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Bustos’ American-made flag bill passes in the House

Thomas Clatterbuck

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In 2015, the Federal government spent $4.4 million on foreign-made American flags. Almost all of these flags, which were used by the Department of Defense, came from China. Illinois Congresswoman Cheri Bustos was appalled when she learned this from a veteran. Under current law, flags only need to be made of 50 percent American-made materials.

Bustos’ bill would require American flags purchased with taxpayer dollars be wholly produced in the United States. Yesterday, that bill passed the House. Bustos has been working on this issue for years; and this is not the first time her measure has made it out of the house.

HR 3121 will now go to the Senate to be voted on there.

You can watch Bustos’ speech in the player. You can read the bill here.

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Senior strategist, statehouse reporter and political correspondent for Springfield Daily. Graduate of District 117 and UIS. Thomas covers stories in both Morgan and Sangamon Counties, as well as statewide politics.

U.S.

Because of Illinois case, U.S. Supreme Court tosses verdict saying attorneys can’t be forced to support political speech

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The U.S. Supreme Court has tossed a verdict that said lawyers are required to pay an annual membership just to practice in a state and an attorney working on the case sees Illinois is an example for other states.

Just as public employee unions can’t force nonmembers to pay representation fees, state bar associations can’t force lawyers to subsidize their operations and political activity, the U.S. Supreme Court said in a recent ruling about five months after it banned forced union fees in the landmark Janus vs. AFSCME decision.

Earlier this month, the nation’s high court threw out a 2017 lower court ruling in the North Dakota case, Fleck vs. Wetch, that allowed states to require lawyers to subsidize state bar associations.

The Supreme Court remanded the case without a formal ruling in light of the decision in the Janus case. In the Janus case, the Supreme Court ruled an Illinois state worker, Mark Janus, had his free speech rights violated by being forced to pay union dues as a condition of employment.

Justices tossed the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in Fleck Vs. Wetch and ordered the circuit court to reconsider in light of Janus. The case centered around North Dakota attorney Arnold Fleck, who questioned why he needed to pay dues to The State Bar Association of North Dakota when their political interests diverged. In North Dakota, as in many other states, a lawyer must be a dues-paying member of the bar to practice law in the state.

Attorneys in Illinois aren’t required to pay dues to the Illinois Bar Association after passing the organization’s qualifying exam. In other states, attorneys must pay annual dues to the state bar association to practice law.

In its decision, the court ruled that offering an opt-out clause to forced dues wasn’t enough to protect free speech rights.

Goldwater Institute Vice President Timothy Sandefur, who helped defend the plaintiff from North Dakota, said lawyers shouldn’t have to pay hundreds of dollars a year just to work in a state.

“Being forced to join an organization like that violates the First Amendment right of freedom of association,” he said. “You can’t constitutionally be forced to join an organization or to subsidize political activities that you might disagree with.”

State bar associations often measure and endorse judges and other judicial appointments and seek to influence state legislators, some of whom are lawyers.

“The [American Bar Association] and groups like that have a great deal of influence in the political process,” he said.

Goldwater Senior Attorney Jacob Huebert said many states, Illinois included, have no requirements.

“Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and a bunch of others manage to regulate the profession without violating anybody’s First Amendment rights,” he said. “If they can do it, all states can do it.”

Watchdog.org writer Noell Evans contributed to this report.

Article by Cole Lauterbach with Illinois News Network. For more INN News visit ILnews.org

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IEMA: Make sure donations go to reputable hurricane disaster recovery groups

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Make sure that you make a difference.

That’s the advice from Illinois’ emergency managers as people look to help in the aftermath of now-Tropical Storm Florence.

Whether you are donating money or your time, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency says it’s important to give to reputable charities and aid organizations.

IEMA’s Rebecca Clark says a lot of people are going to want to help now that Florence has moved through parts of North Carolina.

That’s great, she adds, but wants to make sure the help that people offer makes it to the hurricane zone.

“It’s really important that people who are looking to help make sure they find a reputable organization, to make a difference,” Clark said.

Clark said that a number of organizations in Illinois need volunteers to help as they send aid to the Carolinas and other states impacted by Florence.

“One place that we like to send people is the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster [organization],” Clark said. “It maintains a database of volunteer and charity organizations that are involved in a number of ways.”

As always, there will be some scammers looking to take advantage of the storm.

Clark said Ready.Illinois.Gov also has a list of reputable charities that people can trust.

Article by Benjamin Yount, Illinois News Network. For more INN News visit ILnews.org 

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Davis hosts organic farming roundtable with Jayson Werth

Thomas Clatterbuck

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Organic farming is big business in Illinois. 80 percent of Illinois households buy at least one organic food product. Farmers that take on the extra challenges of farming without the aid of synthetic chemicals or GMOs are rewarded with premium prices. With demand outstripping supply for organic food, legislators are looking for ways to help farmers take advantage of the opportunities organic farming provides.

This afternoon, Congressman Rodney Davis met with 30 local stakeholders in the organic economy, including local farmers and university researchers, to discuss the 2018 farm bill and how Washington can better serve this growing movement. Davis was joined by special guest Jayson Werth, who owns an organic farm in Macoupin County.

Quality control is a key issue for organic producers. The term “organic” is valuable for farmers that follow the rules. If farmers who do not follow the guidelines are allowed to use it, the value for farmers and consumers is lost. In the past, foreign farms had been flooding the American market with “organic” products. However, much of this supply was not up to American standards.

Better enforcement has been helpful in curbing these abuses. Recent crackdowns on mislabeled products from places like Turkey has led to a dramatic decrease in the imports of foreign organic foods. This has boosted the prices for American farmers. But fighting fraud is a never ending battle, and staying ahead of the new products is a lot like “regulatory whack a mole.”

Farmers were also concerned about the delay in the “Pasture Rule” for organic farm animals. While the rules about plants are rigorous, the rules for organic animals are much weaker. Smaller farms that try to follow the rules are often at a disadvantage to larger operations that exploit the weak rules. Panelists blamed the USDA rather than the legislature for the lack of strong rules. The Pasture Rule is also not in the House version of the Farm Bill. Davis attributed this to the nature of the legislative process, but was confident it would be in the final reconciled version.

Advocates for Organic

Organic farmers in Illinois have strong, local advocates in Washington. Congressman Rodney Davis serves on the House Agriculture Committee and chairs the Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research.  He was recently awarded the “2018 Organic Champion Award” by the Organic Trade Association for his work supporting organics.

Baseball star Jayson Werth is also a strong proponent of organic farming. Werth became interested in organic products during his time as a professional baseball player. He credited organic products with helping him stay competitive later in his career. Now, Werth owns a farm with 300 certified organic acres, and advocates for organic farming in Washington.

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