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Legislative update 7.10.15

7/10/2015

The issue of paying state employees, despite the lack of a FY 16 budget, took center stage this week, with the courts deciding in favor of our union coalition and a worker-friendly amendment being filed in the Illinois House. By contrast, the Governor continued his attack on everyday men and women and introduced a 500-page pension reform bill that slashes benefits for teachers, police officers, and firefighters and includes non-budget related, anti-worker measures.


Here is an update of legislative highlights from this week:

House passes emergency budget to pay state employees
The House passed SB 2040, legislation that provides for an emergency, one-month budget to fund $2.2 billion in essential state services. The bill was amended to include a provision to pay state employee salaries until August 1. Every Democrat supported the bill, but not a single Republican voted yes. SB 2040 now goes to the Senate for concurrence. A Senate vote is expected on July 15. If it passes, the Governor has vowed to veto the bill.

Unions prevail in court, but appeal is expected
A labor coalition that includes the IFT and 12 other unions representing state workers filed suit last week to ensure that these employees will be paid on time and in full, despite the budget impasse. This week, a judge agreed with the unions and issued an order requiring the Comptroller to pay all state workers. The Attorney General is expected to appeal the ruling.
 
A Cook County judge previously ruled that the Comptroller could only pay employees who are covered under federal minimum wage laws. That decision was appealed. This week, the court issued a stay to prevent any employee from being paid until the court considers that appeal. This issue may eventually be decided by the Supreme Court.

House committee discusses workers’ compensation
The House Labor Committee held a hearing to discuss a report by the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission (IWCC). According to the IWCC, insurers report a 19 percent decrease in benefit payments in the last four years. The IWCC report also cites a study showing that Illinois saw the largest savings on workers’ compensation insurance and the largest decrease in medical payments per claim. The director of the commission declined an invitation to testify.

Back pay for state employees’ moves to the House
SB2038, sponsored by Sen. Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill), would finally pay off back wages owed to some state employees since 2011. A portion of these back wages was appropriated by the legislature last year, but about $60 million is still owed to the employees, including IFT members in the Illinois Federation of Public Employees, Local 4408. The bill unanimously passed the House Executive Committee and now moves to the full House.

A look ahead
The Senate will return on July 14, and the House will convene on July 15. The House Personnel and Pensions Committee will discuss the Governor’s pension-cutting bill; the House Elementary & Secondary Education: School Curriculum & Policies Committee will discuss several resolutions, including one about caps on the time spent on testing.

Watch Under the Dome for updates.


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