Illinois This Week in Springfield – 99-10

In this Issue:

BE THERE!
DATA SECURITY RESOLUTION
DATA SECURITY BILL
RETAIL THEFT
FAMILY CARE PROVIDER ACT
WORKERS’SCHEDULES
CRIMINAL BACKGROUNDS IN HIRING
LIQUOR “OF VALUE” PROVISIONS
POWERED FOOD AND BEVERAGE PRODUCTS
RESTAURANT SELF-INSPECTIONS
MANDATORY GAS STATION UPGRADES
TAX PAYMENTS AND REFUNDS
TOBACCO LICENSE TRAILER BILL
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
CAPTIVE INSURNACE

 

This Week In Springfield, both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly reached their first Third Reading Deadline. This means any legislation left in its chamber of origin (i.e. Senate Bill in the Senate/House Bill in the House) that does not have its deadline specifically extended, will be considered ‘held’ for the spring.

Be There!

Governor Bruce Rauner and Senate President John Cullerton will address the opening lunching of Business Day 2015 on Wednesday, May 6th. It is not too late to participate in the largest gathering of employers in Illinois. After the luncheon, attendees will meet with policy makers at the Capitol. Register now at www.irma.org . IRMA would like to thank the generous sponsors of Business Day 2015 listed below.

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 Data Security Resolution

SR 142 (Sen. Mattie Hunter, Chicago) recognizes that all industries including but not limited to financial, public, government, retail, manufacturing, medical, utilities, etc., suffer from data breaches. The resolution urges the federal government to focus on increased security measures for credit card data kept by all affected industries. As originally introduced, SR 142 left the impression that data breaches were largely a retail problem which would have left a false impression.

IRMA would like to thank Sen. Hunter for recognizing that all industries suffer from data breaches and that a comprehensive approach to security measures for credit card data is required to deter and reduce future breaches.

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Data Security Bill

SB 1833 Amendment #2, (Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Skokie) proposing to expand the IL Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA), was passed out of the Senate and will now be debated in the House.  In its current form, the bill will expand what is considered personal information which must be protected by persons that own and/or store data.  Historically, only information that would lead to a particular risk of harm and that an individual could take actions to change and protect themselves, has been regulated. For example, the current Act, protects credit card and account numbers, social security numbers, and driver’s license/state id numbers.  Credit card or financial account information in the wrong hands can lead to financial harm but it can also be changed if the holder is aware that it has been compromised.  Social Security numbers in the wrong hands can lead to identity theft but can also be changed or flagged.  The same is true of driver’s license/state identification numbers.  This bill would now protect such information as geolocation data, consumer marketing and biometric information.

The breach of some of this information would not make it more likely that a person could have their identity stolen or their credit ruined.  In fact, this information is readily available through, positive impact on the Cook County jail and on a person’s right to a speedy trial while simple on-line searches.  In addition, with the amount of information that individuals post online on their own (e.g. social media), much of the information previously considered private is now willingly placed into the public domain. This bill would protect such public information as the combination of a person’s name, home address and telephone number.  This information can be found for free and with little effort in the White Pages, MyLife.com, etc. Finally, would we rather have entities focusing on protecting truly vital information or spread too thin making protection efforts less effective?

After several discussions with the Attorney General’s office, this amendment reflects several changes. Changes include determining the standard for who needs to be notified of a breach and when, decreasing the likelihood that individuals may receive duplicate notifications of breaches and increasing the number of days that a company has to notify individuals and the Attorney General that a breach has occurred.  Such notices will have a better chance of being accurate without needing to be further amended which can eventually cause confusion to the consumer. While these changes are a step in the right direction, there are many issues left to discuss.

IRMA would like to thank Sen. Biss for his leadership on this issue and appreciates that the Attorney General’s office has agreed to continue the discussion regarding making other reasonable changes as the bill moves over to the House.

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Retail Theft

A number of bills have been introduced this legislative session that propose to do everything from changing the current remedies for retail theft to reducing jail overcrowding by focusing on adjudicating retail theft cases quickly.  IRMA supports HB 2919 (Rep. Michael Zalewski, D-Riverside) and SB 202, Senate Amendment #1 (Sen. Bill Cunningham, D-Chicago) which represent common sense approaches to addressing retail theft cases.  HB 2919 allows individuals in the Cook County jail awaiting a final adjudication of their misdemeanor or low level felony retail theft case to bond out on their own recognizance if the case is not finalized within 30 days.  This measure would only be afforded to persons with a non-violent criminal record.  SB 202 would institute a “Rocket Docket” process in which persons accused of retail theft or criminal trespass would have their cases finalized within 30 days of the arrest.  Neither measure diminishes any civil or criminal remedies that are available to the retailer.  Instead, the bills focus on a person’s right to a fair and speedy trial and re-focus taxpayer dollars that are currently being used to essentially house poor people awaiting trial and refocus those efforts on areas of the jail that need those dollars most.

IRMA would like to thank Rep. Zalewski, Sen. Cunningham and Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart for including IRMA in these discussions and for promoting policies that will have a significant not undermining the severity of retail theft.

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Family Care Provider Act

SB 1238 (Sen. Napoleon Harris, D-Chicago) expands the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) by removing federal Department of Labor (DOL) criteria that establishes a requisite relationship between family members to determine leave eligibility.  Consequently, this would require Illinois employers to provide up to twelve unpaid weeks of leave to employees who wish to care for people with whom they do not have an existing federally-recognized relationship for leave purposes.

