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.

robtanyaalec

 

Retail Register No. 359, March 2015

CRMA poll on Chicago’s mayoral race shows Emanuel with decent lead

Undecided voters seem to be swaying towards reelecting incumbent Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel over his opponent, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.  The Chicago Retail Merchants Association (CRMA), a committee of IRMA, recently released findings from a poll of likely voters conducted in late February that indicates Emanuel is at or over the 50 percent required to win the Chicago mayoral election.

The poll results find Emanuel at 48.65 percent, Garcia at 37.72 percent with undecided voters at 13.63 percent. However, when undecided voters were asked to make a decision, nearly 21 percent chose Emanuel while 15 percent picked Garcia.

The mayor holds a commanding lead among likely female voters but his lead is narrow among males. In addition, when asked who would be better at creating jobs, Emanuel leads with women and his support among men jumps substantially. Likewise, the mayor has a healthy lead among likely African-American and Caucasian voters. Garcia, however, holds a large lead among Hispanics; the candidates are split among Asian voters.

The poll was conducted by We Ask America on Wednesday, February 25, collecting responses from 1,138 likely voters with a margin of error of ±2.91 percent.

“While this poll was conducted six weeks before Election Day, it appears that Mayor Emanuel is in a strong position with likely Chicago voters,” said Rob Karr, president/CEO of CRMA and IRMA. “When voters are asked about their perception of which candidate would be better at creating new jobs in Chicago, the numbers mirror each candidate’s overall support, indicating this is a major factor in voters’ opinions.”

1.     As you may know, Rahm Emanuel and Chuy Garcia will run against each other in a mayoral runoff election on April 7th.  If that election were held today, for whom would you vote?

Rahm Emanuel: 48.65%      Chuy Garcia:  37.72%             Undecided: 13.63%

 

2.      (Only asked to “undecided” voters:) Even though you haven’t decided who you’ll vote for, we’d like to know if you’re LEANING toward voting for either candidate.

 Rahm Emanuel: 20.89%       Chuy Garcia:  15.46%        Undecided: 63.65%

 

3.      Which candidate for mayor do you think would be better for creating new jobs in Chicago? 

Rahm Emanuel: 49.12%        Chuy Garcia:  34.66%         Undecided: 16.22%

Poll Methodology

Demographic information recorded in the poll provided data to normalize (weight) the results to provide the most accurate results that account for ethnic origin, gender over/under-sampling.  Our sampling methodology ensures that We Ask America poll results are projectable, meaning that if every telephone in a given geography was dialed, the results would not differ from the reported poll results by more than the stated margin of error at a 95 percent confidence level (the industry standard), were the same survey taken repeatedly.  For this case, results with a margin of error of ±2.91 percent at the 95 percent confidence level means that if the same survey were conducted 100 times, then 95 times out of 100 the results would not vary in either direction by more than 2.91 percent in either direction.

IRMA makes its mark in the social media world

The Illinois Retail Merchants Association now has an active presence in the social media world with accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  “Social media is an important component in building IRMA’s brand, keeping those already engaged with our organization informed and attracting new interest,” said Rob Karr, IRMA president and CEO. “We see social media as a great opportunity to educate about the importance of the Illinois retail industry.”

Through social media outlets, IRMA will be able to provide real time updates on developments at the Illinois Capitol and Chicago City Council, as well as share important news, facts and updates about issues pertaining to the retail industry.  We will also use social media to showcase our members, but we need your help on that!  See the Feature Friday article for more details on how you can get involved.

IRMA Showcases Illinois Retailers on social media with #Feature Friday

Mall photoWe are leveraging IRMA’s social media efforts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to give your business extra exposure while educating Illinoisans about the importance of the Illinois retail industry.

Each week we have Feature Friday (#FeatureFriday) where we are showcasing one IRMA retailer on our three social media pages. We’re highlighting significant milestones, store anniversaries, grand openings, accomplishments, recognitions, facts or any other interesting information you are willing to share about your business.  A pertinent picture from your business makes these posts complete and much more memorable!

Email news@irma.org to share your story, fun fact, interesting development, etc. and a picture. Once we have drafted the posts, we will be sure to get your stamp of approval. This won’t take more than a few minutes of your time. We greatly appreciate your participation.

Check out our social media pages to see some of our recent Feature Friday posts!

Twitter: @ILRetail

Facebook: Illinois Retail Merchants Association

Instagram: @ilretail

IRMA adds new team member

Alexia CesaroneThe Illinois Retail Merchants Association would like to welcome Alexia Cesarone to our staff! Starting in late March, Alexia will serve as the manager of member relations based in IRMA’s Chicago office.

