WORKERS’ COMP COMMITTEE MEETS DECEMBER 8
The Senate Workers’ Compensation Reform Committee, co-chaired by Senate President John Cullerton of Chicago and Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno of Lemont, met in Chicago during the week. The committee was established in November to review Illinois’ workers’ compensation practices.
On December 8, the committee heard testimony from business and labor leaders, and representatives of the legal community, with the goal of developing reforms that decrease the cost of workers’ comp for employers while maintaining and improving protections for workers injured on the job. The committee’s recommendations are to be presented to the Legislature by January 3, 2011.
Senate Republicans have been pushing for workers’ compensation reforms to make Illinois more competitive. Testimony was presented December 8 that showed that Illinois’ workers’ compensation regulations are the most costly when compared to surrounding states and other large states like California and Texas, which impedes job creation.
MEDICAID REFORMS COMMITTEE SET FOR DECEMBER 14
A hearing about reforming the state’s Medicaid system is scheduled for 10:30 a.m., December 14, in Chicago.
Medicaid reform has been discussed for years, and several studies have been conducted on the issue. The research generated a number of legislative proposals to restructure Medicaid, but no significant action has been taken to reduce the overwhelming financial burden of the program.
EDUCATION REFORM COMMITTEE CREATED
A third committee, the Education Reform Committee, was also formed during the week.
Senator Kim Lightford of Maywood and Senator Brad Burzynski of Rochelle will serve as co-chairs, and Senator Ed Maloney of Chicago and Senator Dave Luechtefeld of Okawville will serve as members.
SALE OF THOMSON PRISON COULD HIT A SNAG
In other news, a plan by state officials to sell the Thomson Correctional Center in northwestern Illinois at public auction December 21 could hit a snag if the federal government does not come up with enough money.
An amount that had been proposed by the Obama Administration earlier this year for the purchase of the Thomson prison was already about $50 million short of the state’s appraised value of $219.9 million, and state law forbids selling a facility at less than its appraised value. Then on December 8, the United States House of Representatives approved just $95 million for the purchase of the prison.
The media is reporting that Illinois Senator Dick Durbin is trying to get more money for the sale in a spending bill that could be voted on by Congress this month.
Although an initial plan to move detainees from Guantanamo Bay to Thomson was dropped because of controversy and protest, the Federal Bureau of Prisons has expressed interest in buying the vacant facility to ease overcrowding in its system. Opponents of the sale say Illinois could use the extra room at Thomson to ease overcrowding in the state prison system.
GAMING INCREASE FACES CHALLENGES
A major expansion of gaming passed in the second week of the fall veto session may still face challenges from the House of Representatives and the Governor.
Senate Bill 737 passed the Senate Dec. 1 and advanced to the House. It would allow for a Chicago casino, four new riverboats, slot machines at Illinois’ six racetracks, and increase the cap on positions at current boats.
Opponents say the expansion is too big and some lawmakers expressed concerns that additional casinos would drain revenues from existing casinos. Others noted that a gaming expansion is not a dependable source of revenue.
Proponents said the expansion would create much-need revenues, while bringing both construction jobs and permanent positions to the state.
The House is expected to consider the bill in early January before the new, two-year 97th General Assembly convenes and members are sworn in January 12, 2011. In its current form, the bill is unlikely to pass in the House. Whatever form it takes, the bill could still face opposition by the Governor, who says he doesn’t favor making Illinois the Las Vegas of the Midwest.