May 8, 2015
Pension Reform, Workers’ Comp, Upcoming Hearings
Movement has certainly increased at the Capitol, although several hearings were either subject matter only, and one was a House committee of the whole.
The Illinois Supreme Court today stuck down the vitally important pension reform law was signed into law in late 2013. Unions sued, saying pension benefits were part of a contract that couldn’t be altered. In the opinion, GOP Justice Lloyd Karmeier wrote, “Crisis is not an excuse to abandon the rule of law. It is a summons to defend it.” The Chamber is disappointed with the decision and hopes the legislature will find another way to tackle the financial behemoth that is pension costs.
Gov. Rauner’s proposal for pension reform, as part of his budget proposal, now takes center stage as a way to handle the problem. While it doesn’t save as much as this previous law that was just struck down, it would save the state a great deal of money and should pass constitutional muster despite the court’s suggestion that nothing can change.
The Chamber will be pressing lawmakers as they return for the final few weeks of session to make pension reform a priority, because Illinois finances cannot be fixed if pension costs are left unaddressed.
House Speaker Michael Madigan called a committee of the whole for Tuesday that featured an eight-hour session on workers’ compensation. The Chamber and eight other employer organizations held a news conference shortly before the committee’s meeting encouraging workers’ compensation reform. The House is holding a committee of the whole hearing on the issue, but only one representative of employers was asked to testify. So this news conference offered explanations on how reform would improve the system and create a more business-friendly environment.
Civil Justice Reform
Speaker Madigan has called for another committee of the whole for the purpose of considering civil justice reform. This committee is scheduled for Tuesday, May 12.
Other Key Bills
- HB 3887 (Wheeler) passed out of the Senate Commerce and Economic Development Committee yesterday. The bill requires state agencies to conduct a review of their regulations, paperwork and rules on small business and recommend/make changes to be less costly and burdensome. The first review is due within a year with a regular review every five years there after. The Chamber supports.
- The Senate Environment Committee passed HB 3341 (Tryon/McConnaughay), an Illinois Chamber initiative to make the Illinois Clean Air Act Permit Program fully consistent with Title V in the federal Clean Air Act and with the Illinois Nonattainment New Source Review regulations which excludes internal combustion engines used for transportation purposes, nonroad engines, and nonroad vehicles from the definition of “stationary source” and thus the operating permits and other requirements.
- The Senate Environment Committee held a subject matter hearing on another Illinois Chamber initiative, SB 1672. The bill would level the playing field for Illinois businesses by establishing a state run process for companies seeking Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) air permits from the Illinois EPA for the construction of certain new or expanded plant operations. A meeting of stakeholders is scheduled Tuesday and the committee could vote on the measure next week.
- HB 235 (T. Cullerton/Fine) passed the Senate Insurance Committee. The bill, as amended, mandates coverage for dental anesthetics to a covered individual in a dental office, oral surgeon office, hospital or ambulatory surgical treatment center if they are under age 19 and diagnosed with autism or a developmental disability. The amendment also requires two visits to a dental care provider prior to accessing other coverage. The amendment was negotiated between representatives from the dental industry, business industry, and insurance industry. The Chamber is neutral.
- House Speaker Michael Madigan introduced and called amendments to HB 4141 today. Amendment #1 contained the governor’s approximate introduced budget amounts for the human services agencies. The amendment was kicked directly to the floor and failed with no members voting yes, 67 members voting no and 45 present votes. Amendments 2-16 reverse the cuts Gov. Rauner has called for in his human services budget. Amendments 2-9 were called and passed along party lines with most GOP lawmakers casting “present” votes. Although the amendments were adopted, the bill was not called for a vote and remains in the House on 2nd reading.
- SB 54 (McAuliffe/Mulroe) passed House Human Services Committee this morning. The bill makes 3D mammography coverage permissive under Illinois law. Amendment #1 was tabled and not considered in committee.
- The Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee held a subject matter hearing on three major energy policy bills.
- SB 1485 is a proposal from the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition that changes and expands the state’s energy efficiency and renewable energy goals, and sets up a cap and invest program run by the Illinois EPA to comply with the federal Clean Air Act rules that are scheduled to be final this summer.
- SB 1879, supported by ComEd, would construct microgrids, develop community solar projects, allow for the construction of 5,000 electric vehicle charging stations, expand energy efficiency offering including voltage optimization, provide $50 million in customer assistance, make changes to the RPS and propose a new rate structure in which residential customers’ bills would be based on their peak demand rather than overall consumption.
- SB 1585 establshes a Low Carbon Portfolio Standard and is described as a market-based solution that could help prevent the closure f three of the state’s nuclear generating units owned by Exelon.
The House Energy Committee held a subject matter heating on HB 2607, also a proposal by the Clean Jobs Coalition.
Langham Brief: Think Asia, Think Hong Kong
You are invited to attend the next Langham Brief program, entitled Think Asia, Think Hong Kong Thurs., May 14 in Chicago. The program will examine Hong Kong as Asia’s central business district and the global gateway to China. Hear from industry experts as they discuss how U.S. companies can use the Hong Kong advantage as a business platform to diversify their business to Asia, and meet potential partners or investors in a strategic, effective and efficient way.
Chamber Annual Meeting
The Illinois Chamber is holding its 2015 Annual Meeting and Luncheon Tues., July 15 at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago. The keynote speaker is Tyson Foods President and CEO Donnie Smith. For more information and to register, go to the Chamber’s event webpage.
Illinois Business Leader
The new issue of the Illinois Business Leader, the Chamber’s magazine, is out! This is the second issue, and features articles on cybersecurity and data breach. Each member business will get a hard copy in the mail, and every member has access to the online version with the existing password.
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