IRMA and a coalition of business groups met with the Women’s Legislative Leadership Project to discuss their initiative and review the leave benefits established under the FMLA and extended by subsequent DOL administrative rulings. IRMA pointed out that grandparents already have the right to take time off under the FMLA for the birth, adoption, and care of a grandchild.Moreover, Congress intended the definition of “son or daughter” to reflect the reality that many children in the United States today do not live in traditional ‘nuclear’ families with their biological father and mother. Congress ensured these individuals can take leave to care for a family member under a standard of “in loco parentis”, meaning a family member that assumes the parental rights of another family member. Likewise, grandchildren already have the right to take time off under the FMLA to care for ailing grandparents. If an employee can show his/her grandparent stood in loco parentis to them when they were a minor, then they are entitled to FMLA leave to care for that grandparent.

The advocates also believe that employees are not aware of current FMLA leave benefits. The business coalition offered to form a partnership with the advocates to educate both employers and employees of the benefits already allowed under current federal law. The advocates rejected this idea and continue to pursue an unmitigated expansion of current FMLA rights by removing a federally implemented balancing approach between businesses and employees.

IRMA would like to thank Sen. Harris for convening the stakeholders to discuss the issue.

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Workers’ Schedules

Rep. Will Guzzardi, D-Chicago introduced HB 3554 HCA#1 which requires an employer to enter into negotiations with an employee if the employee requests a schedule change. Employers consider a broad range of factors when scheduling, including employee preferences and availability.Employees are generally asked when they want to work based on their preferences and employers schedule around the employee’s stated preferences.  As factors change for the employer and the employee, schedules are adjusted. This allows for an employee and the employer to account for unforeseen circumstances such as family emergencies, weather conditions, school closings, etc. Employee scheduling requires continued employee/employer dialogue.

Despite employer’s best efforts to predict scheduling needs in each location, those needs are subject to external factors that may change for reasons outside the control of the employer. Circumstances such as last minute employee requests for time-off or shift changes, weather, disrupted deliveries, sales and special events all impact an employer’s ability to develop schedules. A “one-size-fits-all” mandate fails to recognize the negative impact that the regulations will impose on employees. Losing the flexibility to make adjustments to the schedule to account for unexpected changes harms the employer and employee.  Once a regulation is in place, businesses are less likely able or capable of responding to employee preferences, availability and emergencies.  Consequently, schedule mandates restrict the ability of employers to allow employees to trade or cover shifts with/for other employees to meet changing circumstances.

Rep. Guzzardi informed IRMA that he does not intend on pursuing a legislative initiative this spring but would like to pursue additional negotiations during the summer. IRMA would like to thank Rep. Guzzardi for his willingness to discuss this issue and we look forward to continuing the discussions.

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Criminal Backgrounds in Hiring

SB 567 Amendment #1 and Amendment #2 (Sen. James Clayborne, Jr., D-East St. Louis) attempts to codify into Illinois law long-standing case law which states that if an employer makes an adverse hiring decision based on an applicant’s criminal background, that the background must be job-related and consistent with business necessity.  In addition, the bill prohibits “forum shopping” by prohibiting complainants from bringing a case in more than one forum.

After the EEOC issued guidance in 2012 on the lawful consideration of criminal backgrounds in making employment decisions, there has been some discussion in the General Assembly of codifying parts of that guidance into law.  IRMA has been opposed to such an effort as the EEOC’s guidance was meant to be helpful to employers and applicants, but not written to have the force of law. The consideration of an individual’s criminal background in making employment decisions has many moving parts and having a consistent law is key to ensuring that applicants are treated appropriately during this process.  To that end, IRMA would prefer for the federal government to be the ultimate arbiter in this area of employment law.

We note that this bill is yet another measure aimed at accomplishing the goal of helping put people with criminal backgrounds in a better position to find employment.  Over the last several years, a number of changes have been made to Illinois law to do just that.  Such measures have included allowing certain criminal histories to become eligible for expungement and sealing sooner after an individual has completed their sentence and passing the recently enacted ban the box legislation.  IRMA has worked with the sponsor of each of these efforts such that IRMA did not oppose their proposals.

We appreciate Sen. Clayborne’s willingness to make changes so that Illinois law is not inconsistent with what the federal government requires.  We would also like to thank Rep. Esther Golar (D-Chicago) who has worked with us in earnest on this issue for the past few years.   

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Liquor “of value” Provisions

HB 4018 (Rep. Frank Mautino, D-Peru) passed out of the House unanimously this week.  The bill seeks to clarify that alcoholic liquor can be packaged in combination with non-alcoholic products without violating the three-tier system.  In addition, it makes clear that manufacturers and distributors can furnish non-alcoholic merchandise to retailers for free when they are related to non-alcoholic products.  The Illinois Liquor Control Commission had previously taken the position that furnishing such items as coolers to promote non-alcoholic products (e.g. bottled water o sports drinks) violated the Act.  Therefore the distributors and retailers sought clarification in the law that such a practice was lawful and could not be considered as giving something of value to retailers.

IRMA would like to thank Rep. Mautino for sponsoring this common sense legislation.

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Powdered Food and Beverage Products

This week, the Illinois Senate determined that certain products in powdered form have the ability to pose a risk to the health and safety of Illinois residents such that they should be banned from sale in the state.  SB 9 (Sen. Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, D-Plainfield) and SB 67 (Sen. Ira Silverstein, D-Chicago) both passed unanimously out of the Senate this week.  The bills would ban the sale of powdered caffeine and powdered alcohol respectively.  Both controversial substances have made headlines around the country as there have been reports that the use or abuse of powdered caffeine has been linked to the deaths of some consumers.  There is also concern about the lure that powdered alcohol could have on children and the concern about facilitating binge drinking by young adults as each package is the equivalent of a shot of alcohol.  IRMA is neutral on both bills.

