We're not surprised that Governor Rod Blagojevich failed to mention lawsuit abuse in his annual "State-of-the-State" speech last week. He's never been big on economic development efforts-- unless they're directed at his own, personal campaign coffers.
To be sure, what he didn't say didn't go unplanned. It was an opening, election year overture to the most important interest group in Illinois Democratic politics – trial lawyers.
After fronting the governor millions in campaign donations, they bristled last fall as Blagojevich caved to mass public pressure and signed medical malpractice reform. The measure capped the amount of money lawyers could make suing doctors or hospitals.
But don't shed a tear. Business is still grand if yours is suing people.
The big money, anyway, isn't even made in the "med mal" realm. As we know too well, toxic torts involving products like asbestos and silicosis and class action lawsuits mint the most major legal eagle multi-millionaires. In fact, many of the state's richest trial lawyers (and most generous to Governor Blagojevich) made their bones in Madison and St. Clair Counties.
That they can still operate with a free hand explains why a recent Harris survey said Illinois' is the fourth-best climate for trial lawyers in the U.S., No surprise that the rest of the country, on average, added five times as many jobs as we did in December.
In fact, according to the Illinois Coalition for Jobs, Growth, and Prosperity, the Metro-East was one of two regions in our state that actually lost jobs last year-- a total of 5,500, including 2,700 in October and November alone. That's as bad as Illinois has seen since 2003-when the country was in recession.
That it's humming now-- but we're still losing-- suggests a very real problem for our communities, one that can only be solved with measures that genuinely make them more appealing to private investors.
Illinois needs to shake that reputation that it's a bad place to do business, but it won't so long as our governor caters to job destroyers rather than creators.