The new year begins the same way last year began – with a great deal of uncertainty about the future economic health of our state and our nation.
The state's unemployment rate stands at 11 percent and the budget deficit continues to grow at a frightening rate. Recent news reports have the state's unpaid bills at a staggering $5 billion and climbing.
We also have just learned that Illinois lost 52,000 manufacturing jobs and a whopping 709 manufacturers in 2009. In addition, a 2009 report from the American Legislative Exchange Council ranks Illinois 48th out of 50 states for job growth and job creation.
Coincidentally, Illinois also ranks 46th out of 50 states for legal fairness according to a recent survey from the respected Harris polling company, and a report published last month by the American Tort Reform Association ranked Cook County, the center of the state's economy, the third-worst "judicial hellhole" in the country.
The state's economic woes cannot all be blamed on the lack of legal reform in Illinois, but clearly there is a link between Illinois' ailing economy and the complete lack of legal reform at the state level.
If we want to turn Illinois' economy around, we need to send a clear message that we are serious about job growth and job creation. One simple way to do this would be for lawmakers to finally make lawsuit reform a priority.
A state ranked 46th out of 50 states is hardly in a position to attract new jobs and opportunities. The reality is companies look to locate or expand their businesses in states where the judicial system is fair.
Unfortunately, the personal injury lawyers who flock to our state have helped Illinois earn a national reputation as a plaintiff's paradise and the "Lawsuit Abuse Capital of the Midwest."
This year more than ever, we need to make sure we elect judges and lawmakers who understand the importance of bringing balance and common sense back to our courts.
Illinois used to be a destination state for jobs and opportunities. It can be that way again, but the Illinois economy will continue to struggle as long as lawmakers keep ignoring the need to reduce the rampant lawsuit abuse that is plaguing our state.
We should all do our homework and find out where the candidates on the ballot in 2010 stand on the issue of lawsuit reform. Let's use this election year as an opportunity to hold our elected officials accountable, and let's resolve to make 2010 the year we stand together and demand the common sense lawsuit reform our state desperately needs.