Editorial Roundup: Illinois

Chicago Sun-Times. July 13, 2022.

Editorial: With domestic violence rising, police must make sure victims are safe from firearms threat

A domestic violence victim is five times more likely to be killed when their abusive partner can get his or her hands on a gun.

Spending more time at home has certainly made life easier for some Illinoisans.

Less gasoline used, as prices soar at the pump. No more need to worry about office-appropriate outfits. Additional hours with loved ones.

But for those who have been stuck inside with an abusive family member, the “new normal” brought by the pandemic has only exacerbated the attacks. Across Illinois, the problem is getting worse.

Calls to domestic violence hotlines increased in Chicago and the state last year, according to a report released this week by the advocacy organization The Network. Even more grim: Murders and shootings tied to domestic violence incidents in the city increased nearly two-thirds in 2021 from 2020, the “Measuring Safety: Gender-based Violence in Illinois” study revealed.

What makes an already-frightening situation even worse is that limited social interaction — a byproduct of precautionary measures against COVID-19 — and an unpredictable economy have created more obstacles for domestic violence victims to get help, as the Sun-Times’ Andy Grimm recently reported.

Victims deserve to be taken seriously. In many cases, their life may be at stake. Yet in some cases, they simply feel as if police are dismissive of their complaints.

A major step that law enforcement officials can do to gain some of that needed trust is to ensure that firearms are taken out of the homes where domestic violence has taken place — and could occur again.

A domestic violence victim is five times more likely to be killed when their abusive partner can get his or her hands on a gun, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

So not surprisingly, domestic violence is the most common reason for an Illinois gun owner to have his or her FOID (firearm owner’s identification) card revoked.

That’s just a first step. Unless a weapon is surrendered, potential victims are still at risk — and it happens far too often. While Illinois State Police rescinded more than 11,000 FOID cards in 2021, in only about 4,200 of those cases did gun owners surrender their weapons to authorities, The Network found.

That is unacceptable.

When residents have their FOID card revoked, they are supposed to surrender their card to the local police, get rid of their weapons and complete a Firearm Disposition Record form within a 48-hour time period.

But those prone to violence may not be inclined to transfer their firearms elsewhere — which means it’s up to law enforcement authorities to make sure others are safe from those who can no longer legally own a weapon.

Law enforcement agencies where the FOID card revocations take place must be diligent about conducting the necessary follow-up checks and coordinate their data with state police officials. State police only started tracking who actually got rid of their guns in 2015, after they were questioned about revoked FOID card protocol by the Sun-Times.

Routinely failing to confiscate guns from people who have had theirFOIDcards revoked has potentially deadly consequences.

Nearly a decade ago, Sheriff Tom Dart, frustrated by this inaction, put together a unit to seize guns from residents whoseFOIDcards were revoked in suburbs and unincorporated areas in Cook County.

Last year, this team retrieved 168 weapons and handled nearly 800 FOID revocation cases, making sure that both the card and the weapons were no longer in the possession of the person who had his or her card revoked. So far in 2022, the sheriff’s department seized 75 guns and completed 426 revocation cases.

Dart, in 2013, said he had hoped to “eliminate tragedies” by creating the team that seizes weapons from residents who had their FOID cards revoked.

More of these deadly scenarios can easily be avoided if police in other jurisdictions and state police keep communicating, and make it a priority to take guns away from those who shouldn’t have them.

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Chicago Tribune. July 12, 2022.

Editorial: That J.B. Pritzker-Ken Griffin slugfest may just be getting started

Many of the voters who put Donald Trump in the White House are beginning to see that America is better off without a second Trump term, which would be disastrous for this nation, and they are turning instead to his erstwhile rival but ideological sibling, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

And a growing number of Democrats are just as wisely laying the groundwork for a 2024 presidential nominee other than Joe Biden.

Neither of those things are certain, of course. But a New York Times/Siena College poll, released Monday, painted a disappointing picture for Trump, finding that about half of GOP primary voters preferred someone other than him to run for president in 2024 with a not-insignificant number of potential GOP voters defecting, or not showing up at the polls, if he wins the nomination.

Meanwhile, Politico reported last week that DeSantis has been building relationships with donors and conservative influencers, with a recent confab attended by Govs. Kim Reynolds of Iowa, Henry McMaster of South Carolina, Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma and Bill Lee of Tennessee. Politico said that Arkansas gubernatorial candidate and former Trump White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was there too.

On the Democratic side, a raft of prominent stories noting Biden’s age (he would be 86 at the end of a second term) have been appearing atop influential, left-leaning publications, a whispering confluence that feels hardly coincidental. That no doubt has much to do with that same poll finding that almost two-thirds of Democratic voters want someone other than Biden to run in 2024.

It’s too early to write off Biden as too old to run again and we don’t yet see enough evidence to declare his age a chronic problem during this first term. But a second term might well be a different matter. It’s a tough job, even for a healthy octogenarian.

Progressives, of course, have never seen Biden as a true believer and more centrist pragmatists are reading Biden’s lousy approval ratings, down to 33%. That is not a number that wins an election in a sharply divided country. And, just as strikingly, for reasons we think are obvious, there is not the groundswell of support for Kamala Harris you’d expect under these circumstances. The whispering is not so much that an aging Biden should give way to his vice president, but that the party probably should be casting around for a new candidate altogether.

