|Illinois vs. Indiana – Workers’ Compensation
Thursday, Apr 30, 2015 - Posted by Advertising Department
[The following is a paid advertisement.]
Illinois is often compared to our neighbor Indiana when it comes to workers’ compensation costs for businesses. Unfortunately, it is not a fair or accurate comparison. Wages are the main driving factor when it comes to workers’ compensation costs. Workers’ compensation benefits (non-medical) are based on a worker’s average weekly wage. On average, Indiana pays its workers 27 percent less than Illinois. Illinois ranks 8th in the country for average weekly wages, while Indiana ranks 35th. Because workers’ compensation replaces lost wages, lower wages in Indiana naturally creates lower workers’ compensation costs.
Indiana businesses may have lower workers’ compensation costs for employers; however workers injured on the job have meager options for their health care under Indiana’s workers’ compensation laws. In addition, Indiana’s early return to work program often forces injured workers back to work sooner than they should be and often leads to re-injury or new injuries.
Workers in Illinois deserve better. A fair and reasonable workers’ compensation system in Illinois helps injured workers get back on their feet and back to work.
For more information on workers’ compensation, click here.
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* From the Tribune editorial board…
Wind and solar generators and a number of environmental groups are pushing for competing legislation called the Illinois Clean Jobs Bill. It would encourage energy conservation and set a target that 35 percent of the state’s electricity supply come from renewal resources. The changes in what’s called the Renewable Portfolio Standard would give a big advantage to wind and solar providers. Yes, this legislation would hike your electric bill.
* The Tribsters endorsed the ComEd bill instead…
ComEd, the Exelon subsidiary that distributes power, wants to change how customers are charged for the distribution system. ComEd says rates would initially fall, then rise, and there would be a “net zero” cost to customers over 10 years. But some customers would pay more and some would pay less depending on their consumption patterns. […]
The strongest argument for a change in law rests with ComEd. It makes a good case that its investments in smart grid technology have paid off in better efficiency and fewer power disruptions. ComEd isn’t seeking a competitive edge — in this niche it doesn’t have competition. It is the only distributor of electricity in northern Illinois.
ComEd says its legislation would improve the smart grid, help apartment dwellers generate their own solar power, and create a network of electric vehicle charging stations.
* Pete Giangreco fires back…
Today’s Chicago Tribune editorial (ironically titled Power play: The battle over your electric bill) shows that went it comes to siding with the powerful, there’s no one quite like the Trib Ed Board. The piece completely ignores studies by Citizens Utility Board (CUB) and Union of Concerned Scientists that say Illinois Clean Jobs bill (HB2607/SB1485 Nekritz/Harmon) is the only one of the three energy bills that saves consumers money — $1.6 billion total or an average residential savings of nearly $100 a year going forward according to CUB. The funny part is that the Trib editorial also ignores ComEd’s own admission that their bill (as well as the one pushed by parent company Exelon) are actually the ones that raise your electric bill.
Furthermore, The Trib completely misunderstands what the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) is. Like a lot of things in Springfield, it’s broken and complicated, and Illinois Clean Jobs bill is the only one that fixes it and allows the free market to operate in Illinois like it does in states like New York and Massachusetts, where solar and wind are taking off. It’s odd that the Trib is against getting government barriers out of the way of the free market that could create 32,000 clean energy jobs per year when fully implemented, but when you are in the tank, you are in the tank.
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|Question of the day
Thursday, Apr 30, 2015 - Posted by Rich Miller
* LA Times…
The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld state laws that bar elected judges from asking for money to support their campaigns.
In a 5-4 decision, the court rejected a free-speech claim brought by a Florida judge.
“Judges are not politicians, even when they come to the bench by way of the ballot,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the majority. “A state may assure its people that judges will apply the law without fear or favor — and without having personally asked anyone for money.”
The decision marks one of the few times the high court has rejected a free-speech claim involving politics and campaigning. Roberts split from the court’s four conservative justices to uphold the Florida law. […]
“Hostility to campaigning by judges entitles the people of Florida to amend their Constitution to replace judicial elections with the selection of judges by lawyers’ committees,” Scalia said. “It does not entitle the Florida Supreme Court to adopt, or this court to endorse, a rule of judicial conduct that abridges candidates’ speech in the judicial election that the Florida Constitution prescribes.”
* That’s already the case here. From the Illinois Supreme Court Rules…
A [judicial] candidate shall not personally solicit or accept campaign contributions.
