Synopsis: The Biggest News in Illinois Workers’ Comp History No One is Reporting, Part Two—I Assure You The IL Workers’ Comp Commission Is Set To Close Just 22 Days From Today!
Editor’s comment: As we advised last week, everything is still in place for an IL State Government shut-down on Feb. 28, 2017. Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed her request in one of Illinois’ most shady counties to insure she cannot possibly lose her effort to stop paying all Illinois state workers' salaries until we have a state government budget. Her motion asks the St. Clair County Circuit Court to dissolve by Feb. 28, 2017 a preliminary injunction that has allowed state workers to be paid even though the Legislature and Governor haven't approved a spending plan. A six-month "stopgap" state budget was approved last summer but expired on Jan. 1, 2017.
The sparks are expected to fly tomorrow morning in Springfield, as the legislature takes on the issue of possibly hammering out a budget along with the normal circus side-shows we have whenever our nutty legislature is in session. There were about 19 planned IL WC reforms—we have no idea how many have survived but we are sure some of them have been dropped.
The leaders of the Illinois Senate claim they're moving forward with their proposed budget compromise. However, developments in the past 24 hours suggest the sweeping legislative proposal, involving everything from billions in new taxes to workers' compensation reform and expanded casino and computer game gambling, is in deep trouble, facing even steeper obstacles than when first posted.
The first omen appeared when some of the “Grand Bargain’s” tax concepts and other clauses were almost immediately dumped and then completely changed. For one example, the proposed penny-an-ounce soda tax and minimum wage hike disappeared. For another example, what I feel is a stupid “Business Opportunity” minimum annual tax on small and mid-sized Illinois businesses got thrown in to supposedly raise three quarters of a billion solely from Illinois businesses. The reason I feel it is stupid is the amount of the tax is based on your Illinois payroll, be it W2 employees or 1099 contractors. Your every interest in avoiding this anti-business tax, if it is enacted, will be to move your Illinois workers across state lines to the other states KCB&A cover, like Wisconsin, Indiana, Iowa and Michigan. Why pass a tax to force businesses and jobs to leave this state?
The goofy and unvetted “Business Opportunity” idea was clearly enough to get the Illinois Chamber of Commerce to oppose the entire measure as bad for business. That's significant because the IL State Chamber has the ear of Gov. Bruce Rauner, who publicly has been neutral on the proposed deal. The perception Gov. Rauner may now be against the plan—a perception Crain’s Chicago Business asserts is held by high-ranking Democrats—may explain why Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel termed Rauner "Gov. Gridlock" and declared the state to be "rudderless" under his governorship.
Challenging critics to devise something better, Illinois Senate President John Cullerton in a speech at the City Club today strongly defended the huge "grand budget deal" he and Senate GOP Leader Christine Radogno initially put together and then changed and changed again in a bid to finally end two years of deepening Springfield budget warfare. "If not this plan, then what?" the Chicago Democrat ."If not now, then when?" As Cullerton conceded, "We'll find out in the next few days" whether the plan will fly politically as a solution.
With the greatest respect for Senators Cullerton and Radogno, we saw an answer to Senator Cullerton’s question about “if not this plan, then what?” posted by the Illinois Policy Institute. If you take a look at this link
You will see the great brains at the IPI have come up with amazing analysis and recommendations on how to avoid more borrowing and new and higher taxes and work to keep jobs, businesses and you and me in this state. They also note and want you to understand part of this budget crisis is due to what I call “Illinois-aires” or folks who are going to receive literally millions in retirement from our tax dollars under the guise of their phony and unfunded government pensions.
If you want my spin on all of this, I was asked by a reader for my plan on how we get the money to pay all the State’s outstanding bills owed to those who provided service to the state.
- Across-the-board budget cuts to reduce the size of Illinois State Government about 20% or more without losing any services.
- Require the State to bring back injured workers to sedentary jobs when such jobs are open to avoid phony total and permanent disability payments to folks that aren’t “disabled.”
- Immediately get rid of do-nothing, duplicative or repetitive state jobs that no one will ever miss like the unneeded Lieutenant Governor’s office, the stupid Secretary of State Police and “remote” offices for the IWCC and other state agencies.
- Change all new state pensions to 401K’s. Cut the number of State fake pension boards from 5 to none.
- Consolidate the number of IL State agencies from 88 to maybe 30 to avoid having duplicative leadership and separate accounting systems, etc.
- Completely automate the Illinois tollways and all state parking facilities.
- Raise income tax to the level needed to pay bills and start to pay down debt.
I would support number seven when 1-6 are in place. When we pay down enough state debt, lower the income tax or get rid of it. If we don’t do something like these changes soon, the world is going to do it for us—raising taxes now to pay old bills, rising debt and unneeded government costs will only lead to more and higher future taxes.
Other than the IPI, no one appears to be fighting to change the game and cut state government costs/spending. We are left to wait and see if there will be any votes on the “Grand Bargain” and legislators are due to be out of town next week. Trust me, we are getting closer to no more Illinois Workers’ Comp Commission by the end of this month.
What Happens Then? Can We Survive Without WC Hearing Officers?
It will be interesting to see what happens but an IWCC shutdown may certainly happen. The main crisis would be termination of medical and/or lost time benefits for seriously injured workers—there would be no place for such folks to go. Even Medicaid might shut down in a total government collapse. We assume the IL WC claims community isn’t going to do silly stuff because at some time, the IWCC will return to action and get back into the swing to punish defense wrong-doers.
What Is Happening With the Pending 2017 IL WC Reforms?
