Chicago Sun-Times

The evidence keeps piling up that Illinois must toughen its law on vaccine exemptions.

In dozens of schools in the Chicago area and in hundreds across the state, vaccination rates are below what experts recommend to prevent the spread of measles, according to a new analysis by WBEZ.

According to experts, at least 98 percent of students in a school should be vaccinated for their own protection — and to provide group protection for children who, for legitimate medical reasons, can't be vaccinated for the highly contagious disease.

But WBEZ found that at 67 Chicago-area schools, and 514 schools across Illinois, vaccination rates topped out at 95 percent or lower. At four Chicago schools, fewer than 50 percent of children had proof of vaccination.

None of this should be surprising. As we wrote last month, the number of religious exemptions from childhood vaccines has spiked alarmingly in Illinois despite a 2015 law that was supposed to make it tougher to get such an exemption.

It's playing with fire to let students attend school without the required vaccines. Besides being highly contagious, measles can have serious complications.

Scientists have repeatedly proven that the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine is safe, despite conspiracy theories and myths to the contrary.

Time to heed the advice of the American Academy of Pediatrics: Eliminate all non-medical childhood vaccine exemptions.

Do it for our kids' health.

The (Moline) Dispatch and Rock Island Argus

With time running out to give Illinois elections back to voters in 2021, we eagerly join with editorial pages around the state in urging readers to call their leaders in Springfield to demand action.

A nonpartisan coalition of 17 public-policy groups wants Illinoisans to tell Illinois Senate President John Cullerton to let senators vote on the Fair Map Amendment.

Our readers are not new to the fight against partisan gerrymandering. They know that it allows politicians to cut voters out of the process with razor-sharp precision and, in many cases, devastating results to the democratic process.

Springfield insiders claim that such hand-wringing is overblown. But these numbers tell a different story:

Nearly half of state legislative races were uncontested in 2018.

82 percent of the races were uncompetitive (meaning the winner got more than 55 percent of the vote).

In past elections, that number has exceeded 90 percent of all races.

We accept that in a democracy, "to the victor go the spoils," and "elections have consequences." But when the deck is stacked so heavily in favor of the party in power — whether Republican or Democrat — it no longer resembles a democracy but an oligarchy.

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A whopping 70 percent of Illinois residents support independent maps, according to the Paul Simon Public Policy institute. But poll numbers are no substitute for the combined voices of Illinoisans demanding action. It was, after all, a citizen call-in campaign that convinced state leaders to end the record budget impasse.

Reformers are back with a new amendment designed to survive a court challenge and put an end to politicians' "incumbency-protection racket." But time is running out to keep it alive. The deadline to get the measure on the Nov. 3, 2020, ballot, is May 3. If it doesn't make it, voters could be condemned to contend for another decade under the old, unfair and broken system.

Don't let that happen.

The (Champaign) News-Gazette

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

State Rep. David McSweeney, a Republican from Barrington Hills, has taken that advice and, so far at least, it's working out well.

There's still a ways to go before a piece of legislation he's sponsored can become law. But H.B. 348 was approved by the Illinois House. The next stop is the Illinois Senate, and it's important that it ultimately becomes law.

McSweeney's bill concerns one of those low-profile issues of which many people are not aware — township government.

In a state overwhelmed with expensive and expansive local units of governments, townships are the worst offenders.

They represent a form of government best suited to the agrarian lifestyle of 100-plus years ago. But while times have changed, township government lives on.

Township governments exist in virtually all of Illinois' 102 counties. Champaign County has 30 townships, which are funded through property taxes.

They need either to be eliminated and/or consolidated for two reasons — more efficiency in government and less expense.

Township government officials, however, are resistant to change, and why not? They've got a good thing going.

So it's going to take incremental change to get the job done.

McSweeney's legislation is limited to a couple counties in northern Illinois — McHenry and Lake. It would allow voters in McHenry County to dissolve their 17 townships through a referendum process and requires townships in Lake and McHenry to dissolve any road districts with less than 15 — yes, 15 — miles.

If modifications are approved by voters, proponents anticipate a reduction in property taxes levied to support the townships.

McSweeney has indicated that, if his measure becomes law, he'll use it as a template to push for similar modifications in other counties.

Illinois must address the size and cost of government in this state. McSweeney's township legislation represents a small, but necessary, move in that direction.

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