State Laws You Should Know
Bill Ward, Executive Vice President, HBAI
Business & Labor Truly Disagree
Nothing in Springfield polarizes the two parties more than bills affecting the relationship between business and labor. Taxation, abortion rights, gun control, and environmental protection can all be brought to some degree of resolution before a “labor bill” will find agreement amongst Republicans & Democrats. The 2017 Spring Session of the Illinois General Assembly proved this to be true more than we’ve seen in a long, long time.
Governor Bruce Rauner proposed a budget in February that had $32.44 billion in revenue, and $37.16 in spending. He knew that this gap would require tax increases and was prepared to sign them if certain conditions were met. Those conditions included a property tax freeze, term limitations, and workers’ compensation reform. These were big conditions, no doubt. But this has been his platform since 2014.
And while major business groups and labor unions discussed work comp reform on a number of occasions this spring, nothing affecting “causation” ever came close to becoming a reality. State statute addressing what caused an injury, where it happened, and when it happened, is what affects the price of insuring workers the most. Illinois business need relief, Illinois workers want their protections.
Illinoisans watched for three years as a Republican Governor and Democratic House and Senate remained at odds over approving a state budget. There are several reasons for this, but the biggest roadblock to two-party harmony has to be the issue of causation.
To answer Governor Rauner’s plea for Worker’s Comp Reform, Democrats doubled-down with even more pro-labor bills that they knew would be vetoed, but offered up for consideration, anyway. At the very least, these bills show to all who are concerned, which legislators are with business, and which are with labor.
Here are the major bills that were considered this session. This information was compiled by Jay Shattuck, Executive Director of the Employment Law Council. HBAI thanks him for this information and for his efforts at the State Capitol.
SB1720 (Sen. Dan Biss/Rep. Lisa Hernandez (D-Chicago) increases criminal penalties for violation of the Wage Payment & Collection Act. It also bars contractors for 5 years from bidding on any state procurement by a business violating certain Illinois employment laws including the Employee Classification Act. The Governor vetoed this measure on August 25th. HBAI opposed the passage of SB1720 and will join a large business coaltion in opposing a Veto Override during the Fall Veto Session beginning October 24th.
HB2525 sponsored by Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Swansea)/Senator Kwami Raul (D-Chicago), was promoted by the House & Senate Democrats as workers’ compensation reform. It is far from it. Codification of current bad case law for “causation” and “traveling employee” merely locks employers into court-expanded liability. In addition, it prevents employers from being able to achieve a change in the case law from future courts. Some benefit relief was included but is far outweighed by increased regulation and litigation that are contained in this measure. The Governor Vetoed this bill on August 25th. No Republicans voted for this bill in the House, 64 Democrats voted yes. There is no motion filed to override the veto.
HB2462 sponsored by Rep. Anna Moeller (D-Elgin)/Senator Biss amends the Equal Pay Act. The bill prohibits an employer from: (i) screening job applicants based on their wage or salary history, (ii) requiring that an applicant’s prior wages satisfy minimum or maximum criteria, and (iii) requesting or requiring as a condition of being interviewed or as a condition of continuing to be considered for an offer of employment that an applicant disclose prior wages or salary.
HB2462 prohibits an employer from seeking the salary, including benefits or other compensation or salary history, of a job applicant from any current or former employer. Expanded civil penalties, including punitive damage, and injunctive relief, made us ask if this bill was about limiting what employers can ask, or if it is a bill to increase litigation opportunities and judicial awards against employers. The Governor vetoed this bill on August 25th. In his veto message, the Governor recommended that the General Assembly consider Massachusetts state statute that was offered by Rep. Norine Hammond (R-Macomb) in HB2094. A similar amendment was filed in the Senate by Senator Mike Connelly (R-Lisle).
Sustaining this veto will be difficult as 25 House Republicans joined 66 Democrats to pass the measure last April. 60 votes were needed for passage and 71 will be needed to override the total veto. One Republican voted for the bill in the Senate, Senator Sam McCann (Carlinville). The Senate is veto-proof meaning that there are enough Democrats in the Senate to override any veto by the Governor. HBAI opposed passage of HB2462 this spring and will work to sustain the veto in the fall session.
HB2622 (Fine/Biss) uses employer and insurer tax dollars to capitalize the creation of a state established, mutual insurance company to compete with the 300 insurers that already provide workers’ compensation coverage. The $10 million startup money comes from funds currently used to operate the Workers’ Compensation Commission. The funds are a loan that must be paid back with interest. This sweep of funds from the commission would jeopardize the entire adjudication of workers’ compensation of injured workers as well as employers. The Governor vetoed this legislation on August 18th. No motion for an override is expected.
SB81, sponsored by Senator Kim Lightford (D-Maywood)/Rep. Will Guzzardi (D-Chicago) increases the minimum wage for an employee who is 18 or older, or under 18 but has worked more than 650 hours of the calendar year: $9 per hour in 2018; $10 per hour in 2019; $11.25 per hour in 2020; $13 per hour in 2021; and $12 per hour on and after January 1, 2022. The bill also contained a convoluted credit against the withholding tax liability of employers with 50 or fewer employees, calculated based on the increase in minimum wage. The Governor vetoed the bill on August 25th.
SB81 received only the minimum number of votes required for passage in the Senate (30), and a motion to override is not foreseen.
The sadness to all of this was the amount of time, effort, and money spent by all to insure nothing but a voting record for the 2018 legislative and executive races. No job got created, no worker got better protection; just another stalemate in Springfield.