Illinois Senate Week in Review April 11-15
Bills including issues of cemetery regulation, early release, Internet exploitation and newborn screening advance to the House.
Illinois Senate lawmakers spent the week working to meet an April 15 deadline to move all Senate bills to the House, said state Sen. Ron Sandack (R-21st).
A workers’ compensation measure failed to advance after almost every Democrat senator voted “present” or “no.”
Illinois has one of the highest workers’ compensation rates in the country—three times more than those in Indiana and twice as expensive as Missouri’s rates—and many Republicans consider workers’ compensation reform to be the most important issue of the spring legislative session, Sandack said.
Senate Bill 1349 stalled in the Senate. While there is consensus on a number of aspects of the reform, such as adjustment to Illinois’ high medical fee schedule and acknowledgement that the system by which employers choose doctors must be reviewed, Sandack said 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. The bill would have required there be a nexus between the workplace and the injury for which an employee is compensated.
Workers’ compensation reform was one aspect of a 30-point plan Senate GOP lawmakers unveiled last week to revive the Illinois jobs climate. Other ideas include enacting a permanent research and development tax credit to boost competitiveness in the areas of nanotechnology and green manufacturing, and imposing a moratorium on new healthcare mandates.
Support for agriculture also plays a prominent role in the Republican proposals, which call for protection of the sales tax exemption on agriculture purchases and renewed support for agriculture research. Easing businesses’ ability to obtain state permits is also key, Sandack said.
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 lawmakers say will improve the quality of education in Illinois schools while saving taxpayer dollars.
The legislation outlines a number of performance-based initiatives that demand more accountability from educators and school administrators. Included in the proposal are provisions to 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 (Chicago teachers would be able to collectively bargain on these types of agreements); and allow for good teachers to be acknowledged through accelerated tenure.
Bills Approved by the Senate Last Week
Business Creation (SB 2082): Requires Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to issue a quarterly report to the Commerce Committee that includes the number of new businesses incorporating in Illinois, the number of businesses not seeking renewal of their registration or having lapsed registration in Illinois, and the number of businesses renewing registrations in Illinois.
Cemetery Regulation (SB 1853): Reduces burdensome regulations on cemeteries by the 2010 Cemetery Oversight Act, which was developed in response to the criminal acts that took place at Burr Oak Cemetery.
Child Luring (SB 1038): Requires a person convicted of child luring to undergo a sex offender evaluation, and increases the severity of the offense if the person has a prior sex conviction.
Child Support (SB 1827): Removes the authority of Healthcare and Family Services to enforce and collect interest on support obligations and places the authority in the circuit courts.
Consumer Education (SB 1396): Requires the Illinois Commerce Commission to direct the Office of Retail Market Development to review the existing consumer education information for residential and small commercial customers, and consider whether updates are necessary.
Currency Exchange (SB 87): Advances a number of fee increases relating to the currency exchange profession.
Early Release Notice (SB 1338): Requires the Department of Corrections to establish a procedure and submit a report to the General Assembly on how they would notify the sheriff of the county where an inmate was prosecuted of that inmate’s early release 14 days prior to the release.
EPA Compliance Agreements (SB 1357): Requires the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to provide companies with notice that certain violations cannot be resolved without the involvement of the Office of the Attorney General or State’s Attorney in the county where the alleged violation occurred.
Film Tax Credit (SB 1286): Adds talk shows, reality shows and animated productions to the list of projects eligible for the state’s film production tax credit.
Fracking (SB 664): Directs the Department of Natural Resources to adopt new regulations and restrictions on owners and operators that use hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” which involves blasting underground rock with a cocktail of water, sand and chemicals to extract natural gas.
Good Time Credit (SB 1341): Stipulates that good time credit does not apply until an inmate serves at least 60 days in the custody of the Department of Corrections.
Healthcare Sex Offenders (SB1762): Revokes the license of a healthcare worker who has been convicted of a sex crime.
