11-13-2017; Illinois Gov't is Insane in the Brain!!—Why Won't Anyone Discuss Our Biggest Election Issue?; Kevin Boyle, JD on IN Low Injury Rates; Carolyn Klein, JD reviews New Firefighter Ruling

Synopsis: Illinois State Government is Insane in the Brain!!—What Is The Biggest Election Issue Affecting You and Me and Our Kids At Every Level And Is Being Ignored by All Candidates?

Editor’s comment: We are in the midst of an Illinois gubernatorial campaign. You and I can’t avoid watching television, print and other advertising about who should be our new IL Governor. What terrifying government financial issue in Illinois and Chicago and other local governments is directly threatening your livelihood, home values, jobs, families, schools, parks, churches/synagogues, the IWCC and just about everything any human in this State does? Why isn’t anyone talking about it?

 

Do we all understand the same crucial issue has made our State operate in what you and your family should understand is a ‘bankruptcy’ to the extent there are about $17 billion, yes, $17,000,000,000 in unpaid IL State bills right now? Aren’t you and I ‘bankrupt’ when we can’t and our State won’t pay almost any of our bills on time? Moody’s Investor’s Service pegged our State’s debt from this issue at $251 billion last June! It has to be around $275-300 billion or more by now because no one is paying that spiraling debt down a dime. It rises by several million dollars every hour of every day. Seems fairly important to me—how do you feel about it?

 

Please note the same issue is threatening to bankrupt and crush the economy of Chicago. The same issue is impacting lots of other municipalities across Cook County where County Treasurer Maria Pappas reports small, medium and big municipalities under her watch now have $139 billion or $139,000,000,000 in unsecured and soon to be crushing debt that has risen 30% in the last six years. At that rate, in seven years or less, it will be over $200B and rising…!

 

I have reviewed the campaign websites of J.B. Pritzker and Chris Kennedy who are both running on the Democrat side for governor—Chris Kennedy mentions this stealth issue on his website with no true recommendations for reform. J.B. Pritzker’s website doesn’t even mention it. Governor Bruce Rauner’s website doesn’t mention this one a teensy bit. Yikes. I am sure Governor Rauner is appalled by all of it and working quietly to change it; I just consider it odd that he isn’t mentioning it.

 

The Top-Secret “Stealth” Election Issue Is Fake IL Government Pensions!

 

A great example of how nutty these fake gov’t pensions are was reported by the Chicago Tribune last week when they chronicled the massively high retirement package of former U. of Illinois Athletic Director Ron Guenther. We are not blaming Mr. Guenther for this whole morass but please learn from it. The Tribune article indicates Mr. Guenther’s career contributions to his retirement program totaled about $615,000 including interest. Sounds like a lot of money, right? Well, as you read this, Mr. Guenther is receiving about $40,000 every month or about $473,094 a year for this current year. Please remember he is getting that money NOT to work.

Please also remember insane-in-the-brain Illinois government has to pay annual fake gov’t pension increases of 3% compounded on an annual basis. As Mr. Guenther is only 72 years young, he will be getting over $500,000 a year in 2019. In nine years, he will be getting more each year than his entire career fake pension contributions or more than $50,000 a month and $617,000 a year. If he lives 20 years to 82 and lots of folks are living that long, he will be getting $854,000 a year. In 26 years, you and me and our kids and grandkids will be paying Ron Guenther more than $1M a year not to work. These increases and payments are guaranteed by the IL Constitution.

 

Please also note his total expected retirement income can and will be well into the tens of millions of dollars. When I hear complaints the State didn’t properly “fund” that pension, I ask anyone of my readers to tell me how much our State gov’t would have to put into his pension to fund $10M to $30M that he will probably receive in retirement. The amount would be staggering—in essence and in my humble view, such a fake gov’t pension (and hundreds like it) are “unfundable.”

 

Please also note former AD Guenther doesn’t have to pay a dime in IL State income tax on the money, despite the fact he will receive millions over his contributions. Every dime will be tax dollars coming from you and me and your kids and grandkids—he is already way past any fake pension contribution he made or we matched while he was working. As I indicate above, there are supposedly at least 700,000 former Illinois government workers now on fake gov’t pensions and the debt just keeps rising and rising. As you read this, I assure you both judges/justices in the Judicial Retirement System and General Assembly members in the GARS fake pension system are hilariously under-funded/unfundable. The IL State and local gov’t retirement benefits are so high as to be wholly shocking. They are financial engines that foretell financial doom for our gov’t, like the City of Detroit, the country of Greece and Puerto Rico.

