Farmers And Solar; Illinois Election Security; Indiana’s Hate Crime Bill; Peru’s Endangered Penguins

March 05, 2019
 
Solar panels at the new University of Illinois Solar Farm.

A few of the approximately 19,000 solar panels installed at the University of Illinois Solar Farm.

Jim Meadows/Illinois Public Media

On the 21st: More farmers are installing solar panels on their land - in part because crop prices are falling and the state is providing incentives. But some worry that it’s a waste of Illinois’ fertile soil. And, funding for federal elections has gone down in Illinois over the years. Plus, the debate over a hate crimes bill has put Republican lawmakers on one side, and Indiana’s Republican governor on the other. And find out what two U of I alums are doing to save endangered penguins.

Over the past few months, we’ve been hearing a lot about proposed legislation that would address climate change. You’ve probably heard about the Green New Deal on the federal level.

Just last week here in Illinois, a bill was introduced that would expand the Future Energy Jobs Act and move Illinois to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.

Among farmers especially, solar power has become an eco-friendly way to supplement their income. This year, hundreds of people have applied to install acres of solar panels on their property, spurred in part by state incentives and by lower crop prices.

Joining us for more on this we had Randy DeBaillie. He farms about 6,500 acres of corn and soybeans in Orion, Illinois. 

We also spoke with Evan DeLucia and Genevieve Bookwalter. Evan is Director of the Institute for Sustainability, Energy and Environment at the University of Illinois. Genevieve is a freelance journalist who has been reporting on solar energy in Illinois for The Washington Post. 

Plus -- 

In recent years you might have gotten used to seeing high-profile hearings and testimonies in front of Congress. Last week it was Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer. We’ve also had Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Mark Zuckerberg, and James Comey.

But there was another hearing on Capitol Hill last week and you could say it was just as fundamental to our democracy. It was about election security.

We’re about one year away from the 2020 Illinois Primary and a whole 20 months from the next national election. That might be far away for most of us, but election officials already have the next Election Day on their minds.

Steve Sandvoss is the executive director of the Illinois State Board of Elections. He spoke with us from Springfield. 

Also -- 

There are five states in the country without a law dedicated to hate crimes. One of them is Indiana, right across our border to the east.

Over the past few months, state lawmakers and the governor have been debating how to change that in the form of a hate crimes bill that’s being hashed out between legislators.

In recent weeks, that debate has gotten more tense and it’s divided Indiana’s state government, even though Republicans have control of both chambers and the governorship.

Brandon Smith is the statehouse bureau chief for Indiana Public Broadcasting. He spoke with us from the state capitol in Indianapolis. 

And -- 

When you think of penguins, you probably picture them in Antarctica. But you may not know that there’s a species of penguin native to Peru. There was a time that Peru’s coastline was dotted with hundreds of thousands of these penguins called the Humboldt, but today, just about ten thousand remain.

There are two Illinois scientists who are hoping to make a difference for this species.

Mike Adkesson is the Vice President of Clinical Medicine for the Chicago Zoological Society, which runs The Brookfield Zoo. And Jennifer Langan is a senior staff veterinarian at the Brookfield Zoo and a clinical professor with the Illinois’ College of Veterinary Medicine.