Workers’ compensation reform, school funding fairness, and redistricting reform were among the state policy issues in the news during the past week.
A recent ruling by the Illinois Supreme Court highlights the state’s failing workers’ compensation system and the need for legislative reforms. Employers won a small victory from the state’s Supreme Court in December, which clarified the law in regards to workers who suffer injuries while traveling.
Before the Supreme Court ruling (http://www.senategop.state.il.us/Portals/0/Docs/Supreme-Court-Case.pdf), State Sen. Kyle McCarter (R-Lebanon) introduced Senate Bill 2622 limiting compensation to injuries sustained while an employee is actively involved in the duties of the job and clarifying a range of issues that have developed in recent cases, including the “traveling employee” question which the high court took up.
Senate Bill 2622 is the first of a series of major reforms that also includes Senate Bills 2623, 2624, 2625 and 2626. The chief measure in the package is Senate Bill 2624, an omnibus bill with Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont) as the lead sponsor. It incorporates several major reforms designed to address issues identified both in a major report from the Illinois Chamber of Commerce (http://www.senategop.state.il.us/Portals/0/Docs/IL%20Chamber%20WC%20Judicial%20Activism%20Report.pdf) and in a 2012 report to legislative leaders (http://www.senategop.state.il.us/Portals/0/Docs/Workers-Compensation-analysis-and-recommendations-4-12.pdf) from Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. Read More at http://www.senategop.state.il.us/News/NewsDetails/tabid/120/nid/744/r/4/Default.aspx.
No Solution Yet on School Funding Inequity
A special Senate Committee formed last year to review inequities in school funding held their latest meeting Jan. 13 in the southwestern Illinois community of Waterloo.
The committee, formed in response to a Senate Republican report (http://senategop.state.il.us/Portals/0/Docs/Cost-Shift-FINAL.pdf) last year that revealed major problems with the way schools in Illinois are funded, has held several hearings across the state. But, as the 2014 legislative session gets underway, neither legislation nor a consensus of how to address the problem has emerged from the committee.
“Education funding in Illinois needs serious reforms to create a system that treats all of our children fairly, regardless of where they attend school,” said State Sen. Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington), a member of the committee. “I’m hopeful these hearings and the light we’ve shined on the issue will help us accomplish that goal.” Read More at http://www.senategop.state.il.us/News/NewsDetails/tabid/120/nid/745/r/1/Default.aspx.
Redistricting: ‘The Not-So-Silent Killer of Democracy’
The Daily Herald newspaper has dubbed partisan redistricting “the not-so-silent killer of democracy in Illinois for more than a century.”
Redistricting has become a political tool by those in power to entrench their power. After each census, the state is charged with redrawing the legislative boundaries for Senate and House of Representative districts.
In a recent series, the Daily Herald highlighted the redistricting process in Iowa and described the stark differences between its system and the one in Illinois. Read more at http://www.senategop.state.il.us/News/NewsDetails/tabid/120/nid/746/r/1/Default.aspx.
More Moving Out than In
More residents are packing up and leaving the Land of Lincoln than are moving in—that’s the conclusion of two recently released migration studies conducted by two well-known national moving companies.
United Van Lines (http://www.unitedvanlines.com/mover/united-newsroom/press-releases/2014/2013-united-van-lines-migration-study.htm) placed Illinois at number 2 on its list of top “Outbound” states for 2013; only New Jersey rated above Illinois on the United Van Lines list. United Van Lines has been tracking national state-to-state migration trends, based on its household moves for nearly four decades, grouping states into categories of “Outbound,” “Inbound” and “Balanced” based on whether the majority (55%) of moves are out-of-state or in-state.
Meanwhile, Atlas Van Lines (http://www.atlasvanlines.com/migration-patterns/) also lists Illinois among its list of Outbound states, which includes states that have more than 55 percent of their total shipments moving out of the state. According to Atlas, Illinois has consistently experienced a greater number of out-bound moves than in-bound moves for the past eight years. Based on company statistics, Illinois would rate number 8 with 57.4 percent of moves out-of-state.
One-Third of Illinois Homes “Deeply Underwater”
A report released by RealtyTrac (http://www.realtytrac.com/content/foreclosure-market-report/us-home-equity-and-underwater-report-december-2013-7959) says almost one-third of Illinois homes are “deeply underwater.” The organization, based in Irvine, California, said only Nevada and Florida fare worse than Illinois.
The report, which used data from December 2013, defined “deeply underwater” to mean that the loan to value ratio of a home is 125 percent or above, meaning the homeowner owes at least 25 percent more than the estimated market value of the property. Read more at http://www.senategop.state.il.us/News/NewsDetails/tabid/120/nid/740/r/4/Default.aspx.
Tax Hike Anniversary
This week marked the three-year anniversary of the largest income tax hike in state history. On Jan. 13, 2011, Gov. Pat Quinn approved the tax hike, which had passed in the middle of the night during a lame-duck legislative session over Republican objections.
The 67 percent increase took roughly a week’s pay away from hard-working Illinois taxpayers. Although it was promoted as a way to reduce the state’s multi-billion dollar bill backlog, the “problem solving” tax has generated revenues—but without reaping the promised benefits. The state currently has nearly $7.6 billion in backlogged bills and the budget remains chronically unbalanced with spending continually outpacing available revenues.