Health Records (SB 1234): Allows state agencies, including DOC, county jails, insurance companies and integrated health systems to disclose records of a recipient without the recipient's consent to hospitals, physicians, therapists, emergency medical personnel and members of an interdisciplinary team treating a recipient if the recipient is in a program administered or operated by the Department of Health and Family Services and the Department of Human Services.
Home Appraisals (SB 1539): Seeks to ensure that prospective borrowers, home buyers and home sellers receive fair, impartial and accurate home appraisals by stipulating that beginning Jan. 1, 2012, it is unlawful for a person or entity to act or assume to act as an appraisal management company.
Human Trafficking (SB 1037): Allows victims of human trafficking to file a motion requesting a court to vacate a prior misdemeanor and first offender felony prostitution convictions.
Internet Exploitation (SB 1035): Allows for the issuance of a subpoena to Internet providers (rather than a search warrant or subpoena of persons and documents through a grand jury) for the investigation of offenses involving the sexual exploitation of children. It establishes that the offenses of child pornography and aggravated child pornography require mandatory consecutive sentences.
Judicial Information (SB 63): Prohibits the Board of Elections from publishing the home addresses of judges or judicial candidates on its Web site.
MGT Notification (Senate Bill 1338): Requires DOC to establish uniform procedures to provide the county sheriff where the prosecution took place and the governor with 14-day advance notice that an offender is to be released.
MGT Reporting (Senate Bill 1562): Requires that DOC report Meritorious Good Time credit-related information monthly to the Governor’s Office and annually to the General Assembly.
Minimum Time Served for MGT Release (SB 1341): Requires that an inmate must serve a minimum of 60 days in prison before the director of corrections may award them good conduct credit for meritorious service.
Newborn Screenings (SB 1761): Requires that newborns be tested for hurlers and hunters disease and severe combined immunodeficiency syndrome.
Parole Rehearing (SB 1470): Allows the Prisoner Review Board, after denying parole, to schedule a rehearing no later than five (rather than three) years from the date of parole denial if it is not reasonable to expect an inmate's parole be granted prior to the scheduled rehearing date.
PSA Ethics (SB 1344): Prohibits the use of a proper name, image or voice of a state executive branch constitutional officer or legislator from being used in a public service announcement displayed on a billboard or electronic message board for a state administered program.
Public Aid (SB 1236): Requires DHS to establish a new scale for child care co-payments to establish that child care will now be based on family size and income only, not on the number of children in care or the amount of services they use. Allows DHS to waive co-payments for families whose incomes are at or below the federal poverty level.
Respectful Language (SB 1833): Advances respectful language legislation to eliminate the term "mentally retarded" and other similar terms from statute.
Sex Offender Registration (SB 1040): Attempts to bring Illinois closer to compliance with the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, known as the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006, by providing for a re-tiering or re-classification of sex offender registration.
Tax Credit (SB 1149): Provides incentives for employers to locate jobs in Illinois by allowing Illinois employers to use the withholding tax from newly created jobs to help supplement the wages paid to workers, if the wages paid to employees in these new positions are above average and the employer offers health insurance to employees.
Trespassing (SB 1554): Exempts civilian employees of the sheriff's department, licensed private detectives and registered employees of a private detective agency from criminal trespass in the serving process.
Utility Opt In (SB 1533): Allows the MidAmerican Utility Company to opt into the ComEd and Ameren type power purchase plans at the Illinois Power Agency, but this only takes effect when and if the utility chooses it.
Veteran-owned Businesses (SB 1270): Creates a 3 percent set-aside each year of the state’s total expenditures for contracts to be awarded to veteran-owned small business.
Victim Information Release (SB 1471): Prohibits the Prisoner Review Board from releasing information about victims and victims’ families who have filed parole objections in preparation for parole hearing.
Workers’ Compensation (SB 1147): Excludes workers’ compensation coverage for an employee who is convicted of committing a forcible felony, aggravated DUI or reckless homicide that results in an injury and which did not arise out of the course of employment. This bill was introduced in response to a situation where a state trooper sought workers’ compensation benefits after an accident in which he drove his squad car 126 mph during heavy traffic and lost control of the vehicle, killing two young women and injuring two other individuals and himself.