A candidate may establish committees of responsible persons to conduct campaigns for the candidate through media advertisements, brochures, mailings, candidate forums and other means not prohibited by law. Such committees may solicit and accept reasonable campaign contributions, manage the expenditure of funds for the candidate’s campaign and obtain public statements of support for his or her candidacy.
Such committees are not prohibited from soliciting and accepting reasonable campaign contributions and public support from lawyers.
Gov. Bruce Rauner wants to ban attorneys from contributing directly to judicial campaigns. However, he can’t stop them from forming a 501(c)(4) dark money group or even likely ban them from forming an independent expenditures committee. Attorneys could also contribute to the state parties.
* The Question: Should Illinois ban attorneys from contributing directly to judicial campaign committees? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please.
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In the latest controversy over state exams, Illinois is in hot water with the federal government for not administrating statewide science tests this school year.
Failure to give the exams is a violation of the law, according to a stern letter from the U.S. Department of Education, and the Illinois State Board of Education has been placed in what the federal agency calls “high-risk status” for not complying with testing requirements.
The letter dated April 20 states that the board must come up with a plan and timeline by June 30 to come into compliance and give the science assessments in 2015-16.
“We’re working on our plan to provide a science assessment in 2015-16 and will submit it to the U.S. Department of Education by June 30, per the letter,” board spokeswoman Mary Fergus said Wednesday in an email to the Tribune.
* From the letter…
Due to the significance of its non-compliance and the fact that the pilot assessments administered in 2014–2015 will not result in information about student performance that can be shared with parents and teachers to inform instruction, I am placing ISBE on high-risk status under 34 C.F.R. § 80.12.
ISBE must fully implement its new science assessments in SY 2015−16 to come into compliance with section 1111(b)(3)(A) of the ESEA and 34 C.F.R. § 200.2(a)(1). As a condition of its high-risk status, the ISBE must provide a detailed plan and timeline to the U.S. Department of Education (the Department) by June 30, 2015, in order to address this non-compliance issue for SY 2015–2016.
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|It’s just a bill…
Thursday, Apr 30, 2015 - Posted by Rich Miller
* But it appears to be a good idea…
A proposed law that would allow college students to sign off on their universities sharing mental health information with their parents cleared an Illinois Senate committee today, paving its way for a final vote in the General Assembly.
It was inspired by the Predmore family of Bartonville, who tragically lost their son Chris to suicide last year. Under current law, his college could not talk to his parents about his mental health struggles.
A number of recent studies indicate that psychological problems are a growing issue on college campuses. For example, a survey found that that 70 percent of college counseling center directors believe that the number of students with severe psychological problems has increased in recent years. Surveys of college students themselves have shown that depression and anxiety have skyrocketed over the past several decades – perhaps as many as a quarter or third of students meet criteria for anxiety or depression during college. […]
The legislation would give newly enrolled college students the opportunity to authorize the university to share mental health records with their parents or other trusted adults. The university would only share information when students are found to be a danger to themselves or others.
* Meanwhile, oof…
In a rare open feud between two McHenry County state lawmakers, Rep. Jack Franks is asking Senate President John Cullerton to remove Sen. Pam Althoff as chief sponsor of his recently passed government consolidation bill.
The Illinois House on a 61-40 vote last Friday passed House Bill 229, a bill by Franks, D-Marengo, that would grant the McHenry and Lake county boards the same power to eliminate certain units of government that DuPage County was granted by state lawmakers. But Franks alleges that Althoff, R-McHenry, intends to either kill the bill or strip McHenry County from it.
An effort to talk Althoff into handing the bill over to Sen. Melinda Bush, a former Lake County Board member who supports it, failed late Tuesday, both Franks and Bush, D-Grayslake, confirmed. Franks said that Althoff asked for a number of concessions that he said were unreasonable because he does not want any exemptions or “sacred cows.” General Assembly rules allow the sponsor of a bill to request in writing to have a chief sponsor removed if he or she intends to kill it.
“She’s doing this purely for political reasons to protect entrenched interests and fiefdoms to keep our property taxes high. There’s no other reason. She’s supported this bill before,” Franks said, referring to the Senate’s vote years ago to grant DuPage County some ability to eliminate certain governments.
* Small, but vocal…
State Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie (D-25) riled local education activists last week for opposing a bill that would let students opt out of taking state administered tests.
HB 306 – introduced by state Rep. Will Guzzardi in January – is currently under consideration in the Illinois House. Last Monday, Currie cast one of three votes recommending against an amended version of the bill in the five-member House Elementary and Secondary Education: Licensing Oversight Committee.