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Restaurant Self-Inspections

SB 1800 Amendment #1 and Amendment #2 (Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago) passed out of the Senate overwhelmingly this week.  This would allow the City of Chicago to implement a self-inspection program for low-risk food establishments.  Qualifying food establishments would perform their own health inspections every two years which would then be randomly audited by the department.  This bill would have the effect of allowing department personnel to spend more time in high-risk food establishments where food is being prepared and where there is greater risk of the transmission of food borne illness.  The department will develop the inspection form and fines for noncompliance will be assessed.

IRMA would like to thank Sen. Steans for spearheading this business-friendly reform.  It refocuses the city’s limited resources on inspecting high-risk establishments while ensuring the protection of the health and safety of the city’s consumers.

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Mandatory Gas Station Upgrades

SB 268 FA#1 (Sen. Emil Jones III, D-Chicago) mandates that each gas station must be capable of operating its fuel terminals using an alternate generated power source for a minimum of 72 hours.  It also requires any newly constructed retail outlet, any renovated retail outlet or specific retail outlets that are located within one-half mile of an interstate highway or State or federally designated evacuation route must be pre-wired with an appropriate transfer switch and be capable of operating all fuel pumps, dispensing equipment, life safety systems, and payment-acceptance equipment using an alternate generated power source.

This is an initiative of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.  Similar legislation was passed in Florida in response to the aftermath of hurricane season.  Although Illinois is not in a hurricane zone, the legislation would require private businesses to spend millions on upgrades so that they can stay open after a natural disaster occurs to serve the public. Generally, in times of natural disaster, employees of these businesses are affected as well, and they would be expected to put themselves in harm’s way to operate the station.  Such an expensive and potentially harmful piece of legislation should be discussed in detail before it moves further.

Senator Jones and President Preckwinkle have agreed to hold the legislation this spring for further discussion over the summer.  IRMA would like to thank Senator Jones and President Preckwinkle for their willingness to discuss the issues presented in the legislation before moving forward.

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Tax Payments and Refunds

SB 1732 and SB 1804, both sponsored by Senator Pam Althoff (R- McHenry) and supported by IRMA, passed out of the Senate unanimously this week. These bills target the responsible treatment of certain tax refunds and overpayments.  SB 1732 provides for a portion of the revenue from sales and use taxes to be placed into a sales tax refund fund for more timely payment of refunds. Currently, refunds can take many months to receive.  SB 1804 allows for tax overpayments under certain Acts including the cigarette, OTP and liquor control Acts to be used as a credit against any future liabilities under those Acts.

IRMA commends Sen. Althoff for pursuing these efforts that have a positive impact on taxpayers in the state.

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Tobacco License Trailer Bill

SB 1919 (Sen. Julie Morrison, D-Deerfield) and HB 2513 (Rep. Marcus Evans, D-Chicago) are trailer bills that set out to clarify the provisions passed last spring in P.A. 98-1055. That Act requires retailers to obtain a license to sell cigarettes beginning January 1, 2016. The legislation was introduced to reduce the sales of cigarettes to minors, illegal sales of contraband tobacco, and the illegal smuggling of cigarettes in Illinois. The license includes an annual fee that is intended to help fund the interdiction of smuggling and retail inspections. P.A. 98-1055 also included an employee training program, a merchant citation mitigation provision, and record keeping provisions.

SB 1919 and HB 2513 is agreed upon language that ensures the books and records retention requirement reflects current retention practices; ensures consistent employee training programs across varying federal and state jurisdictions; clarifies merchant citation mitigation procedures that were included in the Act; and clarifies and streamlines invoice requirements for closed loop distributors.

IRMA would like to thank both Rep. Evans and Sen. Morrison as well as the Illinois Department of Revenue for their work on this important initiative on the behalf of Illinois tobacco retailers.

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Economic Development

A reorganization of Illinois’ economic development apparatus, a priority of Governor Rauner, took an important step forward this week as HB 574, co-sponsored by Speaker of the House Michael J. Madigan (D- Chicago) and House Republican Leader Jim Durkin (R- Burr Ridge), was unanimously approved by the House Executive Committee and now awaits consideration by the full House. HB 574 would create a not-for-profit corporation focused solely on economic development while the existing economic development agency, the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) would focus on other priorities. The idea is the new corporation will be agile and able to respond quickly to economic development opportunities.

HB 574 also contains provisions eliminating the current Historic Preservation Agency and transferring its functions to DCEO. Additionally, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum will be become its own agency.

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Captive Insurance

Last year, the Illinois Department of Insurance (DOI) under the Quinn Administration, advanced legislation (Public Act 98-978) containing an obliquely written phrase DOI later interpreted to mean that Illinois-domiciled companies that self-insure their risk via a captive insurance company would be taxed. A captive insurance company is a wholly-owned entity that only insures the risk of its parent. Senator Bill Haine (D- Alton), chairman of the Senate Insurance Committee, acted quickly in an attempt to repeal the new law. This effort was supported by IRMA as well as the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, Taxpayers Federation of Illinois, and the Illinois Hospital Association. Unfortunately that effort fell short.

Senator Haine is trying again this year in the form of S.B. 1573. SB 1573 passed the Senate unanimously and now moves to the House for additional consideration. IRMA would like to thank Senator Haine as well as Senate President Cullerton, Senate Republican Leader Radogno, every member of the Senate who supported SB 1573 as well as House Republican Leader Jim Durkin who is the House sponsor.

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robtanyaalec

Illinois This Week in Springfield – 99-09

In This Issue:

BUSINESS DAY MAY 6TH
NON-EMPLOYEE WITHHOLDING
RETAIL THEFT – BOND
USING CRIMINAL BACKGROUND INFORMATION

This Week In Springfield, committee action was light as both chambers focused on floor consideration of bills that had previously been considered in committee. Some amendments are being sent to committee for further discussion before floor consideration, while others are made directly on the floor and considered there.  We expect that with next week’s floor action deadline looming, the House and Senate will have long session days as the bulk of bills are debated on each the floor of their respective chambers.

