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Q&A with Bill Haine, D-Alton, Illinois state senator, 56th Legislative District

p14 Haine    IBJ: One of the first things we want to ask is, how are you doing? Everybody wants to know how you are.
    Haine: I’m doing OK. I’m in remission. I take maintenance chemotherapy, which is in pill form. I get an injection once every two months and then two pills. I guess that will be ad infinitum, in perpetuity, I don’t know.
    But I’m getting stronger. I developed a weak heart because of the extensive chemo last spring and then, in June, when I had the adult stem cell transfer, the blood-cleansing transfer, at Barnes Hospital cancer center.
    IBJ: What’s the exact condition you’ve got?
    Haine: It’s multiple myeloma, a blood cancer that starts in the bone marrow. It’s an environmental cause. They are not sure of the exact trigger. My oncologist thinks that it’s odds-on Agent Orange. I was in Vietnam in 1968 in the 1st Cav Division when Agent Orange was used to defoliate the jungles and create LZs (landing zones).
    But, it could be benzine. I practiced law in Wood River for a long time. So, I don’t know.
    The medicine is supposed to keep it in remission. The amount of years is speculative but they caught it early. My son-in-law, the one who actually did the surgery, is the one who caught it.
    IBJ: How many more months do you have left in office?
    Haine: Until January 2019, and then it’s adios. I’ll be 74. It’s time to move on.
    IBJ: Are you going to be able to serve out your whole term?
    Haine: Yes, I intend to.
    IBJ: Let’s talk about the legislative side of your career. I know you’ve accomplished a lot, but you’ve got to feel like there’s a lot more you want to accomplish, isn’t there?
    Haine: There is, but I don’t know if it’s doable this year because of the election. It’s such a nasty political environment in Illinois. The worst I’ve seen in all my 40 years of elections.
    But I’m going to do what I can. The gun issue is a hot issue, and I intend to be a participant in that, on the Judiciary and Criminal Law committees.
    IBJ: Guns in terms of whether they need to be restricted more?
    Haine: Yes, and procedures to do something about those who are mentally ill. That’s the real issue here. Sandy Hook and this latest incident (at Parkland School) in Florida, those people are clearly evidence of mental illness.
    IBJ: You’ve always been a gun-rights type of guy. You’ve sponsored some key things along the way. You had something on silencers (suppressors) about a year ago.
    Haine: Yes, that’s still pending. I don’t know if we can get that moving given the controversies. It’s a reasonable bill and the law in 42 states (advocated by hunters and hearing advocates). All of them allow silencers with background checks. I don’t see a reason we can’t do it here in Illinois.
    But the immediate problem is to what to do to prevent what happened in Florida, as much as we can, from happening here. Florida had some great statutes. The Baker Law and some other things, but they weren’t used. You can get an immediate hearing and a temporary commitment for observation. The failure of (law enforcement) to do one’s duty is most disturbing about what happened down there. The sheriff’s department, the FBI, they had more than 50 incidents with (Florida killer Nikolas) Cruz.
    IBJ: You’ve dealt with the criminal systems a long, long time. Are there a lot of “Cruzes” out there?
    Haine: I think there’s more and more because we’ve deinstitutionalized the mentally ill over the decades. There are more and more not in treatment out there. They don’t take their medicine and they act out. Although, we have to be careful not to stigmatize those who are doing OK with this illness. We have to focus on those where there is clearly evidence of the possibility they could be an imminent danger to themselves and others.
    IBJ: How much is it a legislative responsibility to adequately fund mental health treatment? There’s been a lot of criticism that there is just not enough money going into it as there should be.
    Haine: I agree with that. I’ve been a strong proponent of mental health funding for treatment centers and there are some excellent ones in our area — Centerstone, to name one. Many others. Those have to be part of the framework.
    When I was state’s attorney, we had a tragic situation in Glen Carbon. Police are in a tremendous problematic situation when they are dealing with a mentally ill person who is armed. More training helps. I developed, with police departments, a protocol, one of the first in the state, for dealing with the mentally ill during arrests.
    IBJ: Do you have a priority list of what to do between now and the end of the term?
    Haine: I’ll do what I can to offer constructive solutions to whatever problems surface. I’ve been an active member of the Senate. Until last spring, I had a great attendance record. I handled hundreds of bills to fruition; negotiated bills; assisted other senators on negotiating bills, particularly in the Insurance and Judiciary committees. I’ll miss that.
    IBJ: That’s been since 2002, when you were appointed?
    Haine: Yes, Evelyn (Bowles) resigned early. I’ll be in 16 years and it’s been rewarding and exciting.
    IBJ: Give us the top items you’ve been able to push through.
    Haine: Oh, gosh. … Number 1 is the levee bill, which doesn’t get a lot of play in the media, which is fine with me. But without that bill, our levees would have been decertified, causing tremendous problems for industry. The expansion of the ConocoPhillips plant would have been up in the air. The investment in the steel plant in Granite City and American Steel would have been obstructed. Many business expansions would have been brought to a halt. Homeowners would have been subjected to thousands of dollars in flood insurance, as would businesses. It would have been economic distress on a high level.
    FEMA and the Corps of Engineers were stunned that we passed that levee bill. And it goes to working with Sen. Frank Watson, the Republican leader of the Senate. I modified it to suit Sen. Watson and he put Republican votes on it.  
    I modeled that after the Mass Transit Act, which I was a part of during the early ’80s as the first chairman of the Madison County Transit District.
    IBJ: You helped give birth to that transit system, which is recognized as one of the best in the country.
    Haine: It is. First-rate bike trails, too, which I supported. I’m very proud of the MCT.
    IBJ: Tell us about your time as state’s attorney (1988-2002). Anything you’re real proud of there?
    Haine: The domestic violence protocol, one of the first in the state. Establishing a Child Advocacy Center to assist in the prosecution of child abuse. Establishing the first drug court in Illinois — now there are 25 of them. That allows people to avoid conviction or prison if they get off of the stuff.
    And then, hiring a first-rate staff. We inherited a rising crime rate in 1988, a low level of incarceration and we reversed that. Crime dropped, and I think it still has an effect in keeping Madison County a low-crime jurisdiction. We had issues, we made some mistakes, but we tried not to repeat them. I’m very proud of that tenure, and I left on a high note.
    IBJ: You were a County Board member before you became state’s attorney.
    Haine: Yes, for 10 years, and before that I practiced law in Wood River, with Randy Bono.
    IBJ: Is there anything in all that time as state’s attorney that you wished you could have done differently or would like to have accomplished?
    Haine. You know, I don’t think so. I think I did what I set out to do. The administration of justice was quite fair, and I’m proud of that.
    IBJ: You can’t say the same about the legislature being in better shape. It doesn’t seem like it is at all.
    Haine: Well, yeah. But I’m one of a hundred-something legislators. My name was on the door at the state’s attorney.
    IBJ: So, what’s on your priority list once you do step down? That big family of yours?
    Haine: Yes. And we just had another grandson. There are 33 grandchildren and they are all doing well.
    IBJ: Thirty-three! Do you remember their names?
    Haine: Oh, yes, and their birth order. But not their birthdates. That’s too much.

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