Friday, 08 03, 2012
Governor Pat Quinn is calling lawmakers back to Springfield August 17 to act on reforms to Illinois’ state employee retirement systems, according to Senator Sam McCann.
Governor Quinn is calling lawmakers back to pass pension reforms to reduce the $83 billion in liabilities associated with the state retirement systems, but the outcome of the special session is uncertain. The Governor did not outline what reforms he’d like lawmakers to consider, although Governor Quinn has indicated in the past that he does not support “partial” pension reform.
A pension reform measure passed by the Senate (House Bill 1447) during the spring would impact only state employees and state lawmakers. The House of Representatives did not act on that measure before the General Assembly adjourned for the summer.
Because House Bill 1447 has an immediate effective date, it would require 71 votes—instead of the regular 60—to pass during the August 17 session. The Illinois Constitution requires a three-fifths majority to pass any bill with an immediate effective date that is considered after the May 31 regular session deadline.
Governor Quinn also continues to push a cost-shift proposal that would likely result in higher local property taxes for downstate and suburban homeowners. It would require local school districts and universities to pick up the costs of their instructors’ retirement plans. Republican lawmakers have opposed the proposal, noting that transferring pension obligations to the school districts will not save costs or reform the system, but simply shift costs from income taxes to property taxes.
Also during the week, the Governor made dramatic changes to a previously non-controversial bill intended to help Illinois businesses compete with out-of-state retailers and assist law-abiding gun owners.
In its original form, Senate Bill 681 would have allowed FOID card holders to mail-order ammunition purchases from in-state licensed firearm retailers and have the ammunition shipped to their homes. Ammunition purchases from out-of-state dealers are already allowed under the law. With the Governor’s changes, the bill would instead ban some semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.
Many lawmakers have spoken out against the Governor’s move, saying his actions could doom a business-friendly bill and noting the provisions of the ban are too broad. The ban would apply to a variety of firearms commonly used for hunting.
In other action, Illinois is now the second state to pass a law prohibiting employers from requesting or requiring workers to hand over their personal social networking account information.
House Bill 3782 prevents employers from requesting social account information, including passwords, in order to screen potential job candidates or reprimand current employees based on information from their social media accounts.
Signed by Governor Quinn August 1, the new law does not impact an employer’s ability to monitor use of social media during office hours, or when using company resources. As a result, employers will be able to control and enforce the company’s Internet policies, protecting the company from potential litigation sparked by an employee’s unauthorized actions or statements.
Illinois continues to face one of the worst droughts seen in recent years. In fact, 2012 is Illinois’ sixth-driest year on record.
Every segment of the state has been impacted by the dry, hot conditions. State assistance is available for farmers through agriculture loans including the Agri-Debt Restructuring Guarantee Program, Working Capital Guarantee Program, Agricultural Participation Loan Program, and Rural Development Loan Program.
Visit the Drought Response Task Force Web site to learn more and view applications for each program. Federal loan programs have also been made available through the USDA.
Other legislation signed into law during the week includes:
Ag Fees (SB 3292): Establishes that all fees collected by the Department of Agriculture at an animal disease laboratory must be deposited into the Illinois Department of Agriculture Laboratory Services Revolving Fund.
Ag Research Funding (HB 4447): Appropriates funds among public and private universities for food and agriculture research.
Child Support Payments (SB 2824): Brings state law into compliance with federal laws on child support distribution by prohibiting the Comptroller from deducting payments to the child Support Enforcement Trust Fund.
Corporate Officer Indemnification (SB 1127): States that the decision to indemnify a present or former director, officer, employee or corporate agent can only be made by a committee of directors who are not parties to the action, suit or proceeding. If all directors are parties to the action, then an independent legal counsel will determine whether to indemnify.
DCFS Hiring (SB 3517): Prohibits persons convicted of certain financial or fraud crimes from being hired by the Department of Children and Family Services, receiving a license, or being employed in a childcare facility.
Dental Assistant Supervision (SB 2941): Limits the number of dental assistants a dentist may supervise during certain procedures.
Disabilities (HB 3915): Changes the term “handicap” to “disability” in state statutes.
Elder Abuse Records (HB 5266): Expands the list of persons and agencies who have access to records that have been generated as the result of a report of elder abuse, neglect, financial exploitation or self-neglect investigations.
Elder Abuse Reporting (HB 3986): Allows the Department on Aging to receive reports of abuse through the Internet.
Elder Abuse Response (HB 5098): Requires that the curriculum for probationary police officers include a course in the recognition of elder abuse and neglect and crimes against the elderly.
Elderly Exploitation (HB 5653): Seeks to make it easier to prosecute cases involving financial exploitation of an elderly person or a person with a disability.
Financial Reports on the Web (SB 3508): Requires the Comptroller to post on the Internet all financial reports that are required to be submitted by governmental units, including counties and municipalities.
First-Time Offenders (SB 3423): Allows a first‐time offender charged with or convicted of possession of less than 15 grams of methamphetamine to receive treatment in a drug abuse program, rather than a prison term.
Healthcare Records (SB 3171): Brings state law into compliance with federal law with regard to the release a deceased individual’s health care records.
Health Care Sex Offense (SB 3137): Requires that the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation must be notified by the “prosecuting attorney” (instead of “state’s attorney”) when a licensed health care worker “has been “charged with” (instead of “committed”) certain sex crimes.
Landfill Owner (SB 2947): Clarifies that liability for waste operations extend to landfill owners, who must also post a security bond (insurance for reclamation).
Long-Term Care Initiative (SB 3690): Requires that when pursuing the state’s Medicaid initiative to transition long-term care from traditional institutionalized settings into community-based settings, the state must take into consideration the costs associated with medically compromised, frail older adults who need institutional care, as well as the costs associated with providing support services for higher functioning, less medically compromised older adults who are able to live independently in the community.
Nursing Facility Fines (SB 3499): Reduces litigation costs for the Illinois Department of Public Health and nursing home facilities by allowing the facilities to pay 65 percent of a violation fine, instead of requesting a hearing.
Nursing Home Dispute (HB 5134): Formalizes the currently informal dispute process that takes place between the Department of Public Health and nursing care facilities with regard to licensure and review.
Nursing Home Patients (HB 5009): Requires identification bracelets for nursing home patients to identify the nursing home’s telephone number.
Nursing Home Representatives (SB 3420): Allows owners of nursing homes to serve as a patient’s representative if they are related to the patient.
Powers of Attorney (SB 3204): Seeks to eliminate problems that often confront financial institutions, trust officers and legal representatives who are working with multiple powers of attorney.
Prepaid Tuition Program (HB 3923): States that investment meetings for the Illinois Prepaid Tuition Trust Fund are subject to the Open Meetings Act.
Public Benefit Corporations (SB 2897): Allows companies to form as “benefit corporations,” which are something of a hybrid between non-profits and corporations.
Safe Lifting (SB 680): Requires healthcare facilities to train nurses and resident care providers on safe-lifting policies and the proper techniques for operating lifting equipment.
School Construction Priority (SB 639): Expands the School Construction Program by adding rehabilitation to the “Priority List” categories.
Synthetic Drugs (HB 5233): Bans the sale of synthetic drugs like “bath salts.”
Trucking (SB 2579): Provides that the kingpin-to-rear-axle length restriction on Illinois highways does not apply to trailers or semi-trailers used for the transport of livestock.