A recent report ranks Illinois low in fiscal transparency, and as a new decade looms, lawmakers must commit to improving the state’s system of drawing legislative boundaries to limit undue influence from politicians and special interests.
In other news, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency is offering holiday safety tips, the Attorney General’s office has released its annual Safe Shopping Guide, and the Illinois Student Assistance Commission is recognizing the academic achievements of its newest group of Illinois State Scholars.
Illinois ranks low in fiscal transparency
Watchdog group Truth in Accounting has issued a report that ranks Illinois among the least fiscally-transparent states in the nation.
Illinois has been ranked ninth-worst, with the state’s score negatively affected by such factors as the late delivery of its annual documents, a failure to have an external auditor look at the numbers, and a distorted net financial position due to misleading and confusing information on its report.
The Truth in Accounting group measures each state’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report and issues scores based on eight criteria: accessibility, searchability, if the states used an outside auditor, the auditor’s opinion, timeliness of the report, percentage of off-balance sheet liabilities, pension data timing, and deferred items.
Idaho, North Dakota and Nevada were ranked at the top of the report, while Connecticut was ranked 50th.
Legislative redistricting reform must be a priority
For many years, Senate Republicans have strongly advocated for creating a new, non-partisan system for drawing legislative boundaries. Earlier this year, the Caucus pledged support for the passage of a bipartisan Constitutional Amendment that would have allowed Illinois residents to have their say on the issue.
The state’s current system of drawing voting maps is geared toward protecting current officeholders. Districts are drawn to protect partisan incumbents, and ensure that the majority caucus is likely to continue to hold those seats for the next 10 years (when maps are redrawn).
One unfortunate result of such a system is that primaries become the main battlegrounds instead of general elections. As such, Democrat candidates take more extremely liberal positions to win the vote of their base in the primary while Republican candidates take more extremely conservative positions to win their party’s base. We end up with more extreme candidates on both sides and fewer in the middle to help negotiate reasonable compromises.
Redistricting reform requires the General Assembly to submit an amendment to the Illinois Constitution – providing voters the opportunity to decide if a new system should be put in place. The most recent Constitutional Amendment would place the question of fair maps on the ballot for the next statewide election.
The Senate Republican Caucus has been working on this issue for many years. Still, the Democrat majority has not allowed the matter to reach the voters despite a nationwide call for fair map plans from members of both parties.
IEMA releases holiday safety tips
The Illinois Emergency Management Agency is offering holiday safety tips for shopping, travel, winter heating and more at https://www2.illinois.gov/ready/Pages/default.aspx.
Here are just a few:
Decorating – When decorating for the holidays, be careful when using candles and strings of lights. Candles should never be left unattended and should be placed far away from flammable materials. Candles should always be placed on stable furniture in fire-safe holders that will catch dripping wax. Holiday lights and electrical decorations should bear the name of an independent testing lab to prove they were safety-tested.
Winter Heating – It is important to make your fireplace ready for the winter heating season. Chimneys, fireplaces and wood and coal stoves should be regularly inspected and cleaned. Furnaces should be checked every year by professionals to ensure mechanical parts are functioning properly and that nothing is blocking the flue. Malfunctioning furnaces increase both the fire and carbon monoxide risks. Illinois law requires that homes should be equipped with working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors within 15 feet of each sleeping area. The detectors should be tested monthly to ensure they’re functioning and the batteries are still good. Never use a gas or charcoal grill inside your home or attached garage because of the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Shopping Online – Be smart when shopping online this holiday season. Make sure your home wireless network is password-protected, and set strong passwords to deter cybercriminals. During the holidays, scammers may send fake emails requiring you to click a link for a special offer. Shop online through trusted retailers to avoid these scams, and do not click on links from unknown senders.
Attorney General releases Safe Shopping Guide
The Attorney General’s office has released its annual Safe Shopping Guide highlighting hazardous toys, children’s products and household items that have been recalled during the past year.
The 2019 Safe Shopping Guide includes detailed descriptions and photographs of children’s products recalled in the last year – from children’s toys and clothes that pose choking hazards to children’s furniture that poses entrapment or falling risks.
Since January, there have been 30 recalls of products by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission that are focused on protecting children. This easy-to-use resource can help families avoid purchasing recalled products on the secondhand market and identify items that may already be in their homes.
ISAC announces State Scholars
The Illinois Student Assistance Commission has recognized more than 17,577 high school students from 726 schools in Illinois for their academic achievements.
Illinois State Scholars, who rank in approximately the top 10 percent of graduates from Illinois high schools, are selected annually based on their ACT and SAT exams and sixth-semester class rank.
Congratulations to the students from the 25th Senate District whose hard work and scholastic abilities have earned them the Illinois State Scholar designation. An online listing of current Illinois State Scholars can be found on the Illinois Student Assistance Commission’s website.