Tuesday, March 29, 2011

EXTRA: Illinois takes its one step back following Death Penalty abolition

For those people who want to think Illinois is some sort of progressive paradise (or hellhole, if you’re an ideological nitwit), Tuesday was the day we took our one step back.

By that, I mean our state made some serious steps toward advancing into the 21st Century by doing away with its flawed capital crimes statute (which required us to accept that it was flawed beyond repair) and accepting the reality of civil unions.

YET THE IDEOLOGUES got something they wanted – a lessening of the smoking ban in public places that made Illinois a Midwestern U.S. leader just a couple of years ago.

It was the fact that Illinois approved such a rigid ban that surrounding states were being forced to accept the fact that their ways were a bit backward. Even Indiana is beginning to realize it is just a matter of time before they will have to impose restrictions on use of tobacco products – in order to protect the public health of Hoosiers at-large.

Until Tuesday, that is.

For the Illinois House of Representatives, by a slim margin, voted to ease the restrictions on smoking in public by allowing people at the riverboat casinos that really aren’t boats to light up a cigarette and rot out their bodies while they play the games of chance that cause them to drain their wallets of cash, ATM card credits and anything else they have of value.

WHICH STINKS FOR people whose lot in life requires them to be exposed to such places. I could care less if would-be gamblers want to impose melanoma on themselves. It is the people who must work in such facilities (in a lot of these towns with gambling boats, there aren’t a lot of other employment options) who get exposed to second-hand smoke who deserve our protections.

But worse than that is the fact that I’m sure those Hoosier nitwits who think they’re somehow standing up for “the American Way of life” by letting people light up while playing a slot machine or a hand of blackjack are going to take the Illinois House action and claim it is a jolt of energy for their idiotic ideological position.

The Illinois House giving these political partisans a sympathetic vote is almost as morally bankrupt as extending a gambler’s credit while he’s down so that he can lose some more money – and really wind up leaving the casino boat with his pockets drained.

I couldn’t help but notice state Rep. Dan Burke, D-Chicago (and brother to 14th Ward Alderman Ed Burke) who said during debate on this issue that “70 percent” of people who visit casinos smoke. Maybe if casinos weren’t such grungy (and gaudy) places, we’d have more non-smokers wanting to visit such places.

SO I AM skeptical of the gambling boat industry claims that Illinois’ riverboat casinos have lost some $800 million since Illinois banned smoking in public places. Could it be with the economic climate that has left many people unemployed that people just don’t have as much money to lose – out of some foolish belief that it is fun to piss away cash at games of chance while garish lights flash and there’s a fancy buffet available that will give you a bargain-priced meal if you have enough credits (ie., if you have lost enough and the casino owner wants to keep you on the premises so that you’ll lose even more money).

As you have likely (I would hope) figured out by now, I’m not a casino person (although my step-mother is, and she seems to have luck at winning). The ambiance is usually lost upon me. The idea of it reeking of stale cigarette smoke makes the place even less appealing.

I’m still trying to figure out the “logic” of an event I wrote about for an area newspaper last year that rewarded junior high school-age youth who participated in a program meant to get them interested in school and their studies with a fancy dinner at the casino boat in East Chicago, Ind.

Which is why I wouldn’t be the least bit upset if the Illinois Senate decides it doesn’t want to go along with this idea (which is possible, because Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago), isn’t exactly a tobacco-sympathetic person either.

EVEN GOV. PAT Quinn tossed out a little verbal snippet indicating he doesn’t think much of what the Illinois House did, although it remains to be seen if he becomes intimidated enough to give the ideologues this particular issue as  compensation for some of the significant measures he has signed into law in recent months.

That would be the real embarrassment for Illinois government.


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