Covering the Land of Lincoln

Editorial Roundup: Illinois

Arlington Heights Daily Herald. June 25, 2022.

Editorial: Signage war will just sow more confusion about gas taxes

If the courts side with the Illinois legislature, by the end of next week signs could be popping up at gas stations all over the state. They will explain how the gas tax increase scheduled to kick in on July 1 has been magnanimously postponed until January 2023 to temporarily take a little of the burden off drivers as gas prices push higher and higher.

Meanwhile, at many stations, next to those signs will be other signs that offer a counterargument. These, made by the Illinois Fuel and Retail Association and distributed to their members, will say that ‘Illinois politicians’ have more than doubled the gas tax since 2019, and basically call the postponement of the new 2.4 cents per gallon charge an election tactic to improve Democrats’ chances in November.

They’ll also say that gas stations are forced to post the legislative signs or pay a $500-a-day fine.

There could be so much reading material at every gas station that drivers will start showing up late to work.

The Illinois gas tax, currently 39.2 cents per gallon, was set for an automatic increase of 2.4 cents on July 1. Legislators, alarmed by the current rise in gas prices overall, agreed to amend the Motor Fuel Tax law to delay the increase for six months; and to require gas stations put up signs that tout the savings to drivers. In related news, on Wednesday President Joe Biden called on Congress to suspend both federal and state gas taxes for three months. He also urged the oil industry to increase refining capacity quickly, and to pass along savings to consumers faster.

        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        

 

Meanwhile, the Illinois Fuel and Retail Association has sued to stop the mandatory signage, arguing that it violates retailers’ free speech rights by making them choose between making a political statement that ‘they do not wish to make’ on behalf of the state or face criminal penalties.

Lest anyone reading this is thinking that Democrats alone are guilty of such bad judgment, it behooves us to point out that Republicans voted for the amendment containing this provision as well.

Further, in 2000, Gov. George Ryan and Senate President James ‘Pate’ Phillip, both Republicans, supported suspending the state sales tax on gas for six months … and required retailers to display signs advertising the savings.

The chest-thumping that the signs represent was unnecessary and self-indulgent in 2000 — frankly, even embarrassing. Nothing has changed. The ensuing war of written words will not make anything clearer to the public at large and in fact will muddle the conversation further.

        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        

 

Moreover, forcing retailers to pay for their own legislative-mandated signs adds insult to injury.

Keep in mind that the delay is merely a delay. The gas tax increase will reappear in January and take effect then. Another automatic gas tax increase is already scheduled for July 1, 2023, so consumers will see two hikes, not one, next year.

Further, in 2000, Gov. George Ryan and Senate President James ‘Pate’ Phillip, both Republicans, supported suspending the state sales tax on gas for six months … and required retailers to display signs advertising the savings.

The chest-thumping that the signs represent was unnecessary and self-indulgent in 2000 — frankly, even embarrassing. Nothing has changed. The ensuing war of written words will not make anything clearer to the public at large and in fact will muddle the conversation further.

Moreover, forcing retailers to pay for their own legislative-mandated signs adds insult to injury.

Keep in mind that the delay is merely a delay. The gas tax increase will reappear in January and take effect then. Another automatic gas tax increase is already scheduled for July 1, 2023, so consumers will see two hikes, not one, next year.

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Chicago Tribune. June 24, 2022.

Editorial: The impractical end of Roe v. Wade

In 1973, the United States Supreme Court found constitutional protection for a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion, her autonomous personhood deserving to be free from excessive governmental restriction.

Some 49 years later, that same illustrious body, albeit of different human constitution, has changed its mind.

No such protection should have been granted, it found Friday, meaning that the states are now free to enact their own regulations of the practice. A dozen or so of them already have restrictive abortion laws on the books that will be triggered by this decision. Others will no doubt enact such laws. And conversely, many, including Illinois, either have moved or will now move to enshrine and protect the legality of abortion. The future will be a patchwork of resentment and confusion, a further threat to the unity of our republic.

We lament Friday’s decision on the grounds that it diminishes freedom and choice, and we do so as a consequence of our long-standing belief that government should not interfere with our individual bodies. We recognize that many Americans of religious faith especially oppose abortion on the grounds that a fetus represents a separate form of human life, a soul, that deserves, on moral grounds, to be nurtured and carried to term. This always has been a difficult issue, and many reasonable Americans become uncomfortable with abortion once the fetus reaches the point of viability outside its mother’s womb, a moment that has shifted over time and remains subject to debate and opinion.

But Roe v. Wade required no obligation to have an abortion at any point in a pregnancy. It merely offered the freedom to make one’s own choice.

Laws, even rights, are subject to practical considerations. And if there is one clear truth that emerges in the data surrounding this debate, it is that women seeking an abortion will continue to seek one even in the wake of an abandoned Roe v. Wade.

Those who live in states where abortion becomes illegal will, in most cases, strive to travel to places where the practice is safe and legal and in the hands of qualified practitioners, putting significant financial burdens on those women and possibly delaying their abortion to a point where it becomes more invasive. Those who oppose abortion will try and enact state laws to prevent such travel, potentially an egregious restriction on a fundamental American right to move around the nation at will.

Some level of chaos will ensue, probably for a long time.

