While there is consensus on a number of aspects of this important reform, such as agreement that Illinois’ high medical fee schedule must be adjusted, and acknowledgement that the system by which employers choose doctors must be reviewed, the most important – and controversial – issue has been “causation.” Currently, there is no requirement that a workers’ compensation injury be directly related to the workplace. Senate Bill 1349 would have required there be a nexus between the workplace and the injury for which an employee is compensated.
Senate Republicans say it is imperative Illinois overhaul the workers’ compensation system to lower employers’ premiums long-term, improve Illinois’ business climate and make the state a more desirable location to do business.
REPUBLICANS UNVEIL JOBS PLAN
Workers’ compensation reform was just one aspect of a 30-point plan Senate GOP lawmakers unveiled April 14 to revive the Illinois jobs climate, enhance economic development and generate new state revenues.
The plan seeks to immediately ease restrictions on job growth and attract businesses back to Illinois, many of which have been wary of establishing a presence due to the state’s recent income tax hike and other polices harmful to companies. In response, Republican senators have put forth a menu of proposals intended to stimulate job creation and business development.
In addition to workers’ compensation reform, other ideas include enacting a permanent Research and Development Tax Credit to boost their competitiveness, striving to make Illinois a leader in the areas of nanotechnology and green manufacturing, and imposing a moratorium on new healthcare mandates.
Support for agriculture – Illinois’ number one industry – also plays a prominent role in the Republican proposals, which call for protections of the sales tax exemption on agriculture purchases and renewed support for agriculture research. Streamlining government bureaucracy and easing businesses’ ability to obtain state permits is also key in turning the Illinois economy around.
Several Illinois business leaders, including the Illinois chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business and the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association have expressed their support for the Republican initiatives, saying it is imperative to begin a dialogue on how to restart Illinois’ sagging economy.
EDUCATION REFORM ADVANCES
Important education reform was unanimously approved by Senate lawmakers on April 14.
The culmination of months of negotiations between legislators, education advocates, teachers and school administrators was advanced in Senate Bill 630, which pushes changes that lawmakers say will improve the quality of education in schools, while saving taxpayer dollars.
The legislation outlines a number of performance-based initiatives that demand more accountability from educators and school administrators. The proposal would lessen the impact of a teachers’ strike through increased transparency and other requirements that will be required before a teachers union can strike; streamline the dismissal process of tenured teachers in situations related to conduct and performance; allow schools to place an emphasis on performance, rather than seniority, when considering teacher reductions; permit the Chicago School Board to increase the number of hours in the school day and the number school days in the year – and allow Chicago teachers to collectively bargain on these types of agreements; and allow good teachers to be acknowledged through accelerated tenure.
ROAD CONSTRUCTION UPDATES
The Illinois Department of Transportation has announced that, weather permitting; work is scheduled to begin May 2 for the rehabilitation of Interstate 74 beginning at the interchange with US Business 51 south of Bloomington and ending at the interchange at Downs.
This project will include eight miles of cold milling, patching, resurfacing, pavement striping and safety improvements.
The anticipated completion is October 10.
Motorists are advised to slow down and drive carefully through all work zones.
A reminder—it is illegal in Illinois for drivers to talk on their cell phones while driving through a highway construction zone or school zone. Drivers are also prohibited from writing, sending or reading text messages, instant messages and e-mail, as well as surfing the Web while driving.