Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Deficits and guns

Deficit redux
By Hilary Russell
Members of the bipartisan Senate Committee on Deficit Reduction held the first of four hearings today to determine how to pare down the state deficit. Education advocates and officials testified for three hours about how budget cuts to education would have lasting consequences.

Sen. Matt Murphy, a Palatine Republican, chairs the committee with Sen. Donne Trotter, a Chicago Democrat. Murphy said today’s hearing detracts from the committee’s initial intention. “We want to know where you’re willing to cut and where we think we can cut. I mean, it’s not supposed to be a parade of people explaining how they’re indispensable,” he said.

Glenn Poshard, president of Southern Illinois University, said the school received $ 9 million less this year than it did eight years ago, and that loss resulted in tuition hikes that nearly doubled the cost of an education since 2004.

Trotter said he viewed the committee hearing as a positive work-in-progress. “We asked the individuals, the stakeholders, to talk about how we could find money. And there were some ideas that weren’t considered before. I think we are getting the feel of what we can seriously be looking at that individuals are willing to stomach,” he said.

The hearings will span through March 24, covering topics such as health and human services, pensions and state government operations and revenues and reductions. The next committee meets Tuesday, March 10, and will discuss the Healthcare and Family Service budget deficit and revenue shortfall. Senate President John Cullerton, a Chicago Democrat, and Senator Minority Leader Christine Radogno, a Lemont Republican, each appointed five party members to the committee.

Gun bill advances
By Jamey Dunn
Gun owners may have to report any loss or theft of a handgun to local police within three days or they could lose the right to own a firearm.

House Bill 845, sponsored by Chicago Democrat Sen. Edward Acevedo, passed out of a House committee today with a 6 to 4 vote. Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez testified in favor of the measure, which she called “common sense gun legislation.” She said it would help law enforcement track guns that are used in crimes because the owners often supply the guns to people who commit the crimes, and then the owners claim they lost the gun.

Todd Vandermyde, spokesman for the Illinois Rifle Association, said the bill is unconstitutional because it could take away the right to own a firearm for a “failure to report a property crime.” He said that current laws should be properly enforced to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.

Failing to report a lost or stolen handgun the first time would be a petty offense. A second offense could carry the weight of a felony, possible jail time and loss of the Firearm Owner’s Identification Card, which is required for gun ownership in Illinois.

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