BUSINESS DAY MAY 6th

Register today to attend Business Day 2015 on Wednesday, May 6th in Springfield. Business Day is the largest gathering of employers in Illinois. This is an opportunity to network with your peers throughout the state and jointly share your concerns directly with lawmakers. Governor Bruce Rauner will keynote the opening luncheon and likely share his Turnaround Agenda. The day concludes with the not-to-be-missed Party Under the Tent – a unique opportunity to continue the conversations of the day in a fun and relaxed atmosphere. Act now to ensure you have a spot!

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NON-EMPLOYEE WITHHOLDING

On a unanimous vote, HB 3898 (Rep. Robert Martwick, D-Chicago) passed the House and has now been sent to the Senate for consideration.  The bill clarifies that employers must withhold child support from non-employees such as vendors and independent contractors.  The Department of Human Services claims that federal law requires such withholding, although to date, IRMA has not been able to get clarification that this is actually a federal mandate and not merely an attempt to set forth procedure for withholding if an employer decides to withhold from a non-employee.  It is also unclear what happens when/if an employer receives notification from the state to withhold from a non-employee who is no longer under contract with the employer.  IRMA is working with the Department to get clarification on what the federal government actually requires so that employers are both informed and able to comply.

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RETAIL THEFT – BOND

IRMA has had several conversations this legislative session with legislators interested in making changes to how retail theft cases are pursued and adjudicated, and the remedies that are available.  In addition, IRMA was contacted by the Cook County Sheriff’s office regarding their legislative proposal to adjudicate retail theft cases within a 30 day period.  HB 2919 (Rep. Michael Zalewski, D-Riverside) passed unanimously out of the Judiciary Criminal committee with the support of IRMA.  The bill would allow individuals accused of misdemeanor and low-level felony retail theft to bond out of jail on their own recognizance after 30 days if a judgment has not been rendered in the case. The Cook County Sheriff is attempting to control costs as they currently are housing people in jail for long periods of time who are awaiting trial for non-violent offenses.

IRMA supports the efforts of Rep. Zalewski and the Cook County Sheriff’s office to find reasonable solutions to jail overcrowding and to using taxpayer money wisely in the process without undermining Illinois’ retail theft laws.

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USING CRIMINAL BACKGROUND INFORMATION IN MAKING EMPLOYMENT DECISIONS

SB 567 (Sen. James Clayborne, Jr., D-East St. Louis) passed out of the Criminal Law committee this week on an 8-3 vote.  The bill seeks to address the concern regarding the employment rates of individuals with criminal backgrounds.  It would add to the IL Human Rights Act that if an employer makes an adverse employment decision based on an applicant’s criminal background, that the decision must be based on whether the background was job-related and consistent with business necessity.  In addition, the bill would prohibit individuals from pursuing a remedy in more than one forum.  The language of this bill will be amended to adequately include the arrest and conviction information that Title VII already permits.  We should note that the EEOC issued guidance in 2012 for employers and applicants on how Title VII is being interpreted regarding the use of criminal backgrounds in making hiring decisions.  This language does not seek to adopt or interpret that guidance, but rather clarify how case law is treating criminal background information in employment decisions.

We would like to thank Sen. Clayborne for agreeing to make the changes necessary so that the Illinois law does not conflict with federal law.  This amendment is expected to be heard in committee next week before the measure is considered by the full Senate.

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robtanyaalec

Illinois This Week in Springfield – 99-08

IN THIS ISSUE:

MEDICAID CUTS & STATE BUDGET
HEROIN
BIOSIMILARS
RESTAURANT SELF-INSPECTIONS
LIQUOR “OF VALUE” PROVISIONS
SNAP ELIGIBILITY
WORKERS’ SCHEDULES
ENERGY
SCHEDULE
BUSINESS DAY

This Week In Springfield, both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly reached their first committee deadline. Any legislation not passed out of the committee to which it was assigned is considered ‘held’ unless it specifically has its consideration deadline specifically extended. As with all deadline weeks, there was plenty of activity on bills of interest to Illinois retailers.

 MEDICAID CUTS & STATE BUDGET

Illinois pharmacies are once again having their Medicaid reimbursement cut as the state attempts to close the $1.6 billion deficit in the state’s current fiscal year 2015 budget. When Governor Pat Quinn’s 2015 fiscal year budget was adopted last May, the appropriations were not adequate to cover a full year of spending at the current spend rate. Former Governor Quinn directed the agencies to continue to spend as if their budget was fully funded. It was widely assumed Governor Quinn would win re-election and a supplemental appropriation, including additional taxes, would have been passed in the November Veto Session to ensure the FY 15 budget was made whole. The voters of Illinois made a different choice in November meaning newly elected Governor Bruce Rauner inherited a current-year budget shortfall of approximately $1.6 billion.

This week, the four legislative leaders and their respective caucuses reached an agreement with Governor Rauner to address the FY 2015 budget shortfall. That agreement included sweeping $1.3 billion in monies from dedicated funds. Dedicated funds hold monies that are received by the state and put toward specific purposes. As an example, $250 million was taken from the Road Fund. This fund is used to fund road construction/repairs. According to the Illinois Department of Transportation, this sweep will leave this Fund with a balance that is considered lower than prudent but large enough to provide the required match for federal funds.