From my last web search, literally all sides appear more and more tired of the new WC “reform” concepts and seemed to be either losing interest or actively discarding them. Some of the WC reforms have promise but all of it seems to be rapidly cobbled together without strong metrics to support them. We assure our readers some of them are hilariously nebulous and when there is unclear WC legislation, that is never good for the defense side of the matrix because our “activist” courts will make us pay for any uncertainty.
Whether anything of the many proposed IL WC reforms will survive and be passed into law is yet to be seen—watch this space. With what is at stake in a government shutdown, my vote is back out of the few reforms of value and take the time needed to come up with “hard” reforms that will make the system operate more effectively for IL business and local governments. I am happy to quietly help, if asked.
I again suggest we all diary February 28, 2017 to watch and see if they can come up with a plan that will keep the IL WC Commission open and our circus-like state government afloat.
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Synopsis: New App Can Help Prevent and Defend Future Work-Related Hearing Loss Claims. John Karis, J.D. reporting.
Editor’s comment: The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) just announced the availability of a new mobile application (app) for iOS devices that can measure sound levels in the workplace. We feel this is a very cool new concept you and your safety team need to take a look at.
The app is called the NIOSH Sound Level Meter (SLM) app which can help prevention efforts at construction worksites and all United States workplaces by acquiring, saving and displaying real-time noise exposure data. The NIOSH SLM app is free, easy to use, and can give any user immediate feedback about sound levels and noise exposure.
Please remember if you don’t do this, you may have unions or wily members of your workforce doing so to try to document hearing loss claims at your worksites. This is a ready-made tool for a worker to easily demonstrate your workplace was too loud and hearing protection should have been required. Please also remember hearing loss claims can create lifetime benefits for your workers who can claim you have to pay for life-long hearing aids due to their weakened condition.
The NIOSH SLM app has many important features, it provides a readout of the current onsite sound level using the built-in microphone (or external microphone if used) and reports the instantaneous sound level in A, C, or Z-weighted decibels. The app also reports the main metrics that are of importance for proper occupational noise measurements – mainly the run time (total time), the A-weighted Equivalent Sound Level (LAeq), the Maximum Level measured during the current run time, the C-weighted Peak Sound Pressure Level (LCpeak), the Time-Weighted Average (TWA) and Dose.
In addition, the app allows the user to save and share measurement data using your smartphone’s other communication and media features. If location services are enabled, the app can utilize the GPS feature to provide an exact geospatial location of the noise measurement.
NIOSH estimates that 22 million workers are exposed to hazardous noise levels every year. We believe this app can be used by your safety and health professionals to assess risks and prevent exposure.
We also believe this can help defend workers’ comp claims. For example if an employee alleges a hearing loss claim, occupational safety and health professionals are readily able to assess the decibels of the alleged exposure. Depending on the measurement it can help combat assertions in the future of hazardous noise levels.
If you click the link below on your iPhone you will be sent to the App Store from Apple where you can download it now:
For additional information and detailed guidance on how to use the app, please visit the NIOSH app page at: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/noise/app.html
This article was researched and written by John Karis, J.D. You can reach John 24/7/365 for questions about general liability, employment law and workers’ compensation at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Synopsis: Illinois WC Rates Jump Again and Your PPD Reserves Need To Be UPDATED RETROACTIVELY(!). Send a Reply to Get a Free Copy of Shawn R. Biery’s Updated IL WC Rate-Sheet!
Editor’s comment: There continues to be an upward spiral of IL WC rates. As mentioned twice every year, starting in the 1980’s, the IL WC Act provides a formula which effectively insures no matter how poor the IL economy is doing, our WC rates keep climbing.
We caution our readers to pay attention to the fact the IL WC statutory maximum PPD rate is now $775.18. When it was published, this rate changed retroactively from July 1, 2016 to present. If you reserved a claim based on the prior rate for the period from July 1 to right now, your reserves are wrong. If you have a claim with a date of loss after July 2016 and a max PPD rate, you need to take a look and see if the new maximum PPD rate applies. WORD OF CAUTION: There is pending legislation which Gene reported last week and this week which currently states “The maximum compensation rate for the period July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2021, except as hereinafter provided, shall be $755.22. Effective July 1, 2021 and on July 1 of each year thereafter the maximum weekly compensation rate, except as hereinafter provided, shall be determined as follows: if during the preceding 12-month period there shall have been an increase in the State's average weekly wage in covered industries under the Unemployment Insurance Act, the weekly compensation rate shall be proportionately increased by the same percentage as the percentage of increase in the State's average weekly wage in covered industries under the Unemployment Insurance Act during such period.” THIS NEW LEGISLATION WOULD POTENTIALLY CHANGE THIS PPD MAX AGAIN. If this isn’t clear, send a reply to Shawn at email@example.com.
The current TTD weekly maximum has risen to $1,435.17. A worker has to make over $2,152.76 per week or $111,943.52 per year to hit the new IL WC maximum TTD rate. Does any state in the United States have a TTD maximum that high?
The new IL WC minimum death benefit is 25 years of compensation or $538.19 per week x 52 weeks in a year x 25 years or $699,647.00! The new maximum IL WC death benefit is $1,435.17 times 52 weeks times 25 years or a lofty $1,865,721.00 plus burial benefits of $8K. On top of this massive benefit, Illinois employers/governments have to pay COLA increases.
The best way to make sense of all of this is to get Shawn Biery’s colorful, updated and easy-to-understand IL WC Rate Sheet. If you want it, simply reply to Shawn at firstname.lastname@example.org or email Marissa with your mailing address if you would like to be mailed a laminated copy at email@example.com and they will get a copy routed to you before they raise the rates again!
Synopsis: Happy Valentine’s Day from the Gang at KCB&A!!
Editor’s comment: Okay, so it is a little early but, like the Boy Scouts—Be prepared!