Several rural Illinois counties have taken a stand for gun rights by co-opting a word that conservatives associate with a liberal policy to skirt the law: sanctuary. At least five counties recently passed resolutions declaring themselves sanctuary counties for gun owners — a reference to so-called sanctuary cities such as Chicago that don't cooperate with aspects of federal immigration enforcement. The resolutions are meant to put the Democratic-controlled Legislature on notice that if it passes a host of gun bills, including new age restrictions for certain weapons, a bump stock ban and size limit for gun magazines, the counties might bar their employees from enforcing the new laws."It's a buzzword, a word that really gets attention. With all these sanctuary cities, we just decided to turn it around to protect our Second Amendment rights," said David Campbell, vice chairman of the Effingham County Board. He said at least 20 Illinois counties and local officials in Oregon and Washington have asked for copies of Effingham County's resolution. Co-opting the sanctuary title is also a way of drawing attention to the rural-urban political divide that was so stark in the last general election, when "downstate" areas of Illinois backed Donald Trump, who remains popular with those voters, while the Chicago backed Hillary Clinton, who grew up in the suburbs.
A new crop is ready to sprout on Illinois farms, with gleaming solar panels supplanting rows of corn and soybeans. Drawn by new state requirements and incentives, renewable energy developers are staking out turf on the rural fringes of the Chicago area and beyond, looking to build dozens of solar farms to feed the electric grids of Commonwealth Edison and other utilities. It’s a potential sea change in the Illinois energy landscape that proponents say is long overdue and will provide customers with a green power alternative. But the rise of solar power also has generated opposition from some residents over everything from changing landscapes to toxicity concerns.The fledgling solar energy boom is driven by the Future Energy Jobs Act, which took effect last year and requires Illinois utilities to get 25 percent of their retail power from renewable sources like solar and wind by 2025.
Yesterday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a cease and desist letter to Deputy Director Thomas Homan of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, threatening legal action if there wasn't an immediate stop to their "reckless and unconstitutional" enforcement actions. Cuomo’s response came following last week’s ICE arrest of John Collins, a dairy farmer near Rome, N.Y. In his letter to Homan, the Cuomo cited the arrest as “an example of the kind of egregious and unconstitutional conduct your agents routinely engage.”
New York State is reminding farmers that several tax credit programs are available to help them offset business and labor costs for the 2018 tax season. The Farm Workforce Retention Credit has increased to $300 per eligible farm employee who works at least 500 hours annually, and it will increase to $500 in the 2019 tax year. The Retention Credit is expected to save farmers an estimated $14 million this year, according to the state.The Minimum Wage Reimbursement Tax Credit is also available for farms who employ students ages 16-20 who are paid the New York minimum wage.
So where was the remaining money spent? During an hour-long meeting with The Oklahoman, department officials struggled to explain exactly where the money had been shifted, but said the department can account for every dollar it spends. More than likely, it was shifted to another area in the department's supplies category, Dowler said, but it's not possible to directly tie what was purchased to the originating account.Even though a line item is developed, the department tends not to focus on the more granular sub-categories of its budget, Dowler said.
The message that plastic increasingly fills waste landfills and oceans peaked this spring, as Earth Month in April focused on plastic pollution. In recent years, some states have restricted the use of plastic bags. Other cities across the U.S. have banned plastic straws. It’s not the case in Iowa. Last year, it became Iowa law that cities and counties were barred from banning plastic bags. Plastic straws continue to be a big hit at Iowa restaurants: A check of a dozen popular Des Moines restaurants showed none has quit offering drinking straws.Iowa landfills are fast becoming reservoirs of plastic, which can take more than 400 years to degrade, according to National Geographic.On Tuesday, there was one small indication that some are getting the message.The Metro Waste Authority announced the winner of its Plastic Bag Swap. Residents of 21 Des Moines-area communities were asked to bring in their plastic bags throughout April to be weighed and swapped for a reusable tote. The agency collected 3,168 pounds of bags, more than doubling last year’s total.
This year, the Iowa State Fair will feature a new adults-only Fair After Dark series, giving attendees a behind-the-scenes experience that they won’t get with regular admission to the fair. The first two events will be Animals After Dark and Agriculture After Dark. Animals After Dark will be held Friday, August 10. Agriculture After Dark will be held Thursday, August 16.Both events run from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. and cost $20 per person. Alcohol will be available at the events, so attendees must be 21 or older.Slater said the Fair After Dark series could expand to other areas of the fairgrounds if the first year is successful.
New York state is investing money in nearly three dozen local farms to help them curb carbon emissions and prepare for climate change. The office of Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday that the state will spend $2.2 million on the program, now in its fourth year.The money will go to 34 farms around the state. The program is intended to fund efforts to make farms more water and energy efficient, and to help them prepare for droughts or severe weather.Some farms will spend the money on cover crops to prevent erosion and suck up carbon. Others will use the funds for efforts to capture methane from manure.
How much is that doggie in the window? That question may become just an old song title instead of a hopeful customer inquiry, if a trend continues against selling certain animals in pet stores.Maryland recently became the second state to ban retail pet stores from selling puppies and kittens, a move supporters of the legislation say will help discourage “puppy mills” that breed dogs in inhumane conditions and euthanize the animals when they are no longer able to breed. The law follows a similar one passed last year in California, though the Golden State will allow shops to sell cats, dogs and rabbits that came from shelters and rescue centers.More than 250 municipalities have imposed their own bans or restrictions on pet sales and breeders. This fall, Ohio voters will decide whether to approve a statewide referendum that would require commercial breeders to meet prescribed standards of animal care and treatment, and would prohibit breeders and sellers – wherever they are located – from peddling pets to Ohio consumers unless those humane standards are met. And state lawmakers in New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey are working on their own legislation to ban puppy- and kitten-mill pet sales or encourage municipalities to do so.
The Kasich administration and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency are poised to take a stronger regulatory approach to cleaning up the state’s waters, including the open waters of Lake Erie. Three weeks after declaring the western portion of Lake Erie impaired, the Ohio EPA, on April 16, released a study showing “no clear trend” of a nutrient loading decrease in most of the state’s watersheds, citing agriculture and other nonpoint sources as the main contributor. The study, known as the Nutrient Mass Balance Study, also found that the state is far from reaching its target of a 40 percent reduction in phosphorus loading into lake Erie, set in a 2012 agreement between the U.S. and Canada. Up until now, the state has been focused on voluntary efforts by farmers and private landowners, as well as new regulations that require farmers to be certified to apply fertilizer, and to avoid applying to frozen and snow-covered ground. But more regulations could be coming, as state leaders say they need more evidence.