In addition to the dedicated fund sweeps, there was a 2.25% reduction of general revenue fund spending. Included in this across-the-board cut was another reduction in Medicaid reimbursement of $140 million. However, given the fact that only two or three months will be left in the fiscal year, the annualized reduction will result in an effective reimbursement cut of approximately 12% to Medicaid. At this writing, the Department is not certain how they will accomplish pharmacy’s portion of the cuts although it will very likely be a reduction in the dispensing fee. IRMA will provide that information to our pharmacy members as soon as it becomes available. This is the second significant cut to Medicaid pharmacy in a relatively short period of time.

HB 317 (Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago)/Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) and HB 318 (Speaker Madigan/Sen. Steans) contained the appropriations and implementation language, respectively. They passed the Senate 32-26 and the House 72-45 with bipartisan majorities. In both chambers, all Republicans supported the FY 15 fix. In the Senate, 12 of 39 Democrats supported the budget fix while in the House 25 of 71 supported the fix. Governor Rauner signed these bills into law shortly after passage.

With passage of these bills, the FY 15 state budget is made whole and the discussions will begin in earnest on the FY 16 budget. This budget contains significant shortfalls that will require steep cuts, as outlined by Governor Rauner in his budget address in February, significant new revenue, or a combination of both.  To quote the song-writer Jerry Reed, “we’ve got a long way to go and a short time to get there” with thirty official session days left before the target adjournment of May 31st. Of course, they can always go into overtime as the state’s fiscal year does not end until midnight on June 30th. Either way, things are going to get very interesting in the days to come. Hope can be found in the fact that by all appearances, Governor Rauner and his senior staff have forged a working relationship with the four leaders and their staffs.

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HEROIN

As noted in previous editions of TWIS, House Amendment #1 to HB 1 (Rep. Lou Lang, D- Chicago) attempts to comprehensively address some of the underlying factors of the heroin epidemic present particularly, but not exclusively, in the greater metro Chicagoland region. This week, HB 1 was reported out of the Substance Abuse Special Committee with the understanding from the sponsor that it was still a work in progress, he would be working with all interested parties, and would be amending HB 1 as discussions unfold.

While there are many provisions of concern to pharmacy, one in particular is a mandated pharmacy-level take-back program. While the state could mandate such a program, pharmacies must operate under the rules recently adopted by the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). As IRMA has demonstrated, it is a practical impossibility for pharmacy to serve as a take-back location and abide by the DEA’s rules. IRMA met with the sponsor regarding this documented problems. Additionally, as part of a broader coalition addressing many of the other concerns, IRMA met with the sponsor Thursday afternoon where important progress was made on a number of the many outstanding issues. Given the complexity of the bill, there is still a long way to go. IRMA would like to thank Rep. Lang, the lead sponsor, for the constructive manner in which he had conducted these discussions to date as well as co-sponsor Representative John Anthony (R-Morris) and Representative Michael McAuliffe (R-Chicago).

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BIOSIMILARS

For a few years, pharmaceutical manufacturers have sought to create artificial barriers to the substitution of interchangeable biosimilar drugs at the state level. They are attempting to do this in advance of action by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) so that when the FDA ultimately approves an interchangeable biosimilar drug, unless the FDA preempts state law, which they are unlikely to do, additional barriers will exist making it harder to interchange and, thereby, forcing patients to continue to use the more expensive biosimilars.

This week, HB 3519 (Rep. David Harris, R- Mount Prospect) was reported out of the House Healthcare Licenses Committee but only after promising the committee he would return with an amendment attempting to address the concerns of pharmacy prior to any final consideration on the floor.

Throughout this deliberation over the years, the proponents’ sponsor, Senator Tony Munoz (D- Chicago) has taken a deliberate, consistent approach insisting that all sides be heard and trying to forge a compromise. In an apparent attempt to force quicker action, the proponents turned their attention to the House. Sen. Munoz has indicated no legislation will pass the Senate absent agreement by the stakeholders. IRMA would like to thank Sen. Munoz for his balanced approach. IRMA has offered yet another potential compromise to the proponents via Senator Munoz and Representative Harris.

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RESTAURANT SELF-INSPECTIONS

An initiative by the City of Chicago to allow certain low-risk food establishments to conduct their own health inspections passed out of the Senate Committee on Public Health unanimously.  SB 1800 (Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago), seeks to solidify the city’s current pilot self-inspection program that a number of IRMA members have participated in for the last couple of years.  The pilot program has been a success and has proven that self-inspections do not present a greater risk of harm to consumers but that they help both government and business operate more efficiently while ensuring a safe food supply.  This bill is part of a larger effort to ensure that health inspectors are spending their time with high-risk food establishments where food is being prepared and stored in temperature-controlled conditions, and less time in locations that present less risk of food-borne illness.  Low-risk food establishments will be able to self-inspect every 2 years, and those inspections will be randomly audited.

IRMA would like to thank Sen. Steans and co-sponsors Sen. John Mulroe, Sen. Iris Martinez and Sen. Don Harmon for supporting this legislation which adequately protects consumers while concentrating the efforts of inspectors on high-risk establishments.

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LIQUOR “OF VALUE” PROVISIONS

HB 4018 (Rep. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley) passed out of the House Executive Committee unanimously this week.  The bill seeks to clarify that alcoholic liquor can be packaged in combination with non-alcoholic products without violating the three-tier system.  In addition, it makes clear that manufacturers and distributors can furnish non-alcoholic merchandise to retailers for free when they are related to non-alcoholic products.  The Illinois Liquor Control Commission had previously taken the position that furnishing such items as coolers to promote non-alcoholic products violated the ‘of value’ prohibition in the Act.

IRMA would like to thank Rep. Mautino and co-sponsor Rep. Lou Lang for supporting this piece of common sense legislation which allows for arms-length transactions within the three-tier system regarding non-alcoholic products and furnishings.

