dale righter

Illinois Senator Dale Righter.

Illinois State Senator Dale Righter (R-Mattoon) stopped by the office of the Shelbyville Daily Union to talk about the last legislative session.

Senator Righter started off the interview by talking about the importance of doing just such interviews for the media in his district. Righter’s district is the 55th District which includes many townships in Shelby County.

“The more active people in my position are in reaching out, the more likely it is people are encouraged to reach back to us,” said Righter. “You got to have that. People that fail at doing their jobs and ultimately fail in elections are those who kind of tend to secretive themselves off and they lose touch with what is going on out there.”

Righter went on to say he feels it is very important to keep track of what people are thinking out there in his district. He said that although he has offices in Mattoon and Springfield and has satellite office hours throughout the summer and fall, very few of his constituents actually come and see him.

“Where you get people’s honest feelings is when you are standing in line with them at the 4-H barbecue or walking door-to-door, or when you see them at the senior center,” continued Righter. “That is where you get unvarnished opinions and that is what you need.”

As to the last legislative session Righter said he feels there are some good points and some bad points and he choose to start on the positive aspects.

Righter believes one of the most important pieces of legislation passed last year was the law that requires ID and signing before you can purchase pseudoephedrine.

“That is the one essential ingredient in methamphetamine and when you tell a meth manufacturer that in order to access that, they are going to have to go to a pharmacy, buy it from behind the counter, show a photo ID and sign a log, they are not interested,” said Righter.

Righter went on to say one of the more important aspects of this is the cooperation between the various entities that need to be working together to combat this problem.

“I liken this to a three- legged stool, law enforcement, prevention groups who try to keep people from doing it in the first place, and the treatment providers who try to help people once they get addicted, those three groups are working very well together,” Righter said. “All three groups had input in this legislation. That stool cannot stand without all three groups.”

The next issue Righter wanted to talk about is the ethanol and renewable fuels. He stresses this issue is important not just for Shelby County, but for the whole country.

“This year we had a bill in the Senate that was, to me, was the most impressive and aggressive step forward in not only increasing the use of ethanol in this state, but also doing a better job of helping build ethanol facilities and funding research into new ways to use ethanol,” said Righter. “It was Senate Bill 2236.”

Righter said that bill in essence would require that ten percent of all fuel sold in Illinois be ethanol by the year 2012. At present we are at nine percent. Righter said he had representatives from big oil in Illinois who were very opposed to this bill.

This bill passed the Senate by a vote of 52 yes out of 59 total Senators and only 4 no votes. However, when this bill was sent to the house it failed because House Majority Leader Mike Madigan would not let the bill out of the Rules Committee.

“When he was asked why, he was quoted as saying ‘I think ethanol is doing just fine in this state.’ now I don’t know if he is buying gasoline at the same gas station I am buying at, and I don’t know if he is reading the same news as I am about what is going on in the Middle East,” said Righter. “I adamantly disagree with that statement.”

Righter said there two things he was not happy with in the last session. One has to do with the state’s economy.

“Earlier this year, Illinois slipped from 45th to 46th in job growth,” said Righter.

He went on to say with this being an election year, the voters will hear all kinds of numbers concerning this problem.

“You will hear some people saying Illinois is among the nation’s leaders in job growth. That is true technically if two conditions are met. One, if you only start counting from a certain period in time. Second, the governor’s office will make that call based on what I call raw job figures. Which is fine if you think Illinois should be creating as many jobs as Rhode Island.”

Righter said Illinois needs to be compared by apples to apples.

“We are 46th out of 50th in the nation since January 2003,” continued Righter. “What is worst, we are slipping down compared to everyone else.”

Righter’s other disappointment is the state’s fiscal condition.

“This is the second year in a row and only the second year in my nine years, the adoption of the budget was entirely a partisan vote,” Righter said. Most of my constitutes don’t like that, I don’t like to see that. But that was precipice on the pension raid that took place last May, and it has flowed from that. The pension raid was entirely partisan and the last two budgets which collectively have spent $2.3 billion dollars in pension money has forced those partisan votes. I was a no vote based on the fact that $1.1 billion of the money in this budget is pension raid money. Two, this budget spends $1.4 billion more then we spent last year. That is an all time record high increase for one year.”

Righter said over the last four years Illinois spending increase is $3.5 billion cumulative over the last four years.

“That is a record for any four year period in Illinois history,” said Righter.

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