This week in Springfield the House concentrated on committee work.
HB 3136 Amendment #1 (Rep. Robert Pritchard, R-Sycamore) attempted to raise the gas tax from the current 19 cents per gallon to 29 cents per gallon beginning January 1, 2018. Illinois has not increased the gas tax since 1990, and some have argued that an increase is needed in order to help build and repair roads and bridges. On the other hand, raising gas taxes has come under fire because it is questionable whether all of the funding actually goes to improving infrastructure. Additionally, it has a negative impact on gas stations near the borders as well as on consumers. Considering the significant tax increases that Illinois businesses and consumers are likely to see as a result of the current state of the budget, IRMA was opposed to the measure. The bill was called for a vote in the Transportation: Regulation, Roads and Bridges Committee and failed on a vote of 2-9-0.
HB 494 Amendment #3 (Rep. Barbara Wheeler, R-Crystal Lake) would allow a person that is at least 18 years old to consume beer and wine at a restaurant if the person is with a parent, step-parent, grandparent or legal guardian. Alcoholic liquor must not be the principal business carried out on the premises. Restaurants can still refuse to serve persons under 21 years old.
The House Labor and Commerce Committee passed HB 2622 (Rep. Laura Fine, D-Glenview) that would take $10 million in employer money from the Workers’ Compensation Commission Operations Fund to create a state-run Illinois Employers Mutual Insurance Company to compete with the over 300 Illinois’ private insurers. Illinois changed its workers’ compensation system in 2011, limiting payments for carpal tunnel syndrome and for employees who can still work but whose injuries force them into lower-paying jobs. There was also a 30 percent cut to payments for doctors, hospitals and pharmacies treating those injured on the job. As a result, Illinois experienced a 13 percent decline in workers’ compensation medical costs between 2010 and 2014.
Despite these changes, Illinois insurers and self-insured companies paid an estimated $2.75 billion in workers’ comp benefits in 2014, according to the National Academy of Social Insurance. By contrast, employers in Indiana paid an estimated $589.2 million. Additionally, Illinois’ employers pay $2.23 for every $100 in payroll, while those in Indiana pay $1.05—the national median is $1.84. Today, Illinois is tied for having the eighth-most expensive premiums in the nation. The proponents of HB 2622 argue that workers’ compensation costs are still high for companies because insurance companies have not passed on the savings realized from the 2011 changes. They argue that in 2015, 332 insurance companies underwrote workers’ comp policies in Illinois, more than in any other state, collecting $2.83 billion in premiums. In 2010, insurers reported losses of nearly 11 percent; four years later, they reported the same in profits. The insurance companies contend that while the 2011 changes likely decreased the insurers’ losses, insurers in Illinois only averaged 6.1 percent profit annually between 2011 and 2014.
HB 2622 passed the House Labor and Commerce Committee with a partisan vote of 17-10.
ORDER OF PROTECTION REASONABLE ACCOMMODATION MANDATE
HB 647 (Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, D-Aurora) would require a retailer to provide a reasonable accommodation for any employee that has an order of protection against a violent individual. This reasonable accommodation includes changing the employee’s email address, telephone number, screening the telephone calls, restructuring the job functions, changing the work location, installing locks and other security devices, and allowing the employee to work flexible hours.
Retailers do not have locked gates, security checkpoints or any other measure that deters customers from entering their stores. Retailers want to encourage consumer interaction. Additionally, some retailers are open 24-7 to accommodate the public. Very few, if any, retail associates have their own work emails or work phone numbers. Moreover, retailers cannot ask a greeter to become a cashier, or the barista to work in the sports section, or the cosmetic clerk to work in the technology center, or the hostess to become a cook, or the cashier to work in the pharmacy. Even if this were possible, this “restructuring” would move the employee no more than a couple hundred feet from their original job function in a space that is open to the public.
Consequently, a retailer would not be able to provide the reasonable accommodations required under this legislation.
Mark your calendars! IRMA’s annual lobby day at the Capitol will take place on April 26, 2017. We are having the event a week earlier this year to ensure that members are in Springfield when both houses are in session. Our featured speaker at the luncheon will be Matthew Dowd. Most people will recognize Mr. Dowd from his work as a Special Correspondent and Analyst for ABC News where he regularly appears on their headlining shows, Good Morning America, Nightline and This Week. In addition, he contributes material for the New York Times, the Washington Post and the National Journal, among other publications. Mr. Dowd has had a long, distinguished career as a political strategist, working on over 100 political campaigns, and is the co-author of the New York Times Bestselling Book: Applebee’s America: How Successful Political, Business, and Religious Leaders Connect with the New American Community.
We hope that you will make plans to join us for what we know will be an engaging conversation not only on politics from a national perspective, but also emerging economic, spiritual and social trends that are influencing today’s political discourse. After we break for a day of lobbying at the Capitol, be sure to come back and join us as we get Thunderstruck at our annual Party Under the Tent. This year we will rock out to the tunes of an AC/DC tribute band. Don’t let Business Day happen without you. Reserve your space now.