 

This whole unspoken gov’t concept is going to “break” or explode into failure/Armageddon when Wall Street cuts off borrowing or won’t underwrite bond issues to all these nutty IL government entities who are rated slightly above junk status right now. Gosh only knows what that will do to jobs, home prices/sales, schools and everything else. How can our elected officials ignore it and sweep it under the nearest rug?

 

Why Isn’t Anyone in the Election Talking About This Financial Insanity?

 

In a word(s)—IL government unions. Huh? Well, as I have advised government unions don’t appear to care about bankrupting our State or the City of Chicago and various municipalities chronicled by Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas. In fact it appears to me they want to keep it all hush-hush so no one is discussing it on the election trail or any website. If that is incorrect, please, please tell me their financial approach to openly reforming all of it and I will publish with my deepest apologies.

 

In my view, any candidate for Governor who talks about it is going to be cannon-balled and the government unions are going to fight like the dickens and send hundreds of emails to their members to attack/block/defeat that noble candidate. They won’t go head on but they will spin their PR spins to try to block such fake gov’t pension discussions and tell their members to vote and organize friends and relatives to vote “against” anyone who won’t support this financial insanity.

 

Thoughts For How To Stop This Craziness.

 

Ask your favorite candidate for IL Governor and keep asking:

 

·         Do you support ending fake unfunded/unfundable gov’t pensions?

·         If we realized our mistaken and immediately stopped this madness for all new and incoming gov’t workers and paid off the lucky folks who are vested in them, when would our State and local governments and taxpayers be free at last?

·         Why can’t we provide 401K’s to new gov’t workers and save zillions?

·         If we are going to keep over-compensating State and local workers at work and in retirement, how do we start cutting/laying off some of these grossly overpaid and “over-retired” gov’t workers and use private and competitive companies for State work?

How About the 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution?

 

Governor Rauner is bravely trying to get federal help to rein in our impossible-to-fund gov’t pensions. One thought is to change/amend the U.S. Constitution to protect all U.S. taxpayers from this massive fake gov’t pension rip-off. Someone please write an amendment that guarantees present and future gov’t workers across our nation can only retire on

 

1.    Their fake gov’t pension contributions

2.    Matching gov’t contributions while they were working and

3.    Any interest earned on both at any time.

4.    When that is gone, you can’t come to taxpayers for another penny because it isn’t a ‘pension,’ it is sort of like stealing because you aren’t doing anything to invest in it or earn it.

 

We appreciate your thought and comments. Please post them on our award-winning blog.

 

 

Synopsis: Indiana Reports Lowest Workplace Injuries and Illnesses in State History. Research and analysis from our top IN WC/GL Team Leader, Kevin Boyle, J.D.

Editor’s comment: The Indiana Department of Labor (IDOL) released the annual nonfatal workplace injury and illness report for 2016 and its good news. Indiana's nonfatal occupational injury and illness rate is the lowest in state history with an estimated 3.5 injuries or illnesses per 100 full-time workers. This represents an eight percent decrease from 2015's previous historically low rate of 3.8, and the fifth consecutive year the injury and illness rate has been at or below 4.0.

 

“We are proud of our Hoosier workforce and their dedication to maintaining safe and healthy workplaces,” said Rick Ruble, commissioner of the Indiana Department of Labor. “Indiana's employers and employees continue to make workplace safety a top priority. Partnerships with organized labor, trade associations and safety councils, as well as Indiana's IOSHA enforcement and INSafe programs, help ensure that workplace safety is more than a buzzword. It's a culture.”

