Synopsis: Whole Lot ‘O Shaking Going On In Springfield, IL—Gene Keefe’s Spin from a WC and “Better Government” Perspective.
Editor’s comment: Some of this analysis is from our IL State Chamber and I am giving the full attribution for their hard work watching out for YOU!!!. If you are in business or a small gov’t in this State or want to know what is happening in business and small gov’t in this State, please join the State Chamber—for more information, go to www.ilchamber.org.
I salute Chamber President Todd Maisch and legislative guru Jay Shattuck of the IL Chamber for securing last minute legislative victories for their members and all IL businesses and small gov’ts. Sadly, two of the first six bills signed into law this year by Governor Pritzker were major blows to the business/gov’t community. The first law signed by the Governor raised the statewide minimum wage to $15 an hour, while the other SB 1596 added to all IL employers’ costs to the by creating an unnecessary “exception” to our State’s workers’ compensation system that will allow IL employers to be sued civilly for asbestos exposures from decades ago.
Other awful pieces of legislation such as costly data privacy regulations and a proposal to threaten IL petroleum refineries were laid to rest. In the final days of session, a deal was cut between the four legislative leaders and the Governor to pass major pieces of legislation in combination for several business reforms. In addition, the Chamber secured what they feel is a major policy victory for the year, a $45B capital infrastructure program with lots of added taxes and fees to support it. I don’t agree this is a solid a “victory” as both sides claim—it is clearly a boon to the Illinois Road Builders Ass’n who always seem to find ways to make zillions off taxpayers whether the tax money is there or not. I wasn’t aware thousands of bridges and roads were falling apart and these new levies were crucial to avoid our cars and trucks tumbling into rivers across the State.
Sports Gaming and Gambling Lands in IL in a BIG Way
To my understanding church leaders across our State blocked this gambling/gaming concept for years as it would adversely impact poor people and churches/synagogues. A wise friend pointed out “gambling doesn’t hurt poor people, it hurts stupid people.” Let’s hope the religious leaders can get the message to their flocks to avoid wasting their hard-earned money gambling/gaming. Either way it appears to me that our religious leaders just lost their fight over gambling/gaming to our State’s voracious spending appetite.
In short, the IL legislature sent Gov. Pritzker a bill he’s expected to sign that will dramatically expand legal gambling and gaming in Illinois. Existing gambling venues get more gaming positions that can be dedicated to either slots or table games. The bill allows slot machines at O’Hare and Midway airports, as well as at all horse racing venues. The new law adds casinos in communities around the state, such as Waukegan and Rockford. It clears the way for a mega-casino in Chicago with 4,000, count ‘em, 4000 gaming positions. And it legalizes sports betting. To my understanding, you may be able to lay down a best at a professional sports arena on a pending game!!!
This legislation is going to help bring in lots of new jobs and possibly more WC claims for our system.
Recreational Marijuana Coming on January 1, 2020—Keep It Out of Your Workplace!!
Once the bill is signed, Illinois is set to join 10 other States to allow recreational marijuana starting on January 1, 2020. Not sure why the wait when they want to start taxing the heck out of it now.
The law also appears to pardon or eliminate any criminal charges for over 700,000 Illinoisans who were convicted of marijuana possession/use.
To my understanding, the IL State Chamber did maintain an employer’s right to block marijuana use/intoxication in the IL workplace. I agree with the Chamber and it is my strong recommendation you maintain a marijuana-illegal drug-alcohol free workplace. If you want a alcohol and drug-testing protocol, send a reply.
Transportation Modernization Bill
In short, your IL gas tax is going up 19 cents a gallon with other hikes in fees. As I indicate above, it is disappointing to me to be told our roads and bridges are suddenly a shambles when I see no evidence of it.
Illinois Becomes the 31st State to Offer Data Center Tax Incentives
In January of this year, the IL State Chamber Foundation released a study on the potential impact of a data center tax incentive and by June it became a reality. As part of the new budget, SB 690 included language to create a sales tax incentive for new and existing data centers. There is also an income tax credit for data centers that locate in underserved areas. This language was a State Chamber initiative. I join with the Chamber in heralding their hard work in this effort.
Pro-business/Small Gov’t Reforms
Other measures were included in the final budget deal including several other pro-business reforms. Those reforms included the reinstatement of the manufacturers purchasing credit, phase-out elimination of the franchise tax, creation of the Blue-Collar Jobs Act, and data center tax incentives, as outlined above. The IL State Chamber supported these reforms and I strongly agree with them.
“Streaming Tax” Defeated
A proposal floated in early May by the Governor’s office to tax streaming and satellite services to pay for vertical capital projects was defeated. The proposal sought to tax satellite TV and streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, Xbox Live, and Spotify. While the Governor’s proposal never made its way into legislative format, the concept was soundly defeated. I strongly support the State Chamber’s efforts to block this new tax.
Burdensome Real Estate Property Tax Legislation Stalls
SB 1379 was an initiative of the new Cook County Assessor's office to seek unneeded and duplicative information from property owners with "income producing properties" did not move forward. I own/invest in real estate and despised the concept of this bill. The Chamber provided substantive suggestions to make the bill better. They look forward to continuing to work on this issue with the Assessor and legislative sponsors before this is considered further.
Costly Data Regulations Defeated
For the second time in the last three years, the Chamber and other technology trade associations were successful in defeating legislation pushed by trial lawyers to enact costly and burdensome data privacy legislation. Drafted to hurt our state’s tech community, this legislation also would have negatively applied to small and medium sized businesses. I salute the hard work of the IL State Chamber to block this silliness.
