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EDITORIAL: Nine bills Gov. Rauner should sign to make Illinois safer and fairer

The Illinois State Capitol in Springfield.

The Illinois State Capitol in Springfield. | AP file photo

Gun violence. Opioid addiction. Immigration turmoil. The wage gap between men and women. Secretive government hiring practices. The computer hacking of voter rolls.

All of these difficult issues, some at the heart of full-blown national crises, were addressed in worthy bills approved this past spring by the Illinois Legislature.

Now it’s Gov. Bruce Rauner’s turn.

We urge the governor to sign these nine bills this summer to make Illinois a safer and fairer place to live.

EDITORIAL

Certifying Illinois gun dealers: A handful of “bad apple” gun shops whose lethal wares turn up at Chicago crime scenes by the hundreds operate with impunity in Illinois because federal oversight is scant. Requiring state certification of gun shops would empower Illinois to insist that the best practices be followed to keep firearms out of the hands of criminals. This bill is on its way to the governor.

Firearm orders of protection: An obvious way to save lives is to allow family members and police officers to petition a judge to temporarily remove firearms from the homes of people who are a danger to themselves or others. The legislation, which includes an appeals process to ensure firearms are not removed unfairly, is on the governor’s desk.

72-hour ‘cooling off’ period: Illinois law already requires a 72-hour waiting period for buying a handgun. This bill would extend the waiting period to cover all firearms, including assault rifles. Last year, Harvard Business School researchers linked handgun waiting periods to a 17 percent decrease in gun homicides and a 7 percent to 11 percent decrease in gun suicides.

Protecting voter rolls: Data compiled by the 13-year-old Interstate Voter Crosscheck System has been weaponized by the Trump administration to suppress voter turnout. The system’s data, not always rigorously accurate, has been cited by the administration to make specious claims of voter fraud, justifying anti-democratic limits on voter registration. This legislation would require that Illinois use only the superior Electronic Registration Information Center — a strictly nonpartisan and more accurate service — to help local election officials update voter rolls when people move away.

Professional licensing: This bill would safeguard the ability of undocumented immigrants to become licensed professionals regardless of their immigration status. If President Donald Trump succeeds in ending a program that allows younger undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children to work here legally, they would not be denied or stripped in Illinois of their hard-earned licenses in hundreds of professions, including teaching, nursing or cosmetology.

Voices Act: When undocumented immigrants who are victims of violent crimes work with the police and prosecutors to arrest and prosecute the assailant, they are eligible for special visas by the federal government. Many undocumented immigrants otherwise would be reluctant to cooperate with law enforcement for fear of exposing themselves to the risk of deportation. But law enforcement agencies don’t always provide the certification the crime victim needs. This bill lays out guidelines for law enforcement to follow — to make it more likely they will provide certification, and will do it right.

Opioid alternative pilot program: This bill would allow people trying to manage chronic pain to be prescribed medical marijuana as opposed to opioid-based painkillers. Proponents believe this one small change in our laws could help curb opioid addiction, a national health crisis. Last year, 2,109 people in Illinois died of opioid overdoses, a 49 percent increase from 2013. Medical marijuana, allowed with oversight from a doctor, is a reasonable alternative to traditional painkillers.

End “offshoring” of salaries: The salaries for many state employees who work directly for Gov. Bruce Rauner are tucked away in the budgets of other state agencies. Rauner is not the first governor to try, in this way, to hide how much money he actually spends on staffing. Democratic and Republican governors alike have “offshored” their staffers’ salaries. This bill would end the disingenuous practice.

Equal pay act amendment: This bill would prohibit employers from asking job applicants how much they’re being paid in their current jobs. That bit of information — which is really nobody else’s business — makes it easier for employers to low-ball job applicants when it comes to making a salary offer. This bill represents a crucial step toward closing wage gaps that leave women and minorities at a disadvantage. Rauner vetoed a similar bill last year. Except to give bosses an unfair edge, we can’t see why he would go there again. Sen. Cristina Castro, a bill sponsor, has a procedural hold on the bill so it’s not on the governor’s desk yet. We urge her to get it to the governor soon, and we urge him to sign it.

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