Here are some other important findings in the new 2016 report:

  • The overall state nonfatal injury and illness rate for 2016 is 3.5 injuries or illnesses per 100 full-time workers, the lowest rate since the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics' Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (SOII) report was introduced in its current form in 1992. The 2016 rate represents a one-year decline of eight percent from the previous historic low rate of 3.8 in 2015.
  • 15 of 19 major Indiana industry classifications experienced a decrease in nonfatal worker injury and illness rates. 
  • The finance and insurance industry experienced the greatest one-year decline in nonfatal worker injuries and illnesses, 60 percent. 
  • The Indiana construction industry remained steady with the 2015 rate of 2.8 per 100 fulltime workers. ? The Hoosier manufacturing industry saw a 13 percent decrease in injuries and illnesses from the 2015 rate of 4.7 to 4.1 in 2016. 
  • The Hoosier agriculture industry nonfatal worker injury and illness rate saw a one-year 39 percent decrease from 7.1 in 2015 to 4.3 in 2016.

This article was researched and written by Kevin Boyle, J.D. He can be reached for any question about legal defense in WC, GL and EPLI for IN clients at kboyle@keefe-law.com.

 

We appreciate your thought and comments. Please post them on our award-winning blog.

 

 

Synopsis: When Illinois Courts Review Firefighter Pension Claims, They Usually Pick the Highest Possible Value. Research and analysis by Carolyn Ettelson Klein, J.D.

Editor’s comment: The IL Appellate Court recently affirmed the trial court’s judgment to reverse the amended decision of the Firefighters’ Pension Fund of the City of Moline (Board) and reinstated the Board’s original decision to grant a firefighter (Plaintiff) his line-of-duty disability pension calculated at the salary he was receiving on the last date he was on the payroll, an amount much higher than the salary attached to his rank if the court had interpreted “removed from the payroll”  as the date at which Plaintiff began receiving TTD benefits payments. The Court reasoned the IL Pension Code, the interpretation of which is pivotal to this case, must be liberally construed in favor of Applicant. The Court determined Plaintiff’s last day on the city payroll is the day he signed WC settlement contracts and stopped receiving TTD payments, thereby entitling him to a pension based upon 65% of the “rank-attached” salary he would have been receiving at that time.

 

Editor’s comment: Sottos v. The Firefighters’ Pension Fund of the City of Moline is a decision rendered by the IL Appellate Court primarily under section 4-110 of the Illinois Pension Code (Pension Code) determining Plaintiff’s last day on the city payroll was the day he signed workers’ compensation settlement contracts, thus entitling him to accumulated vacation time and compensatory time calculated at the higher salary level of $75,674.93 attached to his rank on March 7 , 2014 rather than the lesser salary of $73,829.32 attached to his rank on March 8, 2013. Defendant asserted the first TTD payment, is the last day Plaintiff was on the firefighter’s payroll.

 

The Board initially determined Plaintiff’s last day on the payroll was March 7, 2014 and calculated Plaintiff’s line of duty pension based upon the salary attached to his rank on that day and he would receive a monthly disability pension benefit of $4,099.06, 65% of the monthly salary attached to the Plaintiff’s rank. Plaintiff received a lump sum payment consisting of unused vacation time and compensatory time (without pension withholding). Of their own volition, the Board subsequently motioned to reconsider its own ruling on Plaintiff’s application for line-of-duty disability pension benefits.

 

The Board held a hearing in September 2014 to reconsider its previous ruling. The City’s HR manager (Fleming) testified Plaintiff’s annual salary attached to his rank was $72,204 prior to February 27, 2013, after which his salary increased to $73,829.32 due to an anniversary increase. Fleming testified in accordance with the Public Employee Disability Act (Disability Act) (5 ILCS 345/0.01 et seq. (West 2012), Plaintiff received full pay with pension contributions withheld throughout March 8, 2013 at which time the city began paying workers’ compensation TTD benefits to Plaintiff, benefits based upon Plaintiff’s 2013 salary.

 

In May of 2013, the City stopped withholding pension fund contributions from Plaintiff’s payments. The city instituted a general wage increase for firefighters in January of 2014. Fleming contended Plaintiff would have received said wage increase had he been eligible for the same. Meaning, Plaintiff was not on payroll at the time of the increase and ultimately could not have Pension Disability Benefits calculated based upon an increased wage he was not eligible to receive as Plaintiff’s last day on the payroll was in February 2013. Fleming asserted the City erroneously paid Plaintiff a lump sum based upon the new higher salary of $75,674.93 and the monthly disability pension benefits should thus be reduced to $3,999.09 and a refund to Plaintiff for excess pension contributions withheld after March 8, 2013.

