Madison - St. Clair Record

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Rauner ad campaign begins; House-approved work comp proposal 'so bad' says Republican lawmaker

By The Madison County Record | Jun 16, 2015

SPRINGFIELD – Gov. Bruce Rauner’s not-as-harsh-as-expected TV ad campaign blaming Speaker Michael Madigan for refusing to budge on the budget launched today in most media markets in the state:

"They're saying 'No' to spending discipline; 'No' to job-creating economic reforms; ‘No' to term limits,” says a female announcer.

"All they want is higher taxes. Again."

The ad can be found here:

But whether the media buy will help Rauner get Madigan to negotiate a state budget remains to be seen as the new fiscal year looms July 1.

Key components of Rauner’s Turnaround Agenda are:

- A property tax freeze coupled with greater local control over collective bargaining, and elimination of the prevailing wage act for local government projects.

- Reform of the workers compensation system, most notably in terms of causation, or what makes an injury a workers’ comp-eligible injury.

- Civil lawsuit reform.

- Ballot questions on two constitutional questions: Term limits for elected state officials and establishment of an independent legislative redistricting commission.

State Sen. Kyle McCarter (R-Lebanon), who has been outspoken about Democrats' refusal to compromise on Rauner’s reform package, characterized a workers’ compensation proposal advanced in the House recently as being "worse" than what’s already on the books.

State Reps. John Bradley (D-Marion) and Jay Hoffman (D-Swansea) on June 3 won House approval for greater state control of worker’s compensation premiums.

Their bill setting a new standard for state review of premium rates and requiring advance approval passed the House 63-39.

But McCarter said the proposal was “so bad” that “not one organization” signed on as a proponent.

The Bradley-Hoffman measure declares that, “premiums shall not be excessive.”

It explains that, “A premium is excessive if it is likely to produce a long run profit that is unreasonably high in relation to the coverage or services rendered.”

Current law provides that, “A rate in a competitive market is not excessive.”

The new bill would create a task force on premiums, with eight legislators, four representatives of employers and workers, and no voice for insurers.

The bill would also broaden state oversight of employers that insure themselves or cover their workers through self insurance pools.

The Senate had not acted on the bill, as of June 15.

Bradley and Hoffman brought it to the House in the form of floor amendments to a shell bill that Speaker Michael Madigan introduced in February.

In Bradley’s first amendment, he applied to premiums in competitive markets the same standard of excess that now applies to markets without competition.

Next, he provided that insurers would file rates 30 days before their effective date, rather than 30 days after the date as in current law.

Rates would not take effect if the insurance department director disapproved them.

If the director disapproved, an insurer could ask for a hearing.

The director would set interim rates while considering a decision.

Bradley’s first amendment would also require recalculation of rates for employers that provide safety training or help injured workers return to work.

His second amendment would set up a task force to study recommendations on premium rates from the National Council on Compensation.

The task force would include two legislators from each party in each chamber, plus representatives of injured workers, labor, retailers, and manufacturers.

Bradley’s second amendment would also expand current oversight of insurers to include employers that insure themselves.

It would require an annual report from the department on the number of self insurers, the number in self insurance pools, the amounts of their indemnities and medical expenses, and their claims per worker, all in comparison to other states.

While Bradley’s amendments would change the shape of worker’s compensation, Hoffman’s amendments would trim the edges.

Hoffman’s first amendment answers a persistent question about workers who suffer injuries in car crashes on their way to and from work.

It provides that, “An injury arises out of the employment if, at the time of the occurrence, the employee was performing acts he or she was instructed to perform by his or her employer, acts which he or she had a common law or statutory duty to perform, or acts which the employee might reasonably be expected to perform incident to his or her assigned duties.

“It must be shown that the injury had its origin in some risk connected with, or incidental to, the employment so as to create a causal connection between the employment and the accidental injuries.”

Under Hoffman’s second amendment, an insurer making an award for repetitive stress could seek contributions or reimbursement from prior employers.

It would prohibit an insurer from considering as part of its premium rates any repetitive stress injury occurring in the first three months of employment.

Mark Fitton of Illinois News Network contributed to this report.

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Illinois State Senator Kyle McCarter (R-54th)

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