Tackle football legislation; opioid crisis worsens

House considering legislation on youth tackle football
The House Mental Health Committee has advanced legislation that would prohibit organized youth sports tackle football for any child under the age of 12. The bill, House Bill 4341, now moves to the House floor for further discussion and debate. This legislation was brought about due to concerns over concussions suffered by youth football players and the growing field of science regarding the lasting impact of these injuries.


When it passed the committee, the bill was strictly limited to tackle football and did not apply to any other sports. If it were to become law, it would apply only to organized youth sports leagues, not backyard games that children organize themselves. However, concerns were expressed in committee that this policy change could also be applied, in future years, to other recreational activities and ways that adults help kids organize themselves for sports.

During the committee hearing on the bill, there were 21 statements of support for the bill, and 369 statements of opposition. Support for the legislation came from health advocates, and much of the opposition to it was from youth football programs and their members. Similar legislation has been introduced in other states, such as California, Maryland and New York. This bill in particular and this issue in general will continue to develop through the spring.

Illinois emergency rooms log 66% increase in opioid-related ER visits in recent period
According to figures compiled by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) between July 2016 September 2017, Illinois has seen a surge in emergency room visits due to opioids. The numbers are based on surveys of emergency room personnel from across the country which were then broken out by state. During the 14-month period of the study, over 142,000 patients visited emergency rooms in the United States for emergency treatment of opiate overdoses.

Opioids include drugs like heroin, fentanyl, OxyContin, and other dangerous medications that utilize the painkilling powers of opium. The danger of overdose comes in part because of the tendency of the body to build up resistance, or tolerance, to opiate pain relievers. Due to this tolerance, as time goes by a patient must take more and more of the drug to achieve the same outcome.

We have taken many steps in Springfield in recent years to make it more difficult to buy opiate painkillers through prescription pharmacies; however, some patients have turned to the illegal drug market for opioids. In spite of our ongoing efforts, the data shows that just under 2000 Illinois residents died from opioid overdoses during the period studied by the CDC. Other U.S. states are also seeing sharp increases in opioid incidents and opioid-related deaths.

How much do we owe? 
As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $8,769,171,900 in unpaid bills to state vendors. This figure represents the amount of bills submitted to the office of the Comptroller and still awaiting payment. It does not include debts that can only be estimated, such as our unfunded pension liability which is estimated to be more than $100 billion.

Illinois praised as good location for future job creation
Illinois received some good news recently from Site Selection Magazine, a CEO-oriented periodical and database that compiles information on the relative activities of U.S. locations for business relocation and job growth. The magazine ranked Illinois third in the number of new and expanded facilities in its tracking database. Commentators said Illinois was honored for its transportation infrastructure and relatively affordable real estate. More than 400 new and expanded facilities were tracked moving to or expanding in Illinois in the 2017 rankings.

There was good news for our largest city, as well as for some of our smaller towns. Site Selection’s information indicated that the greater Chicago area was the #1 metropolitan area in the nation with a population of 1 million or more. However, Illinois’ strength was not limited to greater Chicago.  Three Illinois areas which are considered “micropolitan areas,” that is, cities in rural areas with a population between 10,000 and 50,000, also scored highly. The top Illinois micropolitan areas were Ottawa-Peru, Effingham and Rochelle. One thing all three regions have in common is that they are places where transcontinental railroad service comes together with two or more Interstate highways.

Local student wins state cabbage program contest
Nathaniel Hiles, a 3rd grader from El Paso, recently won the Bonnie Plants Illinois State 3rd grade cabbage program. Nathaniel definitely has a green thumb and a magic touch: he grew a huge 38-pound cabbage to take top honors in the contest. We all know the importance of farming to our region, our state and our nation, and after meeting with Nathaniel and his family I am confident that the future of this vital industry is in good hands. It goes to show the importance of continuing support for agriculture, including agricultural education programs in our schools. Congratulations to Nathaniel and to his parents, Dale and Stephanie, on this outstanding achievement!

Did You Know?
In 1921, the Illinois House of Representatives voted 110-10 in favor of a resolution urging President Warren G. Harding to recognize the Republic of Ireland. In taking this action, Illinois became the first U.S. state to recognize Ireland as an independent nation.


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