Thumbs-up: To the Class of 2019. Once again, DeKalb County’s high schools have conferred diplomas upon hundreds of students, who will move on to their next step in life. Whether it’s off to a university or college, joining the armed forces or entering the workforce, we wish all of them the best of luck in making their mark, and hope that the time they spent as students here will remain with them as a fond memory. Congratulations to all the new grads.
Thumbs-up: To taking action to protect state troopers. More than 20 Illinois state troopers have had their vehicles hit by drivers who have disobeyed a state law known as “Scott’s Law,” which requires drivers to slow down or move over for stopped emergency vehicles on the side of the road. Drivers continue to disobey this law, and the consequences have been fatal: Three troopers have been killed this year as a result of crashes that could have been avoided had drivers moved over or reduced their speed. Under a proposal that passed the Illinois Legislature this week, drivers who fail to reduce their speed or move over when approaching stationary vehicles on the side of the road could be fined at least $500 for a first offense. The maximum fine for any offense is $10,000. The law also increases the penalty for a violation that results in death or harm to a first responder to three to seven years in prison. At least $250 of each fine would go to a fund to promote driver education. Drivers need to know the law and obey it – too many officers have been killed.
Thumbs-down: To a wet spring adding to farmers’ woes. Local farmers already had put much of last year’s crop in local grain elevators waiting for prices to rebound, and this year they’re facing an added difficulty: the seemingly incessant rain this spring. With some fields still underwater, planting has been almost impossible. In the nation’s biggest farming states, which include Illinois, planting is far behind schedule – only a little more than half of the seeds are in the ground, when usually 90% of the fields are planted by now. You can see it in DeKalb County, where there still are plenty of fields that show nothing but dirt where the green shoots – and in some years, knee-high cornstalks – should be. Farmers must decide by Wednesday whether to risk a low yield by planting now or lose a little of their crop insurance coverage each day. It’s a squeeze, and we hope those affected will be able to figure out the right path.
Thumbs-down: To a business backlog in Springfield. Although the state Legislature often is taking some items down to the wire, this year they went too far. On Friday, with House lawmakers immersed in what would be a more than three-hour debate on a proposal to legalize marijuana, legislation on important issues was only beginning to emerge, including a 1,581-page state budget plan, a proposal for a sweeping gambling expansion including sports betting, six new casinos and proposals to raise money for a capital plan. With all of this still undecided and less than 12 hours to go, leaders decided to keep the Legislature in session through the weekend, when fewer people will be watching and when most of the members will be eager to go home.