Alexia comes to IRMA from the Northstar Lottery Group where she served as a corporate affairs specialist. In that role, Alexia specialized in community outreach as well as internal and external communications.  She also created and implemented an internship program.

Alexia is a graduate of Purdue University.  She currently resides in Geneva with her husband, Nick.

IRMA, law enforcement officials team up in the fight against meth

rob nflexIRMA is helping law enforcement in their fight against meth. Partnering with Appriss, Inc., the company behind the National Precursor Log Exchange (NPLEx), free trainings for law enforcement are being conducted around the state. The trainings provide law enforcement the opportunity to learn about NPLEx and the many tools it contains that can significantly assist them in their efforts to control meth. Prior to each training, local media is given the opportunity to learn about the tools NPLEx provides and the significant impact it is having on blocking illegal purchases of pseudoephedrine. NPELx blocks the illegal purchases will allowing law-abiding citizens with legitimate needs to obtain the medicine they require.

 Save the Date: Business Day in Springfield

Business Day will be held in Springfield on Wednesday, May 6, 2015.  The luncheon starts at noon with keynote speech from Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner.

After the luncheon, visit the Illinois State Capitol to meet with policy makers.  At 5 p.m., the party under the tent will start near the IRMA office.  A formal invite and details will follow; we hope to see you there!

Full-tuition scholarships available to retail employee

Retail industry employees who want to boost their careers through higher education can apply for scholarships offered by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and the University of Phoenix School of Business. There are 20 full-tuition scholarships are available to retail employees through the Dream BIG Scholarship. Eligible applicants must reside in the United States and work full or part-time for a retail or restaurant company and meet additional criteria.

The stories shared by the hundreds of 2014 Dream BIG applicants demonstrate the fulfilling and challenging career paths available for retail professionals who work hard and want to move up in their organizations.

“Behind every great retail brand are great retail workers – truly the heart and soul of our industry and the fuel that keeps the fires going for hundreds of thousands of businesses throughout the country,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “Many of these individuals share a common goal to grow personally and professionally in the retail industry and we want to help them get there. The Dream BIG Scholarship is more than just an opportunity to earn a degree, it’s a chance to help people recognize their full potential and prosper in their career path.”

“The multi-faceted retail industry moves at a fast pace and needs professionals who can grow with their organizations,” said Ruth Veloria, executive dean for University of Phoenix School of Business. “The retail sector employs millions of Americans, and as technology and consumer preferences evolve, University of Phoenix is committed to preparing the next generation of retail leaders with education that is aligned to industry needs. The industry offers many diverse and rewarding career paths and the scholarship was created to help retail employees realize their full potential and meet evolving employer needs.”

Visit nrf.com/dreambig to apply and learn more about the program. Applications are being accepted through March 31, 2015.

Illinois retailers encouraged to push for new Marketplace Fairness Act

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) has once again joined forces with U.S. Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY) and an array of bi-partisan co-sponsors to try and level out the rules for brick-and-mortar retailers and their internet competitors when it comes to the collection of sales tax. This proposal mirrors the language that passed the U.S. Senate last year with nearly 70 votes only to stall in the U.S. House.

IRMA President and CEO Rob Karr encourages members of the Illinois retail industry to ask U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) to support the newly filed Marketplace Fairness Act of 2015 and sign-on as a co-sponsor. IRMA applauds Durbin for being a sponsor of the legislation and his continued support of the Illinois retail industry. “This act will help level the playing field for online retailers and brick-and-mortar stores,” said Karr. “What’s not fair is continuing to allow Internet sellers to avoid collecting and remitting the sales tax and the negative impact that has on local stores, their employees, and the Illinois economy.”

Since sales tax amounts to 10 percent in some areas, Main Street retailers report seeing more evidence of customers buying online to avoid paying tax. Many local retailers say they deal with “showrooming,” where consumers come to their stores to look at merchandise in person, then order it online. And some smartphone apps make it easier for shoppers to avoid paying sales tax by allowing them to scan product bar codes to see where they can buy items via the internet.

The National Retail Federation (NRF) strongly believes that the disparity in sales tax rules undermines not only Main Street retailers but also the communities they support. “The billions of dollars in lost sales tax is revenue badly needed by cash-strapped state and local governments to pay the salaries of essential workers such as police officers, firefighters, ambulance crews, and schoolteachers,” said Mike Cys, NRF’s VP of state and political affairs. “Those public workers are among retailers’ customers, and when customers lose their jobs retailers lose sales.  It’s time to pass sales tax fairness.”