 

The Board entered an amendment to its initial ruling, and did so without stating why. In 2014, Plaintiff filed a complaint for administrative review of the Board’s decision. The trial court reversed the Board’s amended decision, reinstated the original decision which was to pay Plaintiff his monthly line-of-duty disability pension benefit based on the salary attached to his rank in March 2014. The Board appealed, and lost.

 

The liberal interpretation of the payroll clause in favor of Plaintiff required the Court rule the correct date Plaintiff was removed from the City’s payroll was in March 2014, thereby entitling Plaintiff to his lump sum payment based upon his higher “rank-attached” $75,674.93 salary which would entitle him to $4,099.06 (65% of that salary) on a monthly basis.

 

The Appellate Court’s ruling was consistent with an Illinois Department of Insurance (IDOI) advisory opinion from 2016 wherein, for the purpose of Section 4-110 of the Pension Code, workers’ compensation benefit payments by a municipal employer constitute being “on” the municipality’s payroll.  In Roselle, a disabled employee was still considered on the municipality’s payroll throughout the time the city paid workers’ compensation TTD benefits.

 

The Appellate Court assigned the IDOI opinion what they felt was appropriate weight and thereby reversed the Board’s amended decision, reinstated their initial decision and affirmed the trial court’s judgment.

 

It should be noted that in calculating disability pension benefits based upon the “rank-attached” salary at the time an employee is removed from payroll may result in an exponential increase to malingering Petitioners. As defense attorneys, we should be cognizant of the motivation this creates for city employees not to settle their claims and extend them to get more money. We should consider the possible perspective of the Petitioner–a salary raise is next week, next month (possibly soon), so if they can hold off settlement and remain on TTD a little longer, disability pension benefits will be based upon 65% of a higher salary-

 

The Appellate Court has decided IL workers’ compensation TTD benefit payments constitute “salary” for the purpose of the Pension Code. The benefits hinge upon the salary an employee was earning at the time he or she became disabled. Therefore, employees receiving these benefits are effectively entitled to monthly pension payments based upon calculations for a raise not “earned” during service.

 

This article was researched and written by our latest and greatest addition to the Keefe, Campbell, Biery and Assoc. defense team, Carolyn Ettelson Klein. She can be reached for questions and concerns at CKlein@keefe-law.com.

11-7-2017; Overstaffed and Overpaid IL Gov’t Workers—Over-Taxation Has To Follow in This State, If There Is Anyone Left; John Karis on New OSHA Head and more

Synopsis: Overstaffed and Overpaid Gov’t Workers—At Some Point, Over-Taxation Has To Follow in This State, If There Is Anyone Left.

 

Editor’s comment: We are at the start of the IL Governor’s election. Illinoisans are seeing TV ads from the Governors of Missouri, Indiana and Wisconsin thanking our political system for greatly helping their economies, as new jobs flow out of IL and into their bailiwicks.

 

I was quoted in a great article in WorkCompCentral by J. Todd Foster about all the new and improved IL WC Arbitrators we have added to our roster of hearing officers. I remain mildly stunned to see we didn’t cut the total number of Arbitrators but appeared to actually add more hearing officers. There was no warning of that decision, as everything about personnel is still done in secret and behind closed doors.

 

If you look at this website below, you can see hundreds of jobs/business are fleeing this State. In my view, businesses are reacting to the miserable job our IL General Assembly has done over the last several decades. I consider it ludicrous to hear claims Governor Rauner has any role in the financial mess that is IL Gov’t. He hasn’t been around long enough to be a scapegoat, yet. Please also remember the nutty State budget he tried valiantly to block was and is a continuing financial disaster and is hastening our approach to financial Armageddon. While I am sure Governor Rauner is trying to make things in this State make financial sense, I don’t get that feeling at all from the other side of the aisle. If I am wrong, please send me whatever you have on it.

 

https://www.illinoisworknet.com/LayoffRecovery/Pages/ArchivedWARNReports.aspx

 

Why Do I Say Overstaffed and Overpaid Gov’t Workers?

 

With apologies to the one state agency I have worked in front of for almost four decades, I consider them grossly overstaffed. It isn’t my opinion, so much as it is simple math. Let me take you back in a time machine to year 2001.

