This Week in Springfield, the Senate passed a bill giving the State the authority to release federal funds and also passed their version of workers’ compensation reform. Additionally, IRMA’s 58th annual meeting is just around the corner!
The State and its agencies administer many programs that are funded primarily by federal dollars. With the budget impasse continuing there has been no authority for the State to pass federal funds to local providers. As a result, the Senate introduced and passed Amendment 1 to SB 2042 that gives the State the authority to pass through nearly $5 billion of earmarked federal funds to the appropriate State agencies and programs.
Agencies receiving the funds include but are not limited to Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO), Department of Human Services (DHS), Department of Veteran’s Affairs (DVA), Department of Public Health (DPH), Department on Aging (DOA), and the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). If passed by the House and signed by the Governor, programs that will receive their federal monies include but are not limited to the federal portion of LIHEAP, mental health services, alcohol and abuse treatment, developmental disabilities services, job training under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, cancer screening, prenatal services, etc.
Of particular importance to retailers is the continued funding of the Women Infants and Children Nutrition Program (WIC) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Many Illinois residents rely on these programs to assist them in procuring healthy foods for themselves and infants and these residents rely on their local food retailers who are key to the successful implementation and administration of these federally funded programs. With the passage of this appropriation bill, these programs should not see an interruption of services.
The Governor has signaled that he supports the appropriation bill and intends to sign it if approved in the House. The House Democrats do not oppose the bill, but believe there are additional federal funds that need to be added to the legislation.
The Senate introduced and passed their version of workers’ compensation reform in Amendment 1 to SB 162. The legislation includes provisions relating to causation, traveling employees, establishing an Ombudsman Program, and modernizing and streamlining the workers’ compensation system.
SB 162 changes the definition of “in the course of employment” and “arising out employment” but does nothing to change the no-fault standard that requires an employer to pay 100% of an injury regardless of how little of the injury actually occurred due to an employment related action. Additionally, while the legislation attempts to prohibit a claim when a traveling employee is injured outside the duty of their employment, it still allows a workers’ compensation claim for personal deviations.
SB 162 also creates an Ombudsman Program whose objective is to educate employees and employers of their duties and obligations under the Workers’ Compensation Act (“Act”) and to help all stakeholders (e.g. workers, employers, attorneys, medical personnel, etc.) navigate the system. Additionally, it creates a Commission whose purpose is to recodify the Act.
The legislation passed out of committee and the full Senate on a partisan roll-call over the objections of employer representatives including IRMA, Illinois Manufacturers’ Association (IMA), National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) and the Illinois Chamber of Commerce because the provisions in the amendment are not enough to make meaningful changes to one of the most expensive workers’ compensation systems in the United States.
IRMA’s 58th annual meeting is scheduled for Thursday, October 1, 2015. We look forward to celebrating IRMA and Illinois retailing with all participants and guests. The event starts at 11:30 a.m. and will be held in the Empire Room of the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago. Sponsorship and registration information can be obtained by contacting IRMA at 312-726-4600 or firstname.lastname@example.org .