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 .

robtanyaalec

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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Illinois This Week in Springfield – 99-05

IN THIS ISSUE:

HEROIN TASK FORCE UNVEILS LEGISLATION
SEA FOOD
SOCIAL MEDIA

This week in Springfield, both the House and Senate were in Session Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.  Floor action was limited as both Chambers focused primarily on progressing bills through committees before the looming committee deadline at the end of March.

Heroin Task Force Unveils Legislation to Address the Heroin Addiction,

Abuse and Overdose Epidemic in Illinois

A 39 member House Bipartisan Task Force was formed in response to the growing heroin epidemic among teens and young adults throughout the state of Illinois. The task force convened hearings throughout Illinois to better understand the problems and solutions of heroine abuse.  The task force heard testimony from treatment centers, addicts, law enforcement, doctors, and coroners on heroin abuse and its correlation to prescription drug abuse.

Subsequent to these hearings, a select few members of the committee developed, drafted and filed HB 1, which is being touted as a “comprehensive” solution to the heroin abuse epidemic in Illinois.  The comprehensive solution includes but is not limited to significant and costly pharmacy mandates; prescription mandates resulting in potential Medicaid costs; insurance mandates; coroner reporting requirements; dispensation of an opioid antagonists to first responders, family members of addicts, and school officials; heroin conviction and sentencing guidelines; and the development of an opiate drug prevention program for schools.  At the press conference announcing the proposal, Rep. Lou Lang (D-Chicago), Chairman of the Task Force, estimated the cost of the legislation will be approximately $25 million.

Of most importance to retail is the unfunded drug collection mandate upon pharmacies. This mandate requires all pharmacies in Illinois to serve as a take-back location for controlled substances and prescription and over-the-counter medicines.  This would require every pharmacy to abide by recent cost prohibitive U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”) regulations that impose various registration, receptacle, security, and recordkeeping requirements on a pharmacy that chooses to be a drug take-back location. It is important to emphasize the DEA only changed their rules to allow pharmacies to serve as drug take-back locations. The DEA did not mandate that they do so. HB 1, however, does require all pharmacies to be drug take-back locations subject to DEA rules. In drafting its rules, the DEA acknowledged there is a cost to entities that choose to provide these methods of collection and destruction. The DEA acknowledged that some of the costs could be offset by funding and support from States, local governments, and private companies that are involved with pharmaceuticals.  Unfortunately, HB 1 does not contain a funding mechanism and requires pharmacies, and only pharmacies, to bear the burden of all costs associated with the program including but not limited to receptacles, collection,

disposal, transportation, sorting, logging, DEA liability, fines and security measures associated with the program. There are additional requirements that affect numerous industries and state and local agencies. The sponsors have indicated a willingness to dialogue on the proposal. IRMA shares the concerns of the sponsors regarding the heroin problem in Illinois and realizes that this problem may only be solved through a shared responsibility approach that includes all industries, State and local agencies that are involved with pharmaceuticals, drug rehabilitation and substance abuse. IRMA looks forward to working with the sponsors to ensure an equitable solution is developed.

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Seafood Labeling

This week the House Committee on Consumer Protection considered testimony on the seafood labeling bill, HB 133 Amendment #1 (Rep. Andre Thapedi, D-Chicago).  The bill, which essentially duplicates the federal Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) law, was originally held in committee, in part, because it referred to the common name of the fish instead of the market name as is noted in federal law.  It also included processed fish which is not included in the COOL regulations.  In the interim, IRMA spoke with the sponsor regarding our specific concern about the inclusion of processed fish and our overall concern that such matters of interstate commerce are already being appropriately addressed by the federal government.  Determined to move the issue forward, the sponsor substituted some permanent members of the committee with temporary members in order to put the votes together to pass the bill.  The bill was then voted out of committee on a partisan vote and it will be sent to the House floor for additional consideration.  The bill could be heard by the full House as early as next week.  IRMA is working with the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association and the Illinois Farm Bureau to defeat this bill which is at best redundant and at worst a confusing, duplicative effort that would cause Illinois businesses to have two different labels for fresh and frozen seafood when the federal government makes changes to its labeling regulations. Duplicate labels will lead to confusion for consumers, higher compliance costs for businesses, and, as Illinois is a state with a large number of distribution centers, significantly increase the cost and complexity of distribution. IRMA would like to thank Representatives Norrine Hammond (R-Macomb), Thomas Bennett (R-Watseka), Avery Bourne (R-Litchfield), Peter Breen, (R-Lombard), Randy Frese (R-Quincy), David McSweeney (R-Lombard), and Grant Wehrli (R-Naperville) who voted against the proposal in committee.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Follow IRMA on the following social media outlets!
Twitter: @ILRetail
Facebook: Illinois Retail Merchants Association
Instagram: ILRetail

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CONTACT INFORMATION:

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