Workplace Sexual Harassment Reform Bill
SB 75 is legislation creating extensive changes to limiting your employment agreements for harassment and employment discrimination related to non-disclosure agreements and mandatory arbitration. The legislation requires disclosure by any employer of a final adverse administrative or final judicial ruling to the Illinois Department of Human Rights. All Illinois employers will be required annually to have all its employees trained regarding sexual harassment. Yikes. This bill passed both Houses and may become law. If you have concerns, send a reply.
HB 2127 would have required any private business that contracts with the State for information-technology services over $500,000 to install tracking software on every computer that works on a state project. Contractors with the state would pay a per employee fee to the software tracking company for spyware to record every user's keystroke, mouse click, browsing history, program usage and time spent on a computer. Usernames, passwords, confidential and proprietary personal and company information would be captured by the third party. The IL State Chamber was opposed to this legislation as government contracting process already has thorough accountability and oversight. I join with them in their opposition to what a I consider a wildly stupid bill.
SB 471 would have created the “Healthy Workplace Act.” This legislation would have mandated 40 hours of paid sick leave to all full and part time employees. The legislation is still in committed. I again oppose legislation where State gov’t is dictating to private business and local gov’ts.
HB 834 amends the Equal Pay Act of 2003 and provides an IL employer may prohibit a human resources employee, supervisor, or other employee whose job responsibilities require or allow access to other employees' wage or salary information from disclosing that information without prior written consent. This legislation is pending signature by the Gov.
HB 252 amends the Illinois Human Rights Act and provides that "employer" includes any person employing one (instead of 15) or more employees within Illinois during 20 or more calendar weeks within the calendar year of or preceding the alleged violation. This silly, anti-small business bill is pending signature by the Gov.
HB 2233 amends the IL Code of Civil Procedure providing within the discretion of the court, a jury may be asked (rather than required by the court and must be required on the request of any party) to find specially upon any material question or questions of fact submitted to the jury in writing. Any party may request special interrogatories. This is pending signature and coming to a courtroom near us.
While the IL State Chamber supported the overall SB 689 for its pro-business reforms, SB 689 contained language to enact a managed care provider tax. The IL State Chamber was able to get the language less burdensome on employers. It is pending signature by Governor Pritzker.
SB 687 imposes punitive graduated income tax rates effective January 2021, if the constitutional amendment authorizing graduated rates is approved by the voters. The bill would raise the top rate on individuals and corporations to 7.99% (10.49% for corporations with the 2.5% replacement tax), making Illinois’ income tax burden one of the highest in the nation. I strongly oppose this mess that I feel will drive doctors, lawyers, successful corporations and other contributors out of this State.
There is lots of other stuff that I don’t feel my readers would care about—if you want the link to all of it, send a reply.
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Synopsis: What Illinois Business Can/Will Expect from SB 1596—Multi-million dollar mesothelioma claims from possible exposure(s) decades ago are now on your plate!
Editor’s comment: Please note this is not an IL claim/ruling—I feel it may be illustrative of what is coming at you in Illinois. This is from the June 2019 Longshore/Maritime Update which is now edited/written by Ken Engerrand—full attribution is provided to him. If you want to get on that free Update list for Longshore/Maritime Legal News, send him a request at
His Article: Longshoreman recovers from stevedoring companies for mesothelioma. Craft v. Ports America Gulfport, Inc., No. 2018-CA-0814, 2019 La. App. Lexis 807 (La. App. 4 Cir. May 8, 2019) (Bartholomew-Woods)
Opinion (I have tested this link and consider it safe for your review)
Jerry Craft, who loaded and unloaded cargo from ships at the Port of New Orleans was diagnosed with mesothelioma at the age of 82. He brought suit against his stevedore employers in Louisiana state court for exposure to asbestos during his employment on the waterfront from 1953 to 1989. The case proceeded to trial against the stevedores that declined to settle, and the jury found the defendants negligent and awarded Craft $2,960,000. After the trial judge reduced the award to $986,666.68 based on credit for the settlements, the defendants filed post-judgment motions attacking the negligence finding and the award of $1 million for future medical expenses. The judge denied the first and granted the second. Craft and the defendants both appealed. Craft’s appeal asserted that the jury abused its discretion in awarding him only $1.6 million in general damages (past and future pain and suffering, disability, and loss of enjoyment of life. Acknowledging that Craft had suffered while undergoing several procedures and continually receiving chemotherapy since his diagnosis, the court declined to disturb the jury’s award of general damages. The court of appeal did, however, reverse the denial of future medical expenses of $1 million. Craft did not produce evidence of the amount of future medical costs, or the frequency or type of future medical treatment that was required. But he did present evidence from his physicians that he would need ongoing chemotherapy and palliative care for the rest of his life, and he presented evidence of the $360,000 in past medical expenses. The appellate court held that this was sufficient to support the jury’s award of $1 million for future treatment. The stevedoring companies also argued that Craft failed to establish a duty for stevedoring companies in the 1960s and 1970s regarding handling asbestos as there was no evidence that they knew or should have known of the effects of asbestos or that they violated any governmental regulations or industry standards. However, Craft presented the testimony of Professor Markowitz, an expert in the field of history with a subspecialty in occupational health, public health, and environmental health. He testified that there were articles published in the early 20th century on the dangers of asbestos and that by 1930 it was established that asbestos could cause disease or death for those who inhaled asbestos fibers. Concluding the trial court did not commit manifest error in allowing the testimony of Professor Markowitz over the objection that he was a historian and not a qualified industry expert, the court of appeal upheld the negligence finding.
You can and will note there is multi-million dollar exposure. Please contact your broker asap to insure you have coverage and aren’t “bare.” Prior to May 17, 2019, you didn’t have this risk to manage, I promise you.
KCB&A has a solid defense specialist in Bradley Smith who can help and guide you when these new lawsuits hit your risk models.