The Land of Lincoln = Higher Wages
Feb 13, 2019


The Illinois Senate voted last week to raise the state’s minimum wage to $9.25 per hour next year and $15 per hour by 2025.  A top priority and a campaign promise for newly-elected Gov. J.B. Pritzker, the Democratic trifecta is swiftly moving their agenda.



Currently, the state’s minimum wage is $8.25 per hour and the proposed bill would raise it about $1 at the beginning of next year, followed by a 75-cent raise on July 1, 2020.  (That’s a $1.75 in 2020 for those keeping track.)  The minimum wage then would increase $1 every year until 2025.  In Chicago, the minimum wage is $12 per hour and will go up to $13 in July.  The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. 



Definitely.  Business groups are fighting for a minimum wage that takes geographic concerns into consideration.  They argue that small business owners and employers with a large number of teenage workers will be hurt by the proposal.  They are also concerned about the cost of the proposed increase on local governments that would likely increase property taxes.  The current proposal allows a credit to small business, with the credit amount declining each year, and allows employers to continue to pay workers under 18 a lower wage. 



Pretty good.  The Senate approved the minimum wage bill along party lines (39-18).  The sponsor in the House said he doesn’t anticipate making any changes.  The House is expected to take up the measure today.  Gov. Pritzker has made this his first legislative priority, and he could sign the bill before delivering his budget proposal Feb. 20 if the House approves the bill.



Gov. Pritzker will propose a balanced budget for 2020 on Feb. 20.  Illinois faces a $3.2 billion deficit in its upcoming 2020 fiscal budget, which is 16% higher than previously projected.  A two-year budget impasse between previous Gov. Rauner and the Democratic legislature, along with other financial woes, led Illinois’ credit ratings to dive and is the nation’s lowest-rated state.  Let’s see what they can do to get the Land of Lincoln back on track.


First Responders


A number of first responder presumption bills are on the move in several states.  This includes extending workers’ compensation benefits to responders who suffer post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in Idaho and New Hampshire, various chronic conditions in Montana, cancer in Maryland and Virginia, and specific occupational diseases in Washington.  Last year, at least 17 states proposed first responder presumption bills, but ultimately, very few actually passed.



Last week, Texas lawmakers introduced a bill that would penalize insurers that delay medical treatment for first responders.  The penalty would fine insurers at least two times the cost of a claim.  In Illinois, the state Senate introduced a bill that would begin compensation for seriously injured volunteer, paid-on-call, or part-time firefighters, emergency medical technicians or paramedics the day after an accident.  If passed, this would take effect immediately. 


Making Our Way Around the Country


U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh, who is presiding over a case that could declare Michigan’s no-fault auto insurance system unconstitutional, called the system “shameful” and encouraged lawmakers to address the system after an hour-long hearing last week.  Republican leaders in the Legislature targeted auto insurance reform as their No. 1 priority.  However, past efforts have failed to yield a compromise among key stakeholders.  If they are not successful, billionaire businessman Dan Gilbert has threatened to fund a ballot initiative in 2020.  With auto insurance rates soaring, we’re keeping an eye on how this progresses.



A federal judge ruled a national retailer violated the rights of a medical marijuana card-holding employee in Arizona by firing her for a positive drug test.  The Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA), allows discrimination suits against employers that take adverse action against workers based on the lawful use of the drug.  The company’s drug abuse policy was consistent with federal laws prohibiting marijuana, and the employee failed a post-injury drug test.  The court ruled since the employer did not prove impairment, the employee was discriminated against in violation of the AMMA. 



A proposed bill that would limited attorney fees in cases involving assignment of benefits (AOB) stalled in the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee.  Insurers and other stakeholders argue that fee limits are needed because AOB litigation is driving up consumers’ property-insurance premiums.  The 2019 legislative session doesn’t start until March 5.  We’ll keep watching the Sunshine State.



It’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow.  It’s expected that people will spend a record $20.7 billion on gifts for their loved ones but beware of phishing, pop-up, or social media scams offering last minute discounts.  Although for many Valentine’s Day is a day celebrating love, it’s also the one-year anniversary of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.  Our hearts go out to you.


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