New hunting laws take effect; addition to drivers’ ed curriculum

New hunting laws take effect
Some pieces of legislation affecting Illinois hunting and fishing opportunities were signed over the summer. The new laws include legislation centered on youth trapping; bow hunting for catfish; and simplified landowner hunting permit procedures for deer and wild turkey.

The landowner bill, SB 3003, applies to owners and resident tenants who have at least 40 acres of Illinois land. Under the new law, which amends the Wildlife Code, these hunters will be able to apply for and receive a deer permit, a turkey permit, or a new combination deer/turkey permit that will cover both types of game. In the past, the separate landowner deer and landowner turkey permits were issued without fee, and this will still be the case. If a hunting club, hunting partnership or hunting cooperative owns its land they can be eligible for the permits under the new law as well.  The bill passed the Illinois House unanimously.

Drivers Ed to include lesson on what to do if stopped by police
The curriculum for students who take a drivers’ education course will now include a lesson on what a driver is supposed to do if he or she is stopped by police. The new law applies to all drivers’ education students, whether in a public school or in a private-sector program.

Typical recommendations on how to respond when some is pulled over are to be courteous, unemotional, and helpful to the officer. Members of law enforcement often add to this general advice with instructions that a pulled-over driver keep his or her hands visible at all times, not make any sudden movements, and remain in or exit the car upon request.

The legislation was House Bill 6131. It passed the House by a vote of 113-0.

More information on proposed Medicaid revamp
Some details on a proposed revamp of the Illinois Medicaid program were announced this month. The 88-page draft plan is an application for a federal waiver to coordinate various state services to eligible clients. The federal government is offering incentives to some states that provide certain coordinated services to some at-risk groups, and the goal of the plan is to make Illinois eligible for additional reimbursements from Washington. The projected $2.7 billion in federal funds would be passed through over a five-year period.

Under federal law, several groups of Americans – the largest being those with mental health challenges and those with substance abuse problems – are defined as people who need more help from the public sector. In Illinois, these individuals are eligible for treatment for the strictly medical conditions they present, but not necessarily eligible for help with such things as housing or employment. However, the Department of Healthcare and Family Services contends that since being homeless or unemployed makes one more likely to contract a number of health conditions, helping individuals to find jobs and housing is a good, forward-looking Medicaid policy.

A growing gap between what Illinois could obtain in Medicaid aid and the reimbursements actually received by the state was made worse by Illinois’ lack of behavioral health services coordination. Better coordination among state agencies, including improved data-management platforms and data-security systems for sharing relevant information and diagnoses of Medicaid patients, is a key step towards closing the gap. If successful, the first of the federal funds could be included in the fiscal year that starts July 1, 2017.

Illinois universities are among the best in the nation
Several Illinois universities were highly-ranked in this year’s U.S. News and World Report Best Colleges listing. Leading the way in the National Universities category was the University of Chicago, which came in third in the nation – tied with Yale and one spot ahead of Columbia. Northwestern was ranked the 12th best school in the nation and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign came in at #44. Also high in the rankings were Loyola (#99), the Illinois Institute of Technology (#103), DePaul (#124), and Illinois State University which tied with the University of Illinois-Chicago at #152.

Wheaton College was rated Illinois’ best liberal arts college, coming in at #62 nationally, just ahead of Illinois Wesleyan (#72), Knox (#77), Augustana (#99), Lake Forest (#108) and Principia (#115). Among area schools rated high in Regional Universities in the Midwest category, Bradley led the way at #6, Millikin was #11, ahead of Lewis (#24), Eureka (#26), St. Francis (#31), Eastern Illinois (#40), Olivet Nazarene and Western Illinois (tied at #49).

Efforts underway to protect our state insect
The monarch butterfly was named Illinois’ state insect following an effort spearheaded by Decatur students in 1974-75. Now, this symbol of Illinois is officially listed as “nearly threatened,” due in part to habitat loss and some especially harsh winter weather along their migratory route in Mexico.

This summer, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources convened a Monarch Butterfly Summit to help coordinate several existing local plans to protect our state insect. Local officials offered plans to convert areas of some city parks to conservation areas, while the state will look at the possibility of planting milkweed and restoring some of the butterfly’s natural habitats which have been lost to trimmed green space.

In addition to being one of our state symbols, the monarchs contribute to the ecosystem through helping to pollinate certain plants and as a food source for other insects and birds.

Did You Know?
It was on September 22, 1985, that Champaign hosted the first Farm Aid concert to assist small family farmers across America who had fallen on hard times. Overproduction, a drop in land prices and complications from overseas had all contributed to the challenges farmers faced nationwide. Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, Neil Young and dozens of other stars participated in the first concert, which raised more than $7 million.