 

https://www2.illinois.gov/sites/iwcc/Documents/annualreportFY01.pdf

 

In the IWCC's 2001 report which is about 15 years ago, the IWCC was spending $10M a year. See page 5. New IL WC claims filed were just under 60,000 a year or 59,320. See page 18. With a shelf-life of 3 years, there were about 180,000 pending claims in year 2001.

 

Take a ride 15 years forward to year 2016. Compare:

 

https://www2.illinois.gov/sites/iwcc/Documents/2016AnnualReport.pdf

 

The IWCC's 2016 report drops/omits their annual budget; it isn't mentioned that I can find. I know it is about $31M a year from other sources. Look at page 6--about 41,000 new claims filed in 2016. That is 1/3 less than the new IL WC claims in 2001. With a three year shelf life, there are about 120,000 pending IL WC claims—all IL WC claims are down by one-third or so. No one is talking about cutting a dime from their budget or laying off unneeded workers.

 

If You Compare 2001 to 2016:

 

In 2001, we had about 18 Arbitrators or front line hearing officers. There were six Commissioners who are the IL WC second level "review/appeal" officers. That totals 24 hearing officers at the time.

 

In 2016, we have something like 32 Arbitrators and 9 Commissioners. That is 17 more hearing officers or 41 in total. In my view, nothing is moving “faster” or more efficiently with all these new folks at the IWCC. We also have stupid “remote offices” that are a complete waste of money. I have at least five other ways our State could easily start cutting the IWCC budget in a fashion that wouldn’t reduce benefits for IL injured workers in any meaningful way. If you want examples, send a reply.

 

You do the math but to my thinking we have about

 

-          One-third less IL WC claims

-          But 40% more hearing officers and

-          The Annual IWCC Budget more than tripled from $10M to about $31M

-          All that money comes from a levy on IL Business. This is assuming some businesses will remain to shoulder the increasing load.

 

The only reason I can imagine why gov’t payroll and the budget keeps rising is politics, pure and simple. With the State of IL about $250,000,000,000 in debt and WC claims dropping on an annual basis, couldn't they start cutting back on staff?

 

      Please don’t stop there—also compare Cook County Prisons where the inmates are down 30 per cent but the number of guards is up 10%.

 

http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20171020/ISSUE05/171029982/is-this-any-way-to-run-a-jail

 

      Add Sangamon County where newly filed court claims are dramatically down but no one is talking about cutting a dime from County Court budgets.

 

http://illinoistimes.com/article-19303-will-the-last-person-leaving-the-courthouse-turn-out-the-lights-.html

 

      Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas, who used to be an IL workers’ comp lawyer, continues to chronicle the massive rise in debt for cities, villages and towns across Cook County. Their combined debt is now $139,000,000,000 which has skyrocketed 30% in just six years. That is just one county in a State with 102 counties! Some of those gov’ts are certain to start going broke before we know it. Perhaps the most shameful city is Blue Island, IL where their fake gov’t pension plan is only 3% de-funded!

 

https://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20171106/BLOGS02/171109919/cook-county-governments-owe-139-billion-up-30-in-six-years

 

I remain amazed no one is cutting or even talking about cutting wildly expensive gov’t staff. In my view, our Illinois politicians at every level are overstaffing and overpaying gov't workers. With fake or “de-funded” gov’t pensions, I have advised many gov’t workers can put in 10% of their income for a short period of time to then reap literally millions of tax dollars in retirement. In my view, it is highway robbery that is certain to bankrupt our gov’ts—if you want examples, send a reply.

 

The reason they are doing so is to insure they turn lots of dedicated gov’t workers into loyal voters and election organizers. Very few people now vote--voter turnout for many elections is less than 10% of the electorate. If you can get 5% of the eligible electorate to support and vote for you, you will win lots of elections in this State.

 

The only problem will come when it is time to pay the piper. We just saw one tax revolt in Cook County with the demise of the silly soda tax. Please assume more taxpayer revolts are going to follow and/or more businesses are leaving with jobs that will never return. In short, if our gov’ts are going to overstaff and overpay their workers, at some point over-taxation or financial Armageddon is sure to follow.

 

I appreciate your thoughts and comments. Please post them on our award-winning blog.

 

 

Synopsis: Trump Finally Picks Head of OSHA. Research and Analysis by John Karis, J.D.