More than 15 local activists led by Hyde Parker Joy Clendenning staged a protest last Tuesday in front of Currie’s Hyde Park office, 1303 E. 53rd St., after the bill lost the committee’s support.
“We feel that with 24 co-sponsors in the House – and we know a good number of legislators are ready to vote for this bill – that she is absolutely thwarting the democratic process here,” Clendenning said.
* And in other news…
Caseyville Township trustees have warned citizens they’ll be forced to increase customers’ sewer service rates if two bills in the Illinois General Assembly that regulate tap-on fees are made law, but the bills’ sponsors — and local developer Darwin Miles — say Caseyville is a “rogue township” that’s been price-gouging for years.
Supporters of the new regulations say the township is using scare tactics to preserve a “cash cow.”
For example, Caseyville Township charges a tap-on fee of $2,000 per fixture to commercial businesses and non-profits, such as churches. That means a developer building a 128-room hotel in the Shiloh area served by the township would pay a tap-on fee of $260,000.
Caseyville Township trustees recently sent a letter to each of their 9,000-plus sewer customers warning that their sewer bills could as much as triple if House Bill 3309 and Senate Bill 1815 pass.
The House bill, sponsored by state Rep. Dwight Kay, R-Glen Carbon, requires townships with their own sewer and water plants to limit the tap-on fees charged to people building new homes or businesses to 1/6 of the estimated yearly cost of sewer and water service.
Senate Bill 1815, sponsored by state Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon, sets standard sewer and water tap-on fee schedules for new homes, apartment buildings and businesses based on the size of water meter they’ll use. Because state law contains no standards, townships currently can come up with their own rates and fees. For years, new businesses, non-profits such as churches, and residents building homes have complained that Caseyville Township’s tap-on fees far exceed neighboring utilities.
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|Lincoln’s last ride
Thursday, Apr 30, 2015 - Posted by Rich Miller
* From WUIS…
The nation went into mourning when, just after the Civil War had finally ended, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. No one alive today can remember, but a class project may make you get a sense of what it was like, or at least what went on.
Students at the University of Illinois Springfield began “live-tweeting” on April 14 - the date that that Lincoln was shot at Ford’s Theater back in 1865. They’ve continued, tweeting in real time — 150 years after the fact — about the pursuit of John Wilkes Booth, and the funeral cortege from Washington, D.C. to Springfield. Amanda Vinicky spoke with UIS professor Ken Owen about the project, and his class on history in digital media.
If you want to read the “live tweets” follow @AbesLastRide… (T)he Looking for Lincoln project is doing something similar using the twitter handle @ElizaStavely (a journalist in 1865). .
* I put together a ScribbleLive feed…
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|Your daily “right to work” roundup
Thursday, Apr 30, 2015 - Posted by Rich Miller
* Nothing from the governor’s office yet. But they can take this one off the board…
[Westville] Village trustees reversed their support of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposed Turnaround Agenda on Tuesday night by rescinding a resolution approved at their April 14 meeting.
Just two weeks ago, the Westville village council passed a resolution supporting the governor’s proposal, which calls for changes in the state’s prevailing wage act as well as creating certain right-to-work free enterprise zones and granting local governments more authority when negotiating with government employee unions.
Mayor Mike Weese said after doing more research on the governor’s proposal and after taking several calls from residents, he just felt that there were parts of the Turnaround Agenda that he could not support.
* Perhaps a Connecticut harbinger of Illinois things to come?…
A law firm representing ex-Gov. John G. Rowland agreed to a legal stipulation which acknowledged that the “driving force” behind Rowland’s layoff of 2,500 state workers in 2003 was his “animus” toward unionized employees, state Attorney George Jepsen said Wednesday.
Jepsen said that the “highly particularized stipulation of facts” didn’t use the word “animus,” but its overall effect helped to persuade the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in mid-2013 to uphold a state employee union coalition’s claim in a lawsuit that Rowland and his budget chief, Marc Ryan, acted illegally by targeting union members for layoffs while sparing nonunion employees.
The damaging stipulation was a major factor cited by Jepsen at a press conference Wednesday in explaining why his office negotiated a settlement that’s expected to cost taxpayers at least $100 million to end a 12-year-old lawsuit filed over the layoffs by the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC).
The settlement – which would mostly be awarded to employees in the form of extra vacation and personal leave time – is preferable to the risk of the state’s being slapped with paying damages of $300 million or more, Jepsen said.
