Rural Illinois residents could be a step closer to getting access to high-speed internet access, but state leaders still need to come up with the money and a plan to make it happen. Illinois Department of Agriculture Acting Director John Sullivan sees a need for broadband in the rural parts of Illinois and is working to get funding for it.There is a need to implement rural broadband in the state, said to Rick Holzmacher, director of governmental affairs at the Illinois Rural Broadband Association. He said broadband access could drive the economy.
Party leaders will submit a handful of bills, that would allow bulk importation of medications from Canada, regulate pharmacy benefit managers – the middlemen who can exclude certain medications from insurance plans – create more transparency in drug prices, and permit individuals to import drugs from Canada.
The same Main Street winds through the old mountain mining towns of Cumberland, Benham and Lynch, crosses a river and runs alongside a creek. The early 20th century coal mining boom drew people to this remote corner of southeast Kentucky, until coal’s dizzying decline sent them away. Today, Main Street hints at a roaring past and the potential for change.Poor Fork Arts & Crafts, which sells Appalachian handcrafted and vintage items, the Back Street Bar and a senior center sit alongside empty storefronts, vacant lots and boarded-up spaces. Pizza Hut and Hardee’s rival locally grown Dairy Hut Too and Charlotte’s Hoagie Shop. Visitors can tour an underground coal mine in what was once the largest company-owned coal town in the world.The Tri-Cities are counting on their natural beauty, history and culture to reinvent themselves as tourist destinations. But with a small and declining population, a remote location and limited funding, it won’t be easy.
The Washington House has passed a bill that would require physically or mentally disabled workers to be paid the same minimum wage that other workers in the state receive.Under current law, employers can receive special certificates from the state's Department of Labor and Industries to pay wages below the minimum wage for workers with disabilities. In the application, employers must not the nature of the disability and how it affects the work performed, and the pay rate may not be less than 75 percent of the minimum wage unless a lower rate is determined to be justified.
A case before a federal appeals court could upend an historic adoption law meant to combat centuries of brutal discrimination against American Indians and keep their children with families and tribal communities. For the first time, a few states have sued to overturn the federal Indian Child Welfare Act, which Congress enacted in 1978 as an antidote to entrenched policies of uprooting Native children and assimilating them into mainstream white culture.Now, in a country roiled by debates over race and racial identity, there’s a chance the 41-year-old law could be overturned by the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, considered the country’s most conservative court. (The law applies to federally recognized tribes.)Overturning the law, its proponents say, could significantly increase the number of American Indian children adopted into non-Native families. Hundreds of tribal nations vehemently oppose the lawsuit. They say it threatens the sovereignty of Indian Country and seeks to “return Indian children to the arbitrary and discriminatory whims of state courts and state agencies, unfettered by the centuries-old trust obligations this nation owes to Indian tribes and Indian peoples.”Meanwhile, some states and private adoption attorneys pushing for change argue the Indian Child Welfare Act interferes in state affairs and “requires them to place Indian children in accordance with statutory requirements based on race, rather than the children’s best interests.”
The gap between America’s rural poor and non-poor, like in urban America, continues to widen. The difference in rural America, however, is that the gap is widening faster than in any of the nation’s grittiest cities or suburban counties.That’s the conclusion of two recent reports by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the University of New Hampshire’s Carsey School of Public Policy.Both point to a dramatic downturn in rural America’s economic and social outlook over the past decade and neither sees many signs of a quick turnaround.The USDA report shows that for the first time in the nation’s history rural (or “nonmetro”) America lost population. Indeed, between 2010 and 2016 a historically high 1,351 rural counties lost population while only 487 rural counties had positive — albeit very small — population growth.The losing rural counties lost far more overall: 790,000 lost to only 281,000 gained.
Rural America needs a new deal, or at least a better deal, and if it’s green all the better. Farm loan delinquencies are rising to levels not seen since the Farm Debt Crisis of the 1980s, from which the rural Midwest never really recovered. Nearly a third of Iowa farmers growing corn and soybeans caught up in a trade war with China are said to be under extreme stress, according to Iowa State University. They’re the younger ones.Rural communities are draining young people. Two-thirds of Iowa’s 99 counties are losing population and prospects as manufacturing jobs leach out of the Midwest. The Information Age jobs are not in those county seat towns of 5,000 people — they’re in Minneapolis or Des Moines.Meanwhile, we’re losing our precious topsoil and polluting our rivers — killing the Gulf of Mexico in the process — as we chase ever-higher corn yields in a vain bid to cut a profit on thin commodity markets. Iowa is losing soil four to five times faster than it can be regrown — already yields and crop quality are declining because of it, which ultimately leads to higher food prices with less nutrition.The Midwest would welcome a new deal, and this is where it must start.
Rural America’s slow recovery from the Great Recession isn’t entirely bad news, says the founder of the Rural Opportunity Initiative. For smart public and private investors, it could provide a chance to get ahead of the pack. Rural companies and entrepreneurs in the U.S. share many similarities and common challenges with those in the developing world, McKenna says, a fact that made Georgetown, with its global economic development focus, a natural home for the initiative. One of those common challenges? That decades after the Great Recession, rural places continue to struggle to invigorate their economies. But the slow pace of rural recovery could actually be a positive marker of potential for investors, McKenna said.
On Monday, the North Charleston Planning Commission will consider a rezoning request that would allow as many as 1,000 residences to be built in a dense community in the middle of an entirely rural area next to the Ashley River Historic District. Unfortunately, the alternative would be even worse.The rezoning request would affect a 4,000-acre tract west of S.C. Highway 61 in Dorchester County known as Watson Hill that was annexed into North Charleston years ago to avoid more restrictive zoning under the county.The property is part of the East Edisto Conservancy, which limits development to one unit per four acres, hence the 1,000 homes.But rather than sprawling a new neighborhood of hundreds of homes across the entire rural tract, the Coastal Conservation League and the National Historic Trust worked with the property owners to come up with a plan for a dense, mixed-use community that would leave the vast majority of the land untouched.The proposed site for this entirely new and necessarily self-contained community is surrounded by forests, swamps and wetlands. There are no roads, no sewer lines, no fire or police service, schools, grocery stores or any other kind of infrastructure or amenities.It’s 18 miles to downtown Charleston via the nearest existing routes, 11 miles to downtown Summerville, and 10 miles around the Ashley River to the rest of North Charleston.Allowing any kind of development in the area would almost certainly put an incredible burden on North Charleston taxpayers, who would be on the hook for new services and infrastructure. And the location of the new community suggests it would put pressure on much of the rest of the region as well.
During the last six years of her short life, Emma Franchek spent at least half her days in one type of treatment or another, seeking care for addiction and mental illness. Psych wards, detoxes, rehabs, sober houses — none gave Emma lasting help. But she kept trying, until her 4-foot-11 frame, a dancer’s delicate body, was found in a squalid restaurant bathroom in Boston. She had fentanyl, heroin, cocaine, and sedatives in her blood. Emma was 24.Now, as he looks back at her experiences, Jim sometimes wonders whether the disease really was too powerful — or the help provided too weak. Contemplating what might have saved her, he says, the phrase “if only” often comes to mind.