Editor’s comment: President Trump has nominated Scott Mugno, vice president for safety at FedEx Ground, to head the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the White House announced last Friday. Mugno’s name has been circulating as a likely candidate to head OSHA since shortly after Trump took office. Mugno’s nomination to the position of assistant secretary of labor, occupational safety and health, will be subject to Senate approval.

The announcement of his impending nomination comes as the agency has been without an administrator for nine months, a situation that is causing consternation for some. Mugno would take over from Loren Sweatt, who has served as acting assistant secretary of labor since July 24. Sweatt is the agency’s deputy assistant secretary of labor and President Trump’s first OSHA appointee.

Mugno has been with FedEx since 1994, starting out as a senior attorney with FedEx Express. He served as managing director of corporate safety, health and fire prevention for FedEx Express from 2000 to 2011, and then became vice president for safety, sustainability and vehicle maintenance for FedEx Ground in the Pittsburgh area.

Experts in the field say Mugno would be different from past OSHA administrators because of his background in corporate management. Because of that, Mugno is expected to take a more hands-on approach to running the agency.

Mugno also has an interest in the behavioral side of safety, such as how to get worker buy-in on safety programs, that could make for an interesting time at the agency,

Many have theorized OSHA under the Trump administration will shift its emphasis from enforcement to compliance assistance. Even though Mugno might favor that course of action, others say, he’ll find it difficult to staff compliance-assistance programs under current budget constraints.

Jordan Barab, who was deputy assistant secretary of labor at OSHA from 2009 to 2017, said one question will be whether Mugno would grow the agency’s Voluntary Protection Program to the point of stressing the rest of the agency’s budget. The program gives recognition to workplaces with exemplary safety records and also exempts them from some inspections, Barab said on in his Confined Space blog.

Another question is what position Mugno would take on OSHA regulations.

“One thing that Republicans hate — and especially this administration — is OSHA standards,” Barab said. “Will Mugno push the agency forward on important new and updated protections despite the anti-regulatory philosophy of the Trump administration?"

Mugno has chaired an OSHA subcommittee of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Labor Relations Committee. An agenda for a May 2017 meeting of the subcommittee includes a report from Mugno on National Academy of Sciences committee project for developing a smarter national surveillance system for occupational safety and health.

The committee also was scheduled to discuss recommendations for the new OSHA assistant secretary, who had not yet been named, “beyond just undoing various Obama administration actions and regulations,” according to the agenda. Questions included: What actions would the subcommittee like to see OSHA pursue? What would responsible enforcement mean? What kind of compliance assistance would be helpful?

Randy Johnson, the U.S. Chamber’s senior vice president for labor, immigration and employee benefits, on Monday called Mugno an “outstanding nominee” for the position.

“Scott’s extensive history of working with a wide variety of stakeholders including OSHA, organized labor and academic researchers gives him a unique level of credibility for leading this important agency,” Johnson said in a statement.

Mugno has been an active member of the American Trucking Association, which expressed enthusiasm about his nomination. ATA President and Chief Executive Officer Chris Spear called Mugno “a strong and committed voice for safety and responsibility.”

Mugno also chairs the American Transportation Research Institute’s Research Advisory Committee. The committee each year recommends a research agenda to the institute.

Mugno has spent his career working for big business, so it will be interesting to see how he plans to stand up for workers and continue OSHA’s active role in deterring corporations from endangering workers’ health and safety. Will Mugno rein in the over-aggressive enforcement effort mounted during the Obama years? Data suggests that OSHA will conduct as many inspections this year as it did last year. So even if Mugno wanted to turn more to compliance assistance, he may find it difficult to do so. Only time will tell however first needs to be approved by the Senate.

This article was researched and written by John Karis, JD. You can reach John 24/7/365 for questions about OSHA, general liability, employment law and workers’ compensation at jkaris@keefe-law.com.

10-30-2017; Governor's Veto Blocks Two IL WC "Deforms" and The Focus on Lower WC Costs Turns to Our Hearing Officers; Peter Ferracuti, Rest In Peace and more

Synopsis: Two Kooky WC Legislative Efforts Die a Peaceful Death And The Focus on Lower IL WC Costs Turns To Our Hearing Officers.