At a briefing for reporters in his office at 55 Elm St., Jepsen also said that the stipulation of facts by Rowland’s defense counsel included an admission that the layoffs didn’t save the state any money because unions had already offered contract concessions of greater value.
* Anti-union measure fails in Mt. Vernon
* Kane County board’s draft resolution calling for reform draws critics
* Charter school teachers fight to unionize, and to win over Rahm
* Feud threatens UNO schools
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|Liberal “think tank” formed here
Thursday, Apr 30, 2015 - Posted by Rich Miller
* John Kamis has been planning to roll this thing out for well over a year…
Leading Illinois liberals are forming a well-endowed new think tank here, hoping to offset the influence of Gov. Bruce Rauner and resurgent conservative Republicans.
The new Innovation Illinois will be led by former aides to ex-Gov. Pat Quinn with a board chaired by Christopher Kennedy, who recently stepped down as chair of the University of Illinois board. Focusing on research and public commentary, it is designed to serve as a sort of counterweight to the Illinois Policy Institute, a libertarian group that has rolled out policy papers on pensions and other items and helped staff Rauner’s administration.
“Too often in Springfield, the debates leave out the poor and the working class,” said co-founder John Kamis, a former city staffer and attorney who oversaw Quinn’s performance-based budgeting panel. “Good policy moves from the inside out. We want to provide a voice.” […]
The message the group really wants to get out is that “sometimes, government does things that are good,” Saddler said. That means talking about issues such as education, labor, health care and entrepreneurism—and most particularly about big budget cuts that Rauner has proposed in most of those areas, he said. […]
The group already has received “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in financial backing, with the source of some but not all of it eventually to be disclosed, Kamis said. The group will not formally lobby or endorse candidates.
Whatever you think of the Illinois Policy Institute, you have to admit that it’s PR blitz over the past few years has been amazingly effective. Not only is the group regularly quoted in news stories and its top dogs invited onto TV and radio programs, but its free “news service” has been lapped up by papers across the state. It’s also placed a new emphasis this year on bipartisan legislation. Kamis, et al will have a lot of catching up to do.
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|The FY 2016 dance finally begins
Thursday, Apr 30, 2015 - Posted by Rich Miller
* I told subscribers about this yesterday…
With just weeks left before Illinois’ 2016 budget must be passed, Democratic leaders and GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner remain far apart on how to bridge a $6 billion revenue gap.
A memo circulated by Senate Democrats late Tuesday questions roughly $5.8 billion in savings in Rauner’s proposed $32 billion budget. The caucus suggests the proposal may not only violate a provision of the Illinois constitution, which promises employee benefits shall not be “diminished or impaired,” but also likely requires changes to state law and federal policies and requires negotiations with labor unions.
Among the senators’ concerns is that cutting $1.5 billion from the Medicaid health care program for the poor, which is funded by state and federal dollars, would require federal approval.
Lawmakers began meeting this week to work on the governor’s “Turnaround Agenda,” a set of pro-business priorities Rauner wants the Legislature to approve in exchange for consenting to new revenue to save programs near and dear to Democrats. Without that grand bargain, the governor’s proposed spending plan would balance the budget entirely by slashing spending for things like Medicaid, human services programs and state employees’ group health care. The plan also includes a roughly $300 million increase to K-12 education, which the governor has identified as a top priority.
I’ve also been telling subscribers about that Rauner threat to withhold support for new revenues unless the Dems cut a deal on his “Turnaround Agenda.” This is a very high stakes game, campers.
* The full memo…
Here’s a rack up of some of the budget challenges faced by the Rauner administration as they negotiate FY16 through working groups.
Many of their plans require changes to state law, court challenges and federal approval. As you know – bills haven’t been filed yet.
Pension Reform: $2.2 billion
Problem: Constitutional challenges.
Cut Medicaid: $1.5 billion
Problem: Requires change in state law and federal approval.
Eliminate College Insurance Program and Teachers Retirement Insurance Program: $113 million
Problem: Requires change in state law that anticipates litigation.
Cut Group Health: $570 million
Problem: Subject to collective bargaining agreements.
Cut Funding for Local Governments: $913 million
Problem: Requires a change in state law.
Cut Dedicated Human Services Programs: $492 million
Problem: Violates consent decrees, judicial orders and some state and federal laws.
Total Hole: $5.788 billion
* The Rauner administration’s response…
Rauner’s deputy chief of staff Mike Schrimpf said it’s been known for months that the governor’s budget, introduced in mid-February, is contingent on “statutory changes” to state law.
