Legal reform advocates blasted Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich for not confronting the economics of lawsuit abuse during his annual State of the State address Wednesday.
"The governor did his best to paint a rosy picture of the state of affairs in Illinois, but failed to address the lawsuit crisis that continues to tarnish our state's reputation among employers across the country," said Ed Murnane, president of the Illinois Civil Justice League.
During Blagojevich's 39-minute speech, he outlined a $3.2 billion transportation plan he claims will create 230,000 jobs. But critics claim he ignored the state's stagnant economy.
Lisa Rickard, president of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, said the state's poor reputation among business executives is one reason why Illinois lags behind others in terms of economic growth.
"It is disconcerting that Governor Blagojevich failed to address Illinois' reputation as one of the worst states in the country for lawsuit abuse," Rickard stated.
"The medical liability reforms enacted last year are a good step forward, but Governor Blagojevich and the state legislature need to finish the job by passing more lawsuit reforms, she said.
"This will help Illinois employers escape the onslaught of opportunistic trial lawyers getting rich at the expense of Illinois employers and working families."
Rickard pointed to the 2005 Harris Survey of corporate executives which ranked Illinois 46th out of 50 states in legal fairness. The state dropped 12 spots in three years.
In the survey, 81 percent of respondents said a state's legal
climate affects important decisions, such as where to locate or invest.
The state's reputation prevents investment in Illinois, Murnane said.
"Illinois' current jobs crisis can be traced to a number of factors, but employers around the country agree that perhaps the most important impediment to bringing new jobs and investment to our state is the reputation for lawsuit abuse that has turned the Land of Lincoln into the Land of Lawsuits," he said.
Murnane said that the enactment of caps on damages last year was a step in the right direction.
"The medical liability reforms enacted last year will help solve Illinois' health care crisis," Murnane said.
The Illinois Civil Justice League also is supporting passage of venue and jury service reform in the state legislature.
"To protect Illinois employers, however, the governor and General Assembly need to take further action by enacting comprehensive civil justice reforms," Murnane said.
The Madison County Record is owned by the Institute for Legal Reform, an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.