Editorial Roundup: Illinois

 
 
Posted4/19/2022 7:00 AM

Arlington Heights Daily Herald. April 15, 2022.

Editorial: Reasonable law gives law enforcement a fighting chance against ghost guns

 

When it comes to the issue of gun regulation, it is hard to imagine any law more reasonable than the bill headed for Gov. J.B. Pritzker's desk that places explicit restrictions on privately manufactured weapons -- generally known as 'úghost guns.'Ě

The Illinois law codifies the essence of a federal proposal announced this week by the U.S. Justice Department and President Joe Biden and makes it illegal for businesses to sell do-it-yourself firearms kits without a serial number or background check.

Note that the legislation does not make it illegal to manufacture a weapon on your 3-D printer at home -- a prospect troubling enough by itself -- or to own one. It merely tries to ensure that if you do own one and you use it to commit a crime, law enforcement will have some hope of tracking you down.

Opponents of the measure trot out the usual Second Amendment tropes that describe any restriction at all on ownership of deadly weapons, no matter how powerful, as a constitutional sacrilege.

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Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association, told the Chicago Sun-Times the state's bill -- which was approved without a single Republican vote -- was unnecessary and merely 'úpolitical.'Ě

'úIt'll get lots of law-abiding citizens in trouble,'Ě he said, apparently indifferent to the fact that the only businesses or citizens who will get into trouble from this policy are those who sell ghost-gun kits without doing a background check or who own ghost guns without serial numbers -- and therefore, by definition, are not law abiding.

Even more to the point, the proliferation of ghost guns is swelling in urban areas where gun crimes are most common. A Sun-Times analysis found that Chicago police recovered 72 ghost guns in all of 2019. In the first three months of this year, they've recovered at least 166. A CNN analysis found similar results in major cities across the country. These untraceable weapons clearly appeal most not to the law-abiding citizens Pearson references but to people who are most inclined to do something illegal with the guns and do not want to be detected.

Considering such facts, it is befuddling to consider how someone who claims to support law enforcement could resist a measure that helps fight crime and support a policy that so blatantly makes the job of law enforcement more difficult.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

This is especially true in the case of Illinois' proposed law, which makes a first violation a mere misdemeanor and doesn't elevate the crime to a felony until a second offense, in which case the question of whether the offender has law-abiding intent or not is pretty well decided.

We don't deny that criminals and scofflaws will find ways around this or any gun-regulation effort. But the least we can do is make it harder for them. The federal policy announced by Biden this week moves in that direction, and the measure headed to Gov. Pritzker's desk makes it official state policy. For Illinois, it's a welcome issue on which to place itself in the forefront of the nation.

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Chicago Tribune. April 14, 2022.

Editorial: Is nuclear power good for Illinois?

Nuclear energy has always been divisive, and now the Russian invasion of Ukraine has intensified the debate.

Faced with soaring energy prices and a natural gas supplier like Russia that can't be trusted, the United Kingdom has announced plans for building up to eight new reactors. France expects to continue much of its electricity from nuclear power, while Germany has pledged to continue phasing out its nuclear plants, resisting pressure to keep them in service.

As for the U.S., power generation from splitting atoms has declined in recent years, and more reactors are being retired than built.

If you're in Illinois, however, you're all-in on nuclear energy - for better or worse. Gov. J.B. Pritzker has made sure of that.

When the governor signed a sweeping energy plan last year, he committed the citizens of the state to extending the lives of three old nuclear plants that otherwise were due to be shut down. An estimated $700 million was earmarked for the then-parent of scandal-plagued Commonwealth Edison, which has agreed to continue operating the unionized plants in exchange for the government bailout.

Do other states less invested in nuclear energy - or Germany, for that matter - know something Illinois doesn't? Actually, no. The pros and cons are well understood, and they start with money.

For all the assurances about nuclear power plants being clean, efficient and reliable, they have proved to be expensive. They require a fortune upfront to build, cost overruns and delays are the norm and they're especially uneconomical in states like Illinois where deregulation has made electricity prices uncertain.

Setting aside the slow-motion damage from emissions at fossil fuel power plants, nuclear facilities are potentially much more dangerous. They create some of the deadliest waste imaginable, and they are targets for terrorists and others looking to do harm.