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SNAP ELIGIBILITY

This week, SB 1847 (Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Skokie) passed out of the Senate Human Services Committee on a party-line vote.  The bill would increase the number of people eligible to receive SNAP by increasing the income limit from the current 133% of FPL to 165% FPL.  This change is projected to allow $60 million additional dollars to flow into the program from the federal government.  While IRMA is generally supportive of increased access to food, we have a much larger and more pressing concern about how SNAP funds are distributed in Illinois today. That concern, if not address, will be exacerbated by this proposed expansion if not addressed at the same time.

In 2013, under the previous administration, the decision was made to change SNAP distribution from the first 23 days of the month to the first 10 days of the month.  After much discussion with the Department, the Governor’s office, and representatives of the advocacy community, IRMA produced documentation regarding the negative impact the distribution had on retailers, employee hours, job loss, and access to fresh produce, meat and dairy for consumers.  The Department offered to add 3 temporary distribution dates beyond the 10th of the month.  The parties agreed that they would accept those dates with the understanding that they would come together in 2015 to discuss a permanent solution to how SNAP funds would be distributed in the future.  Although we are still working to achieve that solution, this bill was introduced which would add more people to the SNAP program, further exacerbating the current problem of how funds are distributed.

We are hopeful that an agreement on SNAP distribution can be reached soon, and are grateful that Sen. Biss has offered to help.  However, until a permanent solution is implemented, we remain opposed to this bill which adds more people to a problematic distribution system that needs to be fixed.

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WORKERS’ SCHEDULES

HB 3554 (Rep. Will Guzzardi, D-Chicago) passed out of the Labor and Commerce Committee on a party line vote Wednesday. The legislation mandates all employers, including school districts and local governments, negotiate any changes to their schedule as requested by the employee.  Employers consider the needs of their business and employees when developing schedules. A variety of data points that are considered include but are not limited to, employee preferences and availability; productivity of the location; seasonal fluctuations; peak guest hours; and product delivery and stocking.  Despite employer’s best efforts to predict scheduling needs in each location, the need for employers in any given location is subject to external factors that may change frequently, unpredictably, and for reasons out of the control of the employer. Circumstances such as last minute employee requests for time-off; weather; peak hours; disrupted deliveries; sales fluctuations; sales and special events all impact an employer’s ability to develop and adhere to schedules.

Employers need flexibility to respond efficiently to the rapidly changing environment and balance the needs of consumers, employees, and the work location. Prescriptive constraints on developing schedules reduce the ability of the employer to respond to the changing needs of the employer and employee. Every industry and employer has a unique process and every employee has unique needs. A “one size fits all” statute fails to recognize the unique needs of both businesses and their employees as well as negative impact that they will impose on employee opportunities.

Rep. Guzzardi has committed to work on an amendment to address the concerns of the opponents of the legislation before bringing it back to the Committee for further discussions.  We look forward to these continued discussions.

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ENERGY

When the Assembly returns on April 14th, we can expect Illinois energy policy to be one of the primary issues under debate. There are competing proposals from various entities including SB 1485, an initiative of the various environmental groups, SB 1585, an initiative of Exelon, and SB 1879 an initiative of Commonwealth Edison. All deal in some way with the renewable portfolio standard and energy efficiency. Others include cap-and-trade, demand-response, microgrids, kilowatt-based rates for retail customers (as opposed to the current demand-based rates), etc. One of the core issues of these discussions will be Exelon’s stated need to preserve their nuclear fleet currently operating in Illinois. Without these cornerstone reactors, Illinois energy users face significantly higher prices and reliability issues. IRMA will engage in these discussions.

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SCHEDULE & TIDBIT

The Illinois General Assembly is now on a two-week break and is scheduled to return on Tuesday, April 14th.

As a matter of interest, and to give readers an idea of the volume of legislation dealt with to-date, TWIS offers these stats:

 House bills introduced: 4,198

House amendments filed: 456

House bill passed committee: 515

Senate bills introduced: 2,124

Senate amendments filed: 291

Senate bills passed committee: 1,169 (including 833 shells. Shell, or vehicle, bills are pieces of legislation that contain on real content. They can become vehicles for amendments later in the process.)

Bills signed into law – 2 (the FYI 2015 budget fix)

Obviously, as session continues, these numbers will change as many more amendments will be offered and legislation progresses through the process.

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BUSINESS DAY 2015

On May 6th, Governor Bruce Rauner will address the opening luncheon of Illinois Business Day 2014 – an annual joint program of IRMA and the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association. It is the largest gathering of Illinois employers comes as the process enters the final scheduled month when many decisions are being made. Plan now to attend on Wednesday, May 6th. There are still openings available but they are going fast. You can register here Business Day Registration.

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Illinois This Week in Springfield – 99-07

IN THIS ISSUE:

MINIMUM WAGE
FAMILY CARE PROVIDER ACT
FOOD ALLERGENS
LIQUOR ADVERTISING
REDUCING LLC FEES
BUSINESS DAY 2015

This Week In Springfield committee action was the focus and will only intensify as next week is the first committee deadline. When the Assembly leaves town next Friday, any legislation remaining in committee that does not have its consideration deadline extended will be considered ‘held’.

MINIMUM WAGE

 This week, on a party-line vote, the House Labor & Commerce Committee approved for consideration a proposed increase to Illinois’ minimum wage. HB 3345 (Rep. Art Turner, D- Chicago) envisions increasing the Illinois minimum wage from $8.25 to $9.00 on July 1, 2015 and from $9.00 to $10.00 on July 1, 2016. It also prohibits home rule municipalities from establishing their own minimum wage but this provision would not apply to the City of Chicago. Additionally, HB 3345 contains a limited income tax credit to help employers with fewer than 50 employees absorb the increased costs.