Editor’s comment: To my understanding, this dumb idea started with the public relations forces of ITLA or the IL Trial Lawyers Ass’n. In response to high costs in the IL WC system being a source of criticism by Governor Rauner, the IL State Chamber and other business groups, some ITLA rocket scientist came up with the idea that multi-zillion dollar insurance carriers were somehow manipulating “profits” and thereby causing IL WC premiums to be higher than other States. It couldn’t have been all the favorable rulings and high awards and ever-spiraling rates that happened in the Blagojevich era when he traded votes for control of the IWCC to the nice Claimant bar from Madison and St. Clair County. NOOOOO!! It was those unnamed insurance carriers—in response, the idea was to snip $10M out of the IWCC’s annual budget to start a tiny, truly miniscule State WC Mutual insurance carrier that would put all the industry giants to shame. Right?

 

Wrong. I truly doubt this idea would have ever actually been implemented, even if the IL General Assembly had passed it. I think it would have gone to the same junk heap the IL State WC Oversight Panel For State Workers Committee is on—they spent hours and hours debating the makeup of that panel and what it would do and they never met, not even once. It all sounded good when it got passed but fizzled in execution while the State still shovels millions to our IL government workers who then support and vote for the politicians shoveling them money.

Either way, last week, you and I and all my readers hailed another victory when the bill that would establish an IL State workers' compensation mutual insurance company funded by a $10 million loan from the Illinois Workers' Compensation Operations Fund failed to receive 71 votes required to override Governor Rauner’s veto. Under the proposal, the $10 million was to be an intergovernmental loan to be paid back to the IWCC with interest. As I indicate above, financial repayment in our State gov’t is usually a wish and a prayer.

 

The amazing WC gurus at the IL State Chamber also opposed the proposal because it required this new State insurer to be included in the State's Guaranty Fund which pays claims made against insolvent insurance companies in all lines of insurance, not just workers' compensation. Should the State WC Insurance Fund be declared insolvent for their liabilities in unlimited amounts, this exposure/loss would be absorbed by the Guaranty Fund and then assessed back against all private property and casualty insurers, including homeowners' insurers, whose customers would likely share the new and unprecedented cost burden. Illinois homeowners and auto insurance customers would also have the potential responsibility to bail out this State workers' compensation insurance fund should it be poorly run and then fail.

 

The Other Dopey IL WC “Deform” Was HB 2525.

This bill would place price controls on workers comp insurers selling policies in Illinois. Steve Schneider of the American Insurance Ass’n said: “It's the harshest and most opposed regulatory type of structure that I have ever seen because we are going to have to seek permission from the government to charge a final price on the workers compensation insurance that we provide to our customers. Part of the decision-making by the state ... is whether those premiums are reasonable, and we just think that is an extraordinarily broad reach of power for the government to assume … we are opposing H.B. 2525 on that basis,” he continued. “The sponsors of the bill have put in some weak language designed to give us the gloss of reform, but it is simply insufficient. There is no independent verification of the amount or types of savings that this legislation would produce.”

This bill also tried to codify the “traveling employee” concept for the first time, as if the Supreme Court hadn’t rejected that concept when they last considered it.

The motion to override the veto of HB2525, a bill sponsored by Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Swansea)/Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago), was not called for a vote. Consequently, under the IL Constitution the 15 day period to call a veto override expired. Good riddens to bad rubbish.

 

What Was Bad About These Nutty Bills?

 

They were designed to and did deflect any real WC legislative change or reform in this State. This important debate went down an endless side-track to nowhere with consideration of these two “fake” bills.

 

What is Good About The IL WC System?

 

We have lots of very solid Arbitrators and Commissioners who are dedicated to bringing this State back to the middle of the U.S. in terms of WC costs and premiums. We also feel the message has made it to the IL Appellate Court, WC Division that is taking a more traditional role in overseeing the IL WC system—happy to explain. Please note the impact of these new and improved hearing officers, judges and justice won’t happen in a day or three. It will be a couple of years for their rulings and settlements to show improvement for our WC risk, business, claims and insurance community. The hearing officers also want truly injured workers to be properly taken care of and protected under the IL WC Act and Rules.

 

As we have asked in the past, if you or your claims team see a rotten or shockingly bad IL WC decision, send it along for our complaint box.