If anyone needs a reminder, consider Chernobyl, site of history's worst nuclear accident on an April evening 36 years ago, and still an active threat today. In the early stages of the Ukraine invasion, Russian forces occupied the site and scared all of Europe by cutting power to the plant and kicking up its radioactive soil.

Also consider Japan, which like Illinois had banked on atomic power until a 2011 earthquake and tsunami devastated its Fukushima nuclear plant. In the aftermath, nuclear energy has gone from supplying about 30% of the country's electricity to just 7.5% as of 2019. Worldwide, the number of nuclear plants is down, and the share of power they generate has fallen to 10.3%, from a peak of 17.5% in the mid-1990s.

Nuclear plants are back in vogue today partly because of the impact of Russia's war on energy prices, but even more so because they make electricity without releasing carbon into the atmosphere, which causes global warming. As the world races to reduce fossil fuel emissions, as it must, the risks of nuclear power are being reweighed.

In the U.K., which since the 1990s has reduced its reliance on nuclear power, a key goal is to roll out a new generation of smaller, cheaper reactors. Other countries are revisiting their nuclear power options as well, and the European Union, pressed by the rising influence of France, is angling to encourage investment by formally declaring reactors green.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions that damage the climate was an important part of Pritzker's energy package. He signed the legislation at Chicago's Shedd Aquarium, presumably to suggest that he was saving the penguins as well as the union jobs at the nuclear plants that were more relevant to the bill's passage.

Despite the enormous subsidy for a utility that admitted to engineering a state government bribery scheme, other parts of the legislation show promise: Illinois is overdue on phasing out its dirty coal-fired power plants, which the law should finally accomplish. Promoting electric cars will help reduce emissions compared with gasoline-powered vehicles, even after accounting for the electricity used in charging.

As for the 'úatomic governor's'Ě role in ensuring Illinois remains wedded to nuclear power, the reality is that the state will have company. Nuclear power will be a part of the world's energy mix for many years to come. It's possible that innovators will find a responsible way to deal with radioactive waste and otherwise mitigate the risks. Investors are making new bets on a revival, and, like practically all commodity prices these days, uranium prices are soaring.

It's too soon to declare a renaissance for nuclear power but keeping minds and options open makes sense for Illinois right now. Let's cross our fingers that Pritzker's $700 million payoff at least delivers the juice.

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Champaign News-Gazette. April 13, 2022.

Editorial: Legislature repeats decades of pension sins

Choosing political expediency instead of responsibility, legislators again missed a rare chance to make a significant, long-term dent in the state's burdensome pension debt.

There are plenty of items to comment on from the recently completed spring session of the Illinois General Assembly, both good and bad, but one that stands out is a horribly wasted opportunity to use this year's revenue windfall to shore up the state's battered pension systems.

The current state fiscal year, which began last July 1, has been a remarkable one for Illinois with revenue up nearly $5 billion from a year ago. Legislators could have done a huge favor not only for the taxpayers of today but for those taxpayers' children by devoting a healthy portion of that windfall to an early payment on future pension obligations.

Lawmakers did budget $1 billion for the virtually nonexistent 'úrainy day fund'Ě and an extra $500 million beyond what was required for pension payments. That extra pension contribution will reduce long-term obligations by nearly $2 billion. Imagine what could have been done with an extra billion dollars or more.

Instead, lawmakers chose to dole out $1.8 billion in short-term, evaporative tax cuts. Those temporary reductions in the state gas tax, the 1 percent sales tax on groceries and rebates on property taxes and income taxes will exist this year - an election year, of course - and be gone a year from now.

Republican members of the Legislature rightly criticized the tax cuts as 'úelection-year gimmicks.'Ě And then they almost unanimously voted for them anyway. (Republican state Sen. Craig Wilcox of McHenry was the only lawmaker with the fortitude to vote 'úno.'Ě)

By opting to place political expediency (visions of campaign flyers and commercials boasting of sales- and gas-tax cuts) ahead of taking the long-term, responsible route, legislators repeated the sins of generations of members of the Illinois General Assembly.

Almost from the day the State Universities Retirement System was created in 1941, along with other state pension systems, it has been recklessly shortchanged. In the 1940s and '50s, university administrators and legislators agreed that capital improvements were so badly needed that pension payments could be put off to later. In decades following, the Legislature's level of pension funding became so irregular that entire years were declared 'úpension holidays.'Ě

This year's decision not to use a revenue bonanza to reduce long-term pension obligations is no less disappointing.

END

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