TWIS readers will recall that in early January the first act of the Illinois Senate was to the Illinois House a proposed minimum wage increase. SB 11 (Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D- Westchester) proposed increasing the Illinois minimum wage from $8.25 per hour to $11 per hour starting July 1st and ending July 1, 2019. Otherwise, the two bills are virtually identical.

The advocates of increasing the minimum wage have long argued that such increases do not negatively impact employers. The presence of the tax credit is a significant admission that such increases in the minimum wage do add substantial costs to employers.

As it has for a few years now, the minimum wage debate will continue to rage but it is certainly moving closer to some sort of finale. While anything is possible, IRMA does not expect immediate action on either bill. However, with Governor Rauner having himself proposed an increase to the minimum wage, the likelihood of some increase passing before the Assembly departs later this year grew more likely this week.

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FAMILY CARE PROVIDER ACT

Illinois employers would soon have to provide up to twelve unpaid weeks to employees to tend to people with whom they are related to but do not have an existing relationship. SB 1238 (Sen. Napoleon Harris, D-Chicago) expands the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) by removing federal Department of Labor (DOL) criteria that establishes a requisite relationship between family members to determine leave eligibility. The FMLA criteria is a fact intensive inquiry that proves that there is a qualifying relationship, i.e. the individual was raised by the applicant or the applicant raised the individual. This could be an aunt, uncle, brother, sister, or even a person who is not biologically related to the individual. If an applicant can prove the fact intensive inquiry then they may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for the individual. These criteria were established by the FMLA and subsequent DOL administrative interpretations to recognize the status of a modern family while at the same time protecting employers from abuse of FMLA leave rights.

As drafted, SB 1238 does not require a fact intensive inquiry to prove there is an existing relationship between the applicant and the family member. For instance, all an applicant would have to prove is that they are biologically related and the family member is sick. So therefore, an employee who has never met their grandparent, aunt, uncle, etc. and has no existing relationship could ask and be awarded 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for their family member. As such SB 1238 eliminates the delicate balance created by Congress and the DOL to protect employers and non-traditional families.

The sponsor has agreed to amend the legislation to tie the requirements of the bill straight to the FMLA statute. There are a number of concerns with this approach. The federal FMLA is constantly changed and interpreted by US DOL rules, regulations and adjudications. For instance, the fact intensive inquiry mentioned above to establish a qualifying relationship was decided through US DOL case law and administrative review not the language of the FMLA. If the amendment is referenced only to the FMLA statute and not subsequent US DOL rulings and interpretations, the amendment could actually reduce the minimum protections intended for employers. Also, since the FMLA is always being changed by US DOL cases and adjudications, Illinois would be required to constantly update its statute. The amendment could also potentially give the IL DOL additional investigative and punitive authority over employers that it currently does not have.  For the reasons, stated above, the sponsor has indicated that he intends on having continued discussion regarding this initiative.

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FOOD ALLERGENS

An initiative to address the notification process for food allergens passed out of the Consumer Protection Committee this week only after the sponsor promised the committee she would work with IRMA and other opponents to amend the language on the House floor.  HB 3495 (Rep. Robyn Gabel, D-Evanston), which is directed at restaurants, would require the certified Food Service Sanitation Manager on duty to register for the FDA’s text/email service which notifies the public about recent food allergy recalls.  The management must then take precautions to notify staff of the recall and check the supplies of recalled food.  In addition, the bill requires restaurants to place a notification in the restaurant that customers should tell their servers of food allergies.  The notification can be placed on the menu/menu board, a placard or poster in the restaurant.  Restaurants already have procedures in place to process recall notices received from the manufacturers or FDA. Illinois should not impose a one-size fits all. Additionally, changing menus, again, after just doing so to abide by federal nutritional labeling requirements imposes a significant expense. Food allergy sufferers are very proactive already so the question becomes whether additional notification really adds any value.

We appreciate that Rep. Gabel is willing to continue to work with IRMA to ensure that the bill allows current corporate food allergy notification systems to remain in place while exploring potential alternatives to encouraging customers to be more proactive than they already are.  We look forward to an amendment before a vote is taken on the House floor.

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LIQUOR ADVERTISING

As consumers increasingly turn to social media as one of their primary sources to receive information and news, businesses have moved much of their advertising to this platform to reach their audience right where they are.  HB 3237 (Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago) was introduced to ensure that liquor manufacturers and distributors could provide retailers and restaurants with the opportunity to advertise on social media platforms without violating important “of value” laws.  The bill passed out of the Executive Committee unanimously.

IRMA would like to thank Rep. Feigenholtz and co-sponsor Rep. Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove) for keeping the law current with the increasing changes in technology, allowing retailers and restaurants to remain relevant to their customers.

REDUCING LLC FEES

 

SB 680 (Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago) would reduce the costs of establishing Limited Liability Corporations in Illinois.  Currently it costs $500 to file the Articles of Incorporation and $750 to for businesses that want to file Articles to establish series.  Those costs would be reduced to $39 and $59 respectively.  The bill passed out of the Commerce and Economic Development Committee unanimously.

IRMA would like to thank Sen. Steans for sponsoring this business friendly action to reduce the front-end costs of potential business owners, particularly small business owners, so that they can spend that money investing in their business and growing the economy.

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BUSINESS DAY 2015

Despite Illinois’ lagging economy and need for substantial and sustained growth over a long period to get Illinois back on track fiscally, proposals continue to be advanced that only add to employer costs and make it harder to hire or retain employees, increase salaries, and open or expand businesses. Make your voice heard. Join your fellow employers in Springfield on Wednesday, May 6th to hear from policy makers and have your voice heard. Governor Bruce Rauner will keynote the opening luncheon. Register today at www.irma.org .