 

That said, we truly feel things are looking up and ask our readers to be patient. We appreciate your thoughts and comments. Please post them on our award-winning blog.

 

 

Synopsis: Peter Ferracuti, Rest in Peace.

 

Editor’s comment: Peter F. Ferracuti, 91, of Ottawa, IL passed away last Tuesday at OSF St. Elizabeth Medical Center. Private family services will be held. Ottawa Funeral Home has been entrusted with his services.

 

Peter Ferracuti will always be remembered as something of a legend, for better or for worse in the Central IL WC community. He was born March 11, 1926 in Ottawa, Illinois. He married the love of his life, Janis Carder, on January 11, 1985 and they were married almost 33 years at the time of his passing. He graduated in 1944 from Ottawa Township High School and was the President of his Senior Class. After high school, he proudly served in the United States Navy from 1944-1946 during WWII in the Pacific Theater.

 

Peter graduated in the upper 3% of his class from the University of Illinois, School of Liberal Arts and Sciences, with a double major in Political Science and Psychology. Thereafter, he received his law degree from the University of Illinois Law School. In 1953, he was licensed to practice in the State of Illinois. Since 1983, Attorney Peter F. Ferracuti has been listed in several editions of the national publication, "Best Lawyers in America", being 1 of only 18 civil litigation attorneys similarly recognized from the State of Illinois in that publication. He was an active member of the American Association for Justice, Illinois Trial Lawyers Association and the Workers' Compensation Lawyers of America. He is a life member of the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum.

 

Memorials may be directed to the Peter F. Ferracuti Scholarships for Building the Trades and the Advocacy Scholarship which are for $500 each per year and are offered at both Ottawa Township High School and LaSalle Peru High School to ensure students have access to the education and training necessary to join the trades community and to become an attorney.

 

http://www.ottawafuneralhome.com/memsol.cgi?user_id=2028760

 

From Gene Keefe

 

My favorite story about this hard-working advocate is Peter would appear at a Commission status call and take his Dictaphone and, while talking to me, start dictation during our conversation. Having seen this a couple of times, I would then get my own Dictaphone and while he was talking, I would dictate what he was saying. He got flustered but we laughed about the fate of busy lawyers. He later walked up and could see he was going to be talking to me and stopped dictating during our conversations. Out of respect for Peter, so did I. I was routinely amazed at how organized Peter was when handling the large number of files he brought to each call.

 

Peter was not known as a free-spender. Due to his thrift in running his firm, Peter has lots of former associate attorneys, across the middle of the State, who left to start their own practices to seek a more solid income. When I started my own law firm, I tried to be an all-business manager, as Peter was but I did try to pay my team members rewards for their hard work.

 

Peter was somewhat famous when he sued Will County because, to get in the fast-track attorney line that allowed you into their crowded court building, they wanted you to join and pay dues to the Will County Bar Ass'n. Peter unquestionably had the money but didn’t want to feel like he was forced to join the Bar Ass’n just to get into court as an attorney. I am fairly sure he was successful in changing the concept.

 

Peter also became mildly famous or infamous when he sued his son, Drew Ferracuti for opening his version of the Ferracuti Law Office, as if the son could use a different name. Per a court order, the names of the two shops are now the Law Office of Peter Ferracuti and the Law Office of Drew Ferracuti. Drew is one of the better and more knowledgeable Claimant lawyers in the middle of the State.

 

I published this blurb about that fight a couple years ago:

 

o   THE LAW OFFICES OF PETER F. FERRACUTI, P.C. vs. DREW J. FERRACUTI, DREW FERRACUTI LAW FIRM, d/b/a FERRACUTI LAW FIRM

 

o   Case Number: 2011C7265 Type Of Case: Trademark Infringement

 

o   An Ottawa, Illinois based law firm is suing another law firm in the same city, alleging trademark violations.

 

o   We note Peter Ferracuti was licensed to practice law in Illinois in 1953. His son, Drew started as a lawyer in 1987. We understand Peter gave their last name to his son at birth without any fees, costs or non-compete contracts involved. We also note both lawyers are among the top of the practice in the central part of our state. We hope they can patch this up and continue to serve injured workers.

 

Peter was a solid and strong advocate for Illinois’ injured workers. His memory, good, quiet and earnest, will always be a part of my legal career and life. He will always be missed.