“The governor is committed to making structural changes to state government,” Schrimpf said. “The Senate Democrats have known that since February 18, as has anybody who’s been paying attention.”
The required statutory changes will make it tougher to get this budget passed because legislators will be forced to take two very tough votes - one to change state law (or the constitution) and the other on the appropriations bill.
* Speaking of the 2016 budget…
Local officials from throughout Illinois descended Wednesday on the Capitol, lending their voices to the growing coalition of groups opposed to Gov. Bruce Rauner’s budget plan.
Along with labor unions, college students, Amtrak riders, social service agencies, and Democrats, mayors of both political stripes said the governor’s proposal for a 50 percent cut to the municipal share of state income taxes would be a devastating blow to local finances. […]
State Rep. Luis Arroyo, D-Chicago, said he disagrees with Rauner’s plan to cut social service programs.
“I’m just not going to vote for that,” Arroyo told his colleagues during a House budget hearing.
Yeah, well, he’s gonna have to vote for something or we’re never getting outta here.
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* From the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute…
There has been a significant increase in support in Illinois for legalizing gay marriage, according to a series of polls by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University.
The issue is back in the news with the U.S. Supreme Court considering marriage equality issues, and Institute polls show a dramatic evolution of support in the state during the past six years.
The most recent Simon Poll, conducted Feb. 28 to March 10, shows 54.9 percent of registered Illinois voters in support of marriage equality; 20.0 percent favoring civil unions; 18.4 percent opposed to both, and 6.7 percent unsure. The survey of 1,000 voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Opposition to gay marriage has faded across the board in the state, including among Republicans, conservatives and evangelicals.
The issue of gay marriage has appeared in nearly every statewide Simon Poll since 2009. In that time, opinion has gone from being almost equally divided between those favoring full-marriage rights or civil unions versus no legal recognition at all, also called “traditional marriage,” to a solid majority favoring full-marriage rights for the past three Simon Polls since February 2014.
When support for civil unions is incorporated, three-fourths of Illinoisans (74.9 percent) now see a place for legal recognition of same-sex relationships.
The poll also found:
• Support for marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples is not limited to liberals and Democrats. Among Illinois Republicans, over two-thirds (67.8 percent) support some type of legal recognition with 38.0 percent of respondents in the latest Simon Poll (March 2015) favoring full-marriage equality and with another 29.8 percent favoring civil unions. Just over a quarter (27.7 percent) of GOP supporters say there should be no legal recognition for same-sex couples.
The 2015 result is notable compared to its 2009 counterpart, in which nearly half (47.7 percent) of Republicans took the no-legal-rights stance and only one in ten favored full marriage rights.
• Opposition to legal recognition among evangelicals in Illinois has also faded. In 2009, 70.9 percent opposed any legal recognition for same-sex relationships. Today, that number is 45.7 percent. There are 49.1 percent of evangelicals who either support gay marriage or civil unions.
In 2009, only 4.1 percent of evangelicals favored full recognition. Today, that figure is 23.4 percent.
“Perhaps the most surprising development is the transforming views among evangelicals,” said Kent Dolezal, Simon Graduate Research Fellow. “Finding more in support of some legal recognition than not is a development which may have an impact going into the Republican presidential primaries.”
• Opinion among Independents also underwent a shift between the February 2013 and February 2014 Simon Poll. Although a clear majority of Independents favored some sort of legal recognition by 2013, February 2014 saw support for full legal rights reach nearly 60 percent. In the same time frame, those favoring civil unions dropped from 46 percent to 14 percent.
• Support is strongest among Democrats, with over 60 percent in favor of full rights since 2013, up from four in ten in 2009. From an ideological perspective, liberals currently favor marriage equality at a rate topping 75 percent. Moderates have seen their support go from just over one-third (33.6 percent) in 2009 to nearly two-thirds (65.9 percent) in the latest Simon Poll.
• From 2010 to 2015, conservative views shifted dramatically. In 2010, 15.6 percent of conservatives supported same-sex marriage. By, this year, that figure grew to 31.8 percent. Those who opposed any legal recognition of same-sex marriage dropped from 41.7 percent to 29.2 percent.
• At 66.5 percent, marriage equality sees its strongest support in Chicago, a nearly 30-point increase since 2009. The Chicago suburbs see majority support (55.6 percent), with Downstate residents nearing half at 46 percent. Downstate results also demonstrate the dramatic 2013-14 shift when support went from 27.8 percent to 42.5 percent.
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