Which brings us to J.B. Pritzker, who is acting more and more like a presidential candidate, albeit a cautious one, and Ken Griffin, a likely big financial supporter of DeSantis, the boss of Griffin’s new home state after the billionaire financier’s very public exit from Illinois.

There are a lot of variables: For obvious reasons, Pritzker has not even tacitly revealed his interest as transparently as DeSantis, who is not dealing with an incumbent. And, of course, other qualified names have already surfaced on both sides.

But another Pritzker-Griffin standoff, with DeSantis as the proxy for the latter, feels far from out of the question.

As we’ve noted before, Griffin’s objections to Pritzker policies have some merit, especially when it comes to the rise of crime in big cities. Clearly, Griffin believes that Pritzker is putting a potential presidential run ahead of his obligations to Illinois and that is a perception that Pritzker and his crew will want to prevent from broadening. Should Pritzker run, history suggests that Griffin will only be energized in his support of DeSantis, in whom he now has a clear, vested interest.

Should any of this speculation come true, and the Pritzker-Griffin slugfest moves both south and to a national stage, it won’t be a great result for those who believe that there is too much money influencing U.S. politics, especially presidential races. That said, we might well see a scenario where one man’s billions serves to cancel out the other’s billions.

For Illinois, we’d anticipate a mixed bag. Should Pritzker run, and win, in 2024, the state would reap a huge dividend as it did with Barack Obama, whose victory brought both optimism and oft-underestimated economic benefits, especially to Chicago. Global cities need to be in the news and to feel central to the world’s flowing currents of power and a Pritzker presidential campaign, distractions from governance notwithstanding, would be very good for all of that.

The downside, of course, is that the governor’s vulnerability to attacks on the crime issue could hurt perceptions of the state, especially Chicago, which has been a convenient political punching bag for right-wingers ever since the former Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel became mayor.

We hope Griffin will ensure that any political attacks for which he might be paying — no matter who the Democratic nominee turns out to be — are kept within the bounds of what is factual and reasonable. And we hope that he encourages DeSantis to be solutions-oriented rather than falling prey to making America’s third-largest city a stereotype.

We’ve said time and time again that crime must be brought under control and that resources must be brought to address all aspects of the causes of gun violence, not just the ones that one side or the other prefers. This issue should be above politics. We can dream.

But in our waking hours, we hope both Pritzker and Griffin remember that, should they go to war once again, we’re not up for being collateral damage in 2024.

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Champaign News-Gazette. July 17, 2022.

Editorial: Flat tax rates the new, new thing in states’ revenue policy

Other states are following Illinois’ example with their income taxes.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker had billions of reasons to celebrate Chicago businessman Ken Griffin’s recent announcement that he’s moving himself and most of his employees to the more welcoming business climate in Miami.

Now, when it comes to campaign spending, the multibillionaire governor can spend multiple millions of his own money on political campaigns without having to worry that Griffin will match him dollar for dollar.

Although Griffin had only limited success opposing the governor’s candidates and policies through his campaign donations, he did have one titanic victory that continues to enrage the governor.

Griffin donated many millions to the 2020 campaign opposing Pritzker’s proposed progressive income tax amendment to the Illinois Constitution.

The governor wanted the measure to become law so he and his supporters in the General Assembly could dump the Illinois Constitution’s flat-tax mandate and replace it with multiple rates for multiple levels of income.

The proposed amendment was the first step in what would have been endless legislative fiddling with income-tax rates levied to dramatically increase revenue needed to fund Pritzker’s ambitious social-spending plans.

Voters’ decision to reject the proposed amendment leaves in place Illinois’ flat income tax rate — currently 4.95 percent.

Ironically, it also leaves Illinois with the same flat-tax policy that other states are adopting as a means of increasing their attractiveness to new residents and new businesses.

All the states surrounding Illinois, with the exception of Wisconsin, have adopted or are effectively transitioning to flat tax rates.

Iowa is moving to a flat rate of 3.9 percent by 2026. Michigan has a flat rate of 4.25 percent. Indiana has a flat rate of 3.23 percent. Kentucky has a flat 5 percent rate, while Missouri retains multiple rates, with a top bracket of 5.4 percent on $8,584 in income.

A recent Wirepoints study indicates that Arizona is headed to a 2.5 percent rate while Georgia will transition to 5.49 percent, both in 2024. To become effective, those two state must meet specific criteria justifying the move.

A number of states, of course, retain progressive rates that increase along with income. California and New York are the best examples with rates that go well into double digits for higher income earners.

But the trend toward flat rates is clear. The last state to abandon a flat rate for progressive rates was Connecticut in 1996. Whatever the state hoped to achieve has not come to fruition because Connecticut, like Illinois, is one of the most financially troubled of the 50 states.

Expert opinion, of course, varies widely as to which approach is best. Progressive-rate advocates say it’s only fair for those with the highest income be taxed at higher rates. Those on the other side argue that flat rates generate economic growth that benefits everyone.

One thing, however, is for sure. Flat rates pose a serious disincentive to revenue-hungry public officials.

Why? To raise income taxes, they must raise them on all income earners, and that poses a severe political problem.

It’s much less difficult to pick out select segments of taxpayers for tax hikes, one group one year and another two years later. Reduced numbers of affected taxpayers reduce opposition at the polls.

In that sense, the flat tax is the taxpayer’s ally. Maybe that’s why more and more states are moving in that direction.

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