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Illinois This Week in Springfield – 99-06

IN THIS ISSUE:

INDOOR PLAY AREAS
WORKERS’ COMPENSATION REFORM
PHARMACY TAKE-BAKE
BUSINESS DAY
SOCIAL MEDIA

This Week In Springfield, the committee work in both chambers hastened considerably as the committee deadline of March 27th looms.

INDOOR PLAY AREAS

Legislation imposing impossible standards on entities with indoor play areas (e.g. restaurants, bowling alleys, YMCA’s, something as simple as a Lego table, etc.) that stores or serves food in any way, including through vending machines, was approved by the House Consumer Protection Committee 9-7 on a partisan vote.

Identical to legislation that has been repeatedly introduced for several years, HB 1372 (Rep. Michelle Mussman, D-Schaumburg) requires surfaces to be free from dust, dirt, foreign or infectious contamination, sets up an impossible standard of cleanliness for business owners to uphold. Someone can clean a room completely. The moment a human or animal enters the room and walks on or in any way touches items in the room, that room is no longer free of contaminants. The same is true the moment HVAC comes on or a window/door is opened.

The answer to the problem is simple: wash your hands. No one should eat or otherwise put their hands in their mouths before washing their hands after touching anything (e.g. toy, door knob, stair rail, etc.). Any public health expert will tell you there is no substitute for hand-washing.

IRMA would like to thank the members of the House Consumer Protection Committee who voted against HB 1372. They are: Representatives Norine Hammond (R-Macomb), Thomas Bennett (R-Watseka), Avery Bourne (R-Litchfield), Peter Breen (R-Lombard), Randy Frese (R-Quincy), David McSweeney (R-Cary), Grant Wehrli (R-Naperville).

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WORKERS’ COMPENSATION REFORM

 

The House Labor & Commerce Committee held a subject matter hearing Wednesday afternoon reviewing the outcome of the 2011 reform of Illinois’ workers’ compensation system. A representative of the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) opened the testimony with a review of their annual advertised rates and loss costs since 2011. Briefly, their advertised rates have decreased 18.1% and their loss costs have decreased 19.3%. It is important to note that NCCI only advices insurance companies as to what their rates could be. The individual companies take into account other factors. NCCI noted that the recommended rate decreases were primarily driven by the 30% reduction in the medical fee schedule accomplished by the 2011 reforms. They also noted that utilizing CPI-U contributes to on-going savings by limiting growth in the fees to the rate of inflation. It is important to note that even after a 30% reduction in the medical fee schedule, Illinois’ fee schedule dropped from the third highest in the nation to the fourth highest.

In their role as the point group for the Illinois employer community on workers’ compensation issues, representatives of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association (IMA) testified as to the importance of the 2011 reforms as they related to arbitrators, utilization of American Medical Association standards, strengthening the utilization review process, and Preferred Provider Networks. The IMA also correctly noted that the AMA standards were not fully implemented and the PPN’s were substantially delayed by the Illinois Department of Insurance under the Quinn Administration.

Opponents of the 2011 reform, primarily contingency fee attorneys and medical providers, argued that the 2011 reforms have succeeded, have not been fully implemented, and nothing further should be done. Representatives of the medical community argued that the reforms went too far causing hospitals and doctors’ offices to close.

The entire debate has been re-ignited as Governor Bruce Rauner has consistently made workers’ compensation reform one of his primary goals. The employer community wants to see Illinois return to being average amongst the states in terms of workers’ compensation costs. According to the nationally recognized annual Worker’s Compensation Premium State Ranking Summary, for 2014 Illinois ranks 7th while comparable states like Michigan (34th), Ohio (33rd), Pennsylvania (17th), and Massachusetts (48th) all have significantly better rankings. The rankings of Illinois’ border states are ranked as follows: Missouri (21st), Wisconsin (23rd), Iowa (24th), Kentucky (40th), and Indiana (50th). Illinois employers would be pleased, and Illinois would be far more competitive, if Illinois was consistently ranked in the middle of the pack.

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PHARMACY TAKE-BACK

 

The first of at least two subject-matter hearings on HB 1 commenced this week before the Special Committee on Substance Abuse. House Amendment #1 to HB 1 seeks to impose a wide-array of regulations and other mandates designed to inhibit access to controlled substances including an aggressive and onerous unfunded pharmacy take-back. Several substance abuse experts have testified that abuse of pharmaceutical medicines is the most common gateway to heroin and other illicit drugs.

One of the many witnesses this week was, Randy Malan, Director of the Bureau of Pharmacy & Clinical Support Services in the Illinois Department of Human Services. Mr. Malan testified regarding Illinois’ nationally-recognized Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP). Every prescription for controlled substances that is written and dispensed in Illinois is recorded in the PMP. The PMP also has triggers and produces reports notifying prescribers and pharmacies if an individual has reached thresholds indicating they may be pill shopping – that is going from prescriber to prescriber trying to access pain medications. The Illinois PMP is highly regarded and an important tool. Mr. Malan testified that Illinois ranks 43rd overall for prescribing of opioid pain relievers, 50th (least prescriptions per population) regarding long acting/extended release opioid pain medications, 50th (the best) in terms of prescribing of high dose opioid pain medications, and 50th in the rate of prescribing Oxycodone.

While there are certainly improvements that can and should be made, and IRMA will be a part of those discussion, Illinois is already a leader nationally in restricting access to opioids.

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BUSINESS DAY

If you are a retailer in Illinois, you need to plan now to be in Springfield on Business Day Registration. It is your opportunity to explain to policy makers face-to-face that additional mandates on employers continues to erode the ability of Illinois to recover.

SOCIAL MEDIA

You can follow IRMA on your favorite social media outlets. Follow IRMA on:

Twitter: @ILRetail
Instagram: ilretail
Facebook: Illinois Retail Merchants Association

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