Political News

Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in Illinois

Posted 1:08 p.m. Tuesday

September 16, 2016

The (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan

Bipartisan insurance act a breath of fresh air

It's always nice to look at Springfield now and then and see accomplishment. It's even better when that accomplishment is bipartisan.

Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs visited The Southern's Editorial Board this past week to talk about a problem he saw with life insurance. Namely, that some companies were holding on to more than $550 million in unpaid claims since 2011.

Frerichs said when someone dies, sometimes there would be policies the beneficiaries wouldn't know about and, because they didn't directly ask the company about the specific policy, the money would just stay in the hands of a corporation and not the bereaved. So it boiled down to, "Oh, we never gave you the money your mother put aside for you? Well, you didn't ask about it ."

Yikes. There's nothing wrong with wanting to make money, but this just felt really slimy. It's one thing if a company does their best to reach out to people, leaving multiple messages for them and the family just never claims the benefits. It's another to do this.

He gave the example of a woman who died in a car accident, leaving behind two children with learning disabilities. The children were adopted, but their new guardian had no idea their late mother had taken out an insurance policy to help pay for their needs, should anything happen to her. Well, the adoptive mother didn't ask, so no money.

Frerichs said another example of this tactic is when church members took out insurance policies for a pastor and the church, not telling them so it would be a nice surprise after they had passed away. No one from the church asked about it, so it was unpaid as well, until a church member found the policies on the unclaimed property check on the Treasurer's website.

Frerichs claimed that some companies played coy so that unpaid claims would improve profit margins. When he audited companies to find if this behavior was taking place, there was some resistance to his efforts and some lawsuits with accusations that the office was overreaching its power.

The Unclaimed Life Insurance Benefits Act required companies to use the Social Security Administration's Death Master File database to confirm payment of life insurance benefits.

A short time after Frerichs, a Democrat, met with The Southern's editorial board, our Republican Governor Bruce Rauner signed the act into law. Illinois is the 23rd state to pass such a law and they have been championed by Democrats and Republicans alike throughout the country.

We applaud Frerichs for championing the cause and we applaud Rauner for signing it into law. Supporting a law that makes sure families receive the money their deceased loved ones set aside for them seems like a no-brainer. Being the man or woman who scoffs at such a law seems like it could be political suicide. But even though supporting the law seems safe, it's always nice in Illinois to see Democrats and Republicans agree on something and get it done.

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September 15, 2016

The (Bloomington) Pantagraph

Body cameras an expense worth bearing

The cost of public trust and officer safety cannot be overpriced.

Reviewing and then storing high-definition data from police body cameras will be an added expense to Illinois municipalities and counties, but it should lessen over time as camera competition increases and more companies offer storage options.

It's hard to overstate the need for the videos.

"It could provide an opportunity to validate what police are saying. A lot of cases may get resolved minus a trial," State's Attorney Jason Chambers recently told reporter Edith Brady-Lunny, who wrote that videos also could spare a citizen the expense and inconvenience of a criminal case if their version of events is supported by police video.

For cities and counties, the shift to video cameras can be a reliable way for police to improve trust and accountability with the public, and to reduce the number of injuries and unfounded complaints against officers.

After seeing how cameras affected two cases, "Every question I'd had about body cameras was completely erased," said DeWitt County Sheriff Jered Shofner, whose department was one of the first in the area to deploy the cameras.

The Associated Press reported that at least two states have shelved body camera use because storage laws mean increased costs. The news service said at least eight states — Indiana, Oregon, Illinois, Nevada, California, New Hampshire, Nebraska and Georgia — have laws spelling out how long police departments must preserve the footage the cameras capture.

Just as it does on a smartphone or tablet, high-resolution video from a body camera uses a lot of space. Officers, supervisors and attorneys also will have to spend time reviewing footage to determine what needs to be saved or what needs to be included as part of an official report.

Exterior security cameras are commonplace at businesses, parking lots, stop lights and along highways. The footage can be used to catch car thieves, people who speed through construction zones or which car ran a red light. Footage has been used in criminal cases ranging from the Boston Marathon bombing to the pending local murder case against Kirk Zimmerman.

Body cameras are no different. They can show the good, and bad, of what happens during a police call. Used correctly, the cameras provide an objective view: a recent snippet from a Chicago Police Department body camera ultimately led to the suspension of five officers. Other footage in other cases — including those in DeWitt County — provided footage that justified an officer's actions.

Yes, new technology can be expensive. But using new technology to improve public safety, and to hold people accountable, is a cost we can bear.

For everyone's sake, body cameras are an expense that will pay off.

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September 15, 2016

The (Crystal Lake) Northwest Herald

Steps to reduce drunken driving

One day in the not-too-distant future, cars might be able to drive themselves. Until then, it will be up to people to make good choices and prevent traffic fatalities.

Invariably, some do not. Although traffic deaths have fallen far below where they were 10 years ago, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that human factors contribute to most traffic crashes.

In 2015, for the first time in 10 years, fatalities increased across the United States, with 35,092 people killed, according to data released in August by the NHTSA. It was a 7.2 percent increase over 2014.

Almost half of passenger-vehicle occupants who were killed in 2015 were not wearing seat belts, despite laws requiring their use, federal data shows.

About a third of fatalities were in crashes that involved drunk drivers or speeding, the agency said. Alcohol-related deaths increased 3.2 percent in 2015, to 10,265, according to the traffic safety administration.

Illinois lawmakers have passed some measures recently designed to stem the tide of drunk driving, both by first-time and repeat offenders.

This year, instead of requiring mandatory one-year driving suspensions for all first-time DUI offenders, drivers convicted have the option of obtaining a restricted driving permit and installing an ignition interlock device that will not allow their car to start if it detects alcohol on the driver's breath. The device also has a camera that ensures the correct person is driving the vehicle.

Another law passed in 2015 increased to five years the amount of time that repeat DUI offenders must drive without incident with a restricted permit and ignition interlock before their license will be reinstated.

These are good steps that should help to reduce the number of drinking-related driving deaths.

Other than by refraining from drinking and driving, wearing seatbelts and driving defensively, the public can help make roads safer reporting erratic drivers on the roads to local police.

Enforcing existing laws and working to take intoxicated motorists off the road are the last, and unfortunately, sometimes the only defense against risky behavior that leads to thousands of fatalities every year.

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