Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Indoor, outdoor smoking ban on college campuses to go into effect

The rock group ZZ Top had difficulty complying with the smoke-free policy at the University of Illinois Springfield's Sangamon Auditorium when they performed there in October 2013. “Drummer Frank Beard lit up on stage and I said 'Frank!' and he said, 'Yeah, OK,' but he kept smoking, and I thought, 'Are you going to put it out or keep on smoking?’” said Sangamon Auditorium Director Robert Vaughn. “He just kept right on smoking. But he was drumming on stage, and I had the choice of either calling law enforcement and stop the show dead in its tracks or just let it go.”

The show went on, and despite the band's flagrant violation of the auditorium's smoke-free policy, patrons have generally been much more conscientious, smoking only in designated areas outside the auditorium. But will those same patrons keep coming to performances after Wednesday when smoking is no longer permitted, either indoors or out, on Illinois college campuses?

“I believe that our patrons will be cooperative in helping us to comply with the law,” Vaughn said. “There probably will be some people who feel that it is a more hostile environment than they want to get involved with for some events. There are always some who will object when you make changes. We may see some slight falloff of business as a result of this initially, but it's the right thing to do. I don't see it in the bottom line necessarily.”

Nowhere to go Provisions of the state of Illinois' Smoke Free Campus Act take effect Wednesday. Beginning that day, smoking on all state-supported college and university campuses in Illinois will be prohibited. There will be no designated smoking areas, and people on campus, whether students, faculty or visitors, will only be able to light up in private vehicles parked on or traveling through campus.

“The campus has sent out a variety of communications to alert faculty, staff, students, and the community in the past year” regarding the Smoke Free Campus Act, said UIS spokesman Derek Schnapp, who added the word is getting out through campus emails, the UIS website, social media, digital sign messages on campus, and information included with each ticket purchased for auditorium events.

Provisions of the Smoke Free Campus Act The Illinois Smoke Free Campus Act was signed Aug. 17, 2014, by former Gov. Pat Quinn. The act prohibits smoking on the campuses of all state-supported colleges and universities effective July 1, 2015, and applies to both indoor and outdoor spaces on campuses.

Exceptions to the law are made for smoking inside privately owned vehicles parked on or traveling through campus and certain activities allowed under the Federal American Indian Religious Freedom Act. Beginning July 1, 2016, smoking will no longer be allowed in vehicles either parked on or traveling through the University of Illinois Springfield campus.

This article appeared in The State Journal-Register on June 29, 2015.

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Monday, June 29, 2015

Uninsured rate dropped 66 percent in Sangamon from 2013 to 2015, survey says

The share of Sangamon County adults who lack health insurance has dropped by two-thirds since 2013, according to the 2015 Sangamon County Citizen Survey.

The change appears to be directly tied to the Affordable Care Act's federally funded expansion of Medicaid eligibility and federal subsidies that can reduce the price of health insurance through Illinois' health insurance exchange, said Ashley Kirzinger, director of the Survey Research Office at the University of Illinois Springfield.

The county's uninsured rate dropped from 11.3 percent in 2013 — before the health care law's key provisions took effect in January 2014 — to 3.8 percent this year, meaning about 11,300 more people with insurance. "That's excellent news," said Dr. Jerry Kruse, CEO of SIU HealthCare, the multispecialty practice of doctors at Springfield's Southern Illinois University School of Medicine.

The survey, a scientific measure of community attitudes conducted by telephone with 576 people 18 and older from April 15 to May 18, showed a drop in uninsured rates similar to what has been found nationwide by the Gallup organization.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on June 26, 2015.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Survey: Downtown Springfield growth important to all of Sangamon County

Sangamon County residents are continuing to put the area’s economic importance in downtown Springfield.

A citizens survey conducted through the University of Illinois-Springfield indicates that 86% of county residents think growing downtown Springfield is important to the whole county — up from 81% in the 2013 survey. UIS Survey Research Office director Ashley Kirzinger says more than one demographic believes growing downtown is especially true.

“One of the interesting aspects…is that we saw the largest increase among our African-American residents, as well as those living in more of the metro area of Springfield,” says Kirzinger.

Kirzinger says she doesn’t know what might have caused the increases.

“It might be just awareness of growing downtown Springfield,” Kirzinger says. “The UIS student housing and other construction projects have brought attention to that area. It may just be the national trend that we’re seeing, growing cities instead of suburban growth.”

The story was reported by WTAX radio on June 22, 2015.

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