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Gov. Bruce Rauner Delivers His First State of the State & Budget Addresses

    March 4, 2015

    Gov. Bruce Rauner Delivers His First State of the State & Budget Addresses 

    On Wednesday, February 4th, Governor Bruce Rauner delivered his first State of the State speech. The Governor's top priority is to make Illinois competitive again. Rauner called for reforms to Illinois' workers' compensation law and other costs of doing business in the state. A few key points he made were:

    1. The average Illinois homeowner pays more than three times the amount of property taxes as a homeowner in Indiana. Over the past decade, the average Illinois property tax bill has increased by nearly 33% even as real family incomes in Illinois have gone down.
    2. He introduced the concept of "Empowerment Zones," which would allow local communities and local voters to pass right-to-work laws to compete with other states for new business and investment.
    3. Illinois should expect to see changes to workers' compensation, unemployment insurance, and liability costs. Gov. Rauner said all three in Illinois rank among the worst in America. He cited how much more expensive workers' compensation premium rates are in Illinois versus Indiana.

    The reaction from Democrats was surprisingly subdued, neither dismissing the governor's ideas nor agreeing. Speaker Michael Madigan did not immediately dismiss any of the governor's proposals. He said by the democratic process, "they'll be disposed of by the legislature-some favorably, and some not favorably." State Senate President John Cullerton was of a different mindset, believing Gov. Rauner missed his chance to address problems realistically.

    Last Wednesday, the Governor offered his budget message which will provide his financial plan to bring the state out of its significant deficit. With a number of key social programs already out of  money just a little over half way into the fiscal year, The Governor is seeking additional powers to shift dollars around. One of the other key elements  in the Rauner budget message will be a shift in spending priorities and large cuts in some areas of state spending. Rauner Budget Plan

    ELC Unemployment Insurance Committee Meets With IDES Director Jeff Mays

    Earlier this month, the Illinois Chamber ELC Unemployment Insurance Committee met with newly appointed Illinois Department of Employment Security Director

    Jeff Mays. The Committee discussed operational concerns and our legislative initiatives with the Director.

    Illinois Chamber ELC UI Initiatives:

    Sen. Kyle McCarter (R-Lebanon) is sponsoring the following measures:

    SB 765...expands UI fraud to include knowingly making a false statement or knowingly failing to disclose a material fact for the purpose of obtaining benefits;

    SB 766...tightens up the definition of "misconduct";

    SB 767...aligns the minimum earnings needed to be eligible for UI benefits with the minimum wage;

    SB 768...aligns requalification for benefits with eligibility requirements.

    Minimum Wage Out of the Box Early

    On February 5th, Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Chicago) passed her minimum wage legislation (SB 11) out of the Illinois Senate on a 35-18-1 vote. Her bill increases the minimum wage from $8.25 to $9.00 beginning July 1, 2015 and increases it by $0.50 each July 1 until July 1, 2019, at which point the minimum wage will be $11.00. It denies home rule units except Chicago from having a higher minimum wage than the State. Creates a $1,500 per employee income tax credit for employers with fewer than 50 employees, calculated based on the increase in the minimum wage. The House sponsor is Rep. Art Turner (D-Chicago).

    Chamber/ELC Workers' Compensation Initiatives

    Primary Cause... The Chamber's initiatives SB 770, sponsored by Sen. Kyle McCarter (R-Lebanon), and HB 2418 by Rep. Dwight Kay (R-Edwardsville) establish a primary cause standard for determining whether the workplace contributed/caused the injury; defines the scope of "traveling employee" to employment-related travel" or the injury occurs while actively engaged in the duties of employment. Adding to these proposals is Sen. Dale Righter's SB 846. This measure, in addition to the provisions of SB 770 and HB 2418, addresses the shoulder arm issue, caps body as a whole benefits at 500 weeks and provides credits for prior body as a whole injuries.  Rep. Keith Wheeler (R-N. Aurora) and Rep. Steven Andersson (R-Geneva) have introduced HB 2799 and HB 2748 respectfully which seek to establish a primary cause standard as well. Rep. Kay's HB 2421 is identical to HB 2799 and HB 2748.

    Body as a Whole/arm shoulder injuries... SB 772, sponsored by Sen. McCarter and HB 2422 by Rep. Kay, overturns the Will County Forest Preserve decision and restores that a shoulder injury award calculation is based upon being

    part of the arm, caps body as a whole benefits at 500 weeks and allows an employer credit for awards previously paid for body as a whole injuries. It also provides for a primary cause standard. Sen. Napoleon Harris, III (D-Harvey) also seeks to overturn the Will County Forest Preserve decision with his introduction of SB 1283.

    TTD and TPD benefits... SB 771, sponsored by Sen. McCarter, SB 1284 by Sen. Harris and HB 2420 by Rep Kay, overturns Interstate Scaffolding decision and allows an employer to discontinue temporary benefits when an employee is discharged for "misconduct".

    Weekly Wage Calculation... SB 769, sponsored by Sen. McCarter and HB 2419 by Rep. Kay, provides for clearer methodology in determining an injured worker's average weekly wage.

    Appeals from Appellate Court... To address concerns that employer appeals of Appellate Court decisions to the Illinois Supreme Court have been blocked by the lower Court, Sen. Harris has introduced SB 1285 and Sen. McCarter has introduced SB 1328.

    Other WC Measures:

    Competitive State Fund...

    HB 2552, sponsored by Rep. Laura Fine (D-Glenview) uses $10m from the IWCC Operations Fund to finance the creation of a state-operated, domestic mutual insurance company to write WC insurance. We strongly


    Safety Programs...

    HB 2715, sponsored by Rep. Thaddeus Jones (D-Chicago)  allows employers to file safety and return to work programs with the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission. Authorizes the Commission to certify the programs upon review for certain minimum requirements. Provides that the Director of Insurance shall direct any workers' compensation rate setting advisory organization to recalculate rates with respect to employers that file safety and return to work programs. Provides for the Director of Insurance to waive the Workers' Compensation Commission Operations Fund fee with respect to self-insured employers that file the plans. We are reviewing.

    SB 1573, Sponsored by Sen. Bill Haine (D-Alton) restores the law that previously exempted self-insureds from the premium tax.


    Scary Proposals Already Under Consideration

    Two measures that will increase the cost of doing business in Illinois are posted for consideration in the House Labor Committee this week.

    PAID FMLA: HB 166, sponsored by Rep. Mary Flowers (D-Chicago), creates the Family Leave Insurance Program Act. The bill requires the Illinois Department of Labor to establish and administer a Family Leave Insurance Program that provides family leave insurance benefits to eligible employees who take unpaid family leave to care for a newborn child, a newly adopted or newly placed foster child, or a family member with a serious health condition. The program is financed by a $2.50 per month fee paid by employees of employers of 50 or more employees.

    Overtime Pay for workers earning under $69k: Rep. Will Guzzardi (D-Chicago) has introduced HB 432 would require employers to pay overtime to any employee earning less than $69,000 per year, regardless of whether they are exempt under federal law,  and the weekly or monthly equivalent which will increase annually by the percentage increase in the consumer price index.

    Upcoming Workers Compensation Committee Meetings:
    June 11, 2015

    Nyhan Law Offices

    20 N. Clark Street, Chicago, IL

    1:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.

    September 2, 2015

    The Rail Golf Course

    1400 S. Club House Drive

    10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.


    December 17, 2015

    Heyl Royster

    33 N. Dearborn, Chicago, IL

    3:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.