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Davis talks constituent services, fighting the opioid crisis at office hours

Thomas Clatterbuck

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Rep. Rodney Davis (R-13) held office hours this morning at his Springfield office. These meetings allow him to meet with constituents directly and talk about the issues that are most important to them. Often, this involves helping them navigate the federal bureaucracy. All too often, veterans have to contact him just to get the VA’s medical system to move forward.

While Davis is always happy to help, he expressed his frustration with the VA. “We’ve passed law after law to try to make the Veterans’ Healthcare Administration more accountable.” But veterans still aren’t getting connected to services like they should. Davis continued, “When they come to me, they’ve already tried their best to get answers out of the bureaucracy… No veteran should have to call their congressman to get a doctor’s appointment; because you and your viewers don’t call me to get a doctor’s appointment at any other facility in our medical community.”

Davis also spoke about the recent legislation to help combat sex trafficking on the internet. The House recently passed a measure which would hold websites like Backpage accountable for facilitating sex trafficking on their platforms. This was an important first step, and one which targets the consumers of trafficking. Going forward, Davis stressed the need for education about trafficking, especially learning how to identify potential victims. Tattoos and other branding marks are often telltale signs someone may be a victim.

Davis also gave us an early look at a new bill to help with the opioid crisis. This bill would force pharmacies to keep a record of individuals who pick up opioid prescriptions for other people. By keeping this record, abuses of the pharmacy system can be identified. Davis drew a parallel to the measures to restrict Sudafed, which was a key measure to combat the methamphetamine crisis.

You can watch his full remarks below:

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.

News

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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Business

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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Education

Davis hosts House VA Chairman Roe for Veteran Education Benefits Roundtable

Thomas Clatterbuck

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The GI Bill has been one of the most successful government benefit programs in history. By providing veterans an opportunity to attend college at low cost, generations of veterans have been able to successfully transition back into the civilian workforce. The recently passed Forever GI Bill helped expand how veterans and their families can take advantage of their benefits.

But like any government bureaucracy, the rollout of the new GI Bill has had some hiccups. To learn more about how the program is working in the real world, Congressman Rodney Davis (R-13) hosted an education roundtable in the new UIS Student Union with representatives from universities and community colleges in the 13th. Congressman Phil Roe (R-TN), who chairs the House’s CA Committee, was a special guest.

Compliance costs were one of the main issues colleges face when dealing with the VA. Chairman Roe referenced a Vanderbilt study that says ensuring compliance for just one student can cost $10,000 per year. The variety of systems being used to process student data is part of the problem. The VA does not use the National Student Clearinghouse, one of the main reporting tools used for other functions. This adds to the regulatory burden. A lack of clear rules is sometimes an issue as well. Often, the VA will issue policy advisories, rather than rules. Some participants felt these advisories were created without sufficient input from those who will be affected by them.

Unfunded mandates also pose their own problems. Fighting suicide in the veteran population is a worthy cause, and colleges can be on the front lines of that. However, as one participant noted, it everything costs money. When the state fails to provide funding for good programs, those cost gets passed on to students.

But despite the issues the schools brought up, there was also good news. In pervious GI Bills, the service time requirements did not account for early discharge due to injury. Now, individuals who receive a Purple Heart will be eligible for education benefits regardless of how long they served. Additionally, rumors that some veterans would be unable to transfer their benefits to their children due to service length were dispelled. Both Davis and Roe indicated they gained useful policy insights from the meeting, especially on expediting the work-study funding process.

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