legalization.
If they really cared about our opinions, there are much better questions. They could ask about term limits, independent legislative district mapping, a balanced state budget, pension reform or government consolidation.
Not only don't they care about those answers, Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan went to great lengths to prevent the independent map referendum from making it onto the ballot.
Remember, a lot of politicians are lawyers. They know you never ask a question in court, or in the court of public opinion, to which you don't already know the answer.
March 1, 2018
The Quincy Herald-Whig
Vets Home in Quincy could use nearby facility
Four new reported cases of Legionnaires' disease at the Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy in recent weeks have ratcheted up the pressure on Gov. Bruce Rauner to produce a plan to ensure the future safety of the more than 350 residents living there.
While we should demand full accountability and believe the administration's response should receive a thorough and objective review, veterans and their families should not be used as pawns in what has become a political blame game. Resolving this lingering crisis to enable the state's flagship veterans home to continue to offer vital services to its residents should be the primary focus, not trying to score points with voters.
With that objective in mind, both federal - led by U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin - and state elected officials over the last two months have said they are committed to investing in additional infrastructure improvements and safety measures at the home, which serves veterans from more than half of the state's 102 counties. That dialogue should continue.
Specifically, there have been repeated calls for building new facilities or replacing antiquated plumbing that likely harbors the deadly Legionella bacteria at the Quincy home, either of which could produce a remedy that so far has escaped and frustrated experts.
Those long-term solutions would take time, however, and the continuing cases of Legionnaires' disease necessitate short-term action. Rauner, who spent a week on the campus in January and saw firsthand the high level of care delivered there, told Chicago reporters last week that he will be announcing the administration's next steps "in the near future" but did not elaborate.
We strongly urge the governor and state agencies to give careful consideration to a feasible, transitional option that would address many of the stated safety concerns and achieve that short-term objective.
It would require the state to buy -- or rent -- the vacant Sycamore Healthcare Center facility just two blocks from the Veterans Home grounds and temporarily move the 75 residents now living in Elmore Infirmary -- where most of the Legionnaires' cases have been traced -- there until Elmore can be renovated or replaced.
Sycamore Healthcare Center closed in April 2017, a victim of Medicaid funding cuts instituted in 2015 and a state budget impasse that began that year and lasted until last summer.
The skilled nursing facility at 720 Sycamore has more than 26,000 square feet of space, features 102 rooms and was licensed for 205 beds at the time of its closing. DLZ Capital of New York bought the facility out of foreclosure and has it listed with Mays Realtors of Quincy for $795,000.
There has been a growing chorus of politicians calling for residents to be moved to other facilities across Illinois, which also would carry a hefty price tag for the state. We strenuously object to any such plan and urge our readers to do the same.
Moving those residents two blocks would be less physically taxing, and the proximity to the campus would enable them to still have access to services and activities at the Veterans Home.
Most important, it would offer safeguards to residents while state and federal officials work in conjunction with engineers and health professionals to devise permanent solutions to secure the future viability of the state's largest and oldest veterans home.
Allowing politics to dictate these important decisions would be a disservice to our military veterans, their families and the dedicated staff serving them in Quincy.
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