And, as with so much else, the burden will fall disproportionately on those who are young, vulnerable and without adequate financial resources.

This is why most Americans supported Roe, even in many cases over personal, moral objections to abortion. They have no stomach for criminal penalties, let alone incarceration, for a pregnant woman seeking an abortion. It is why Roe has become ‘settled law,’ as many potential Supreme Court justices have noted, seemingly disingenuously now, during their confirmation hearings.

The originalist case against Roe as a perversion of the right to privacy has long been articulated. We have had, of course, an advance preview of this argument, presumably thanks to a furious Supreme Court staffer who thought that leaking a draft of the decision, a draft later confirmed as genuine by the court, would cause sufficient of a furor that the court would perhaps modify its decision.

We lamented that leak even though its logic was palpable: The Supreme Court, as a crucial guardian of shared democracy and defense against government tyranny, cannot act entirely in isolation from the American people on whose trust it relies. And as it does its thing, it cannot abandon simple practicality.

That’s why there has been no groundswell of opinion for the overturning of Roe. This moment arrives merely because certain justices saw an opportunity derived from the particular composition of the court at this specific moment. In some chambers, the 1973 decision long has rankled, and been seen as illogical bad law.

Carpe diem, it thus was decided.

But there is a price to be paid for that stubbornness in our deeply divided nation. Friday’s news won’t end abortion in America, or even in the South, but it will create a chaotic quilt of prohibition and encouragement, political posturing and forced religiosity. And despite all the caring people who will work for good, the newly created landscape will be filled with charlatans, mules, exploiters and profiteers.

This court, in its learned, real-world wisdom, should have protected all American women from what surely now lies ahead.

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Chicago Sun-Times. June 26, 2022.

Editorial: Protect endangered species from overuse of deadly ‘neonic’ pesticides

So-called neonics add a much smaller amount of pesticides to the environment than widespread spraying, but they are absorbed by plants, which makes the entire plant deadly to some species.

Endangered species in America from bees to birds can start breathing just a little bit easier.

Earlier this month, the U.S EPA took an important step toward protecting numerous endangered species from hazardous insecticides.

First, the technical stuff. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on June 16 said three ‘neonic’ pesticides are likely to adversely affect from two-thirds to more than three-fourths of America’s endangered species – 1,225 to 1,445 species in all. The three neonicotinoid insecticides, also known as neonics, are clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam.

Now it’s up to the federal government, along with the states, to build on that decision. If they do, it will help protect endangered species in the future and help make farming more sustainable in states such as Illinois with strong agricultural bases.

‘(The EPA ruling) is good news. It is a call for action by the federal government and state governments,’ Steve Blackledge, senior director of Environment America’s Conservation America Campaign, told us. ‘Neonics are causing a whole lot of harm.’

Neonics are effective pesticides that are applied in small doses directly to the surface of seeds. They add a much smaller amount of pesticides to the environment than widespread spraying.

But they are absorbed by plants, which makes the entire plant – including the plant’s nectar, pollen and fruit – deadly to some species, and they can linger in soil for years. Carried in runoff, neonics pollute waterways throughout the nation.

‘It’s kind of scary how completely (neonics) took over field crop agriculture,’ Bill Freese, scientific director of the Washington-based Center for Food Safety, told us.

Because neonics are so effective, sustainable organic farming practices such as crop rotation and planting off-season cover crops have tended to fall by the wayside, Freese said.

Neonics are banned in the European Union, but they are the most popular insecticides in the United States. The Illinois Public Interest Research Group has called for ending excessive use of the pesticides, including a ban on consumer use. Studies have showed neonics harm bees, birds, butterflies, freshwater invertebrates and mammals, according to the Center for Biological Diversity.

As Lori Ann Burd, the center’s environmental health director, said in a statement, ‘We’re in the midst of a heartbreaking extinction crisis, and neonicotinoids are playing an outsized role in driving it.’

Many species are struggling. The once-common American bumblebee has declined by about 89% in the past 20 years. A 2019 analysis found wild bird populations in the continental U.S. and Canada had declined by 29% – or about 3 billion birds – since 1970.

Among the species the EPA found were likely to be adversely affected by neonics are the Chinook salmon, Florida panther, Indiana bat, whooping crane, California red-legged frog, Karner blue butterfly and yellow larkspur, the Center for Food Safety said.

It’s not just a matter of losing endangered species. Illinois PIRG says bees pollinate 71 of the top 100 crops that provide 90% of the world’s food. Killing off damaging insects with pesticides doesn’t help as much as it should if plants don’t get pollinated.

Clearly, the threatened species need our help.

The next step in the process of regulating neonics is for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service to draw up safeguards for the use of neonics based on the EPA’s ruling.

Over the past year, Massachusetts, Maine, New York and New Jersey have banned the consumer sale of neonics. In Illinois, state Rep. Will Guzzardi, D-Chicago, in January introduced a bill limiting the use of neonics on public lands, but the bill remained stuck in the Rules Committee when the session ended.

‘The science is very clear (neonics) pose serious environmental threats,’ Guzzardi said. ‘We have been working on this for a few years, but the chemical industry is dug in on this issue.’

Farmers need to be productive, especially at a time when food supplies have been disrupted worldwide. But that productivity should not come at the cost of unnecessarily harming many of our native species.

END

        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        

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