Springfield, IL…There are 59 Illinois State Senators. At times, there may be an incident that involves one senator, but which impacts all of us. Such an episode happened during the week, when a Chicago area Senator became the subject of a raid by federal authorities.
Elsewhere, on a positive note, Illinois’ agriculture industry received some big news this week Taiwanese delegation committing to purchasing over $2 billion in Illinois soy and corn over the next two years. Additionally, the Illinois Department of Human Services launched a video campaign dedicated to raising awareness for the Illinois Helpline for Opioids and Other Substances.
Elected Officials Under Scrutiny
On September 24, agents of the FBI and the IRS conducted raids at the home, district office, and State Capitol office of a Chicago area Democrat State Senator. According to media reports, when asked, the FBI would only indicate it was "engaged in an authorized law enforcement activity.” Federal agents were seen carrying away boxes, marked “evidence,” and computers.
Another Chicago area Democrat Senator came under federal scrutiny last month and was indicted by a federal grand jury on a charge of embezzlement involving his association with the Teamsters Union.
Under our system of Justice, you are innocent until proven guilty, but these circumstances legitimately raise questions and concerns by citizens. And all of this comes after Chicago Alderman Ed Burke, husband of our Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice, has also been indicted on a 14 point corruption charge. Numerous other alderman and Chicago insiders are under investigation. Former Governor Rod Blagojevich is still in prison while former Governor George Ryan recently was released.
In February of this year, the University of Illinois-Chicago published a study indicating Chicago was the number one big city in the United States for corruption. The university used information from the U.S. Department of Justice's Public Integrity Section to reach its conclusions. The study also concluded that the state of Illinois was the third most corrupt of the 50 states. Federal figures show 25 public corruption convictions during 2017 in the Northern District of Illinois, which includes Chicago, and a total of 34 public corruption convictions for all of Illinois that year.
Public corruption also carries a huge price tag for taxpayers. “$550 million a year from 2000 – 2017,” according to an analysis by the public policy think tank, the Illinois Policy Institute.
Taiwanese delegation Commits to buying billions in Illinois Soy and Corn
Demonstrating a firm commitment to Illinois’ vast agricultural industry, a Taiwanese delegation recently announced their intention to purchase $2.2 billion in Illinois corn and soybeans over the next two years. On September 24, representatives from the Illinois Corn Marketing Board, the Illinois Soy Bean Association, the Taiwan Feed Industry Association and the Governor came together to sign letters of intent to purchase $1.1 billion in soy and $1.1 billion in corn. Taiwan, currently Illinois’ third largest trading partner of agricultural products, committed to purchase 197 million bushels of corn and up to 97 million bushels of soybeans produced by Illinois’ farmers.
According to the Illinois Soybean Association, Illinois is the number one soybean producing state and produced approximately 611.9 million bushels in 2017. Illinois ranks second in the country in corn production. The letters of intent were signed in a ceremony at the Thompson Center in Chicago on Tuesday.
Harvest season underway
With harvest season beginning and an uptake of agricultural equipment on the roadways, Illinois’ motorists are encouraged to be extra cautious while traveling. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 26 percent of Illinois corn is now considered mature. Meanwhile, soybean coloring is at 53 percent, which means heavy farm equipment traffic is expected to increase on roadways.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, transportation incidents were the leading cause of death for farmers and farm workers in 2016. Motorists are encouraged to slow down and be aware of farmers on the roadways.
To help keep harvest season safe for everyone, motorists can follow these simple safety steps.
- Find the lights on farm vehicles. Farm vehicles are required to have amber and red rear lights. The amber lights should be visible to the front and rear. They should flash as a warning to other motorists.
- Slow down as soon as you see a farm vehicle. Most farm equipment only travels 15 to 20 miles per hour, so it is crucial to slow down before it is too late.
- Harvest season typically runs from September through November. Drivers should expect to see farm vehicles on the road during this time.
Illinois Helpline for Opioids and Other Substances Receives New Platform
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there were 2,202 drug overdose deaths involving opioids in Illinois, during 2017. That is a rate of 17.2 deaths per 100,000 persons, which is higher than the national rate of 14.6 deaths per 100,000 persons.
Now, the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) is launching a statewide video campaign aimed at raising awareness for the Illinois Helpline for Opioids and Other Substances. The videos will feature individuals who share stories of recovery and organizations from across the state who are providing treatment and recovery services for opioid and other substance use disorders. The Illinois Helpline for Opioids and Other Substances number is 1-833-2FINDHELP. Their website, with additional information, can be found at www.HelplineIL.org.
According to the Institute, the greatest increase in opioid deaths was seen in cases involving synthetic opioids (mainly fentanyl): a rise from 127 deaths in 2014 to 1,187 deaths in 2017. Deaths involving heroin also increased significantly in the same 3-year period: from 844 to 1,251 deaths. There were 623 deaths involving prescription opioids in 2017, nearly double the 343 deaths in 2014. The IDHS said the videos will be featured in TV spots, transit posters, social media advertisements, and billboard postings across major media markets in Illinois. Videos in the campaign will also be posted on the IDHS YouTube page.