It's been a rough few weeks for Illinois in its rivalry with its neighbors to the north in Wisconsin. The Chicago Bears were just one game away from heading to the Super Bowl until their hated rivals from Green Bay came to town and knocked them out of the playoffs this past weekend.
Instead of kicking off a postgame celebration leading up to another Super Bowl appearance, Bears fans had to endure the humiliation of watching the Packers celebrating their triumph in the middle of Soldier Field. Adding insult to injury, the Packers headed north across the border with the NFC championship trophy, which is named for former Bears coach, owner and icon George Halas.
But the Halas Trophy isn't the only thing traveling across the border these days. Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin has made headlines lately with his aggressive approach to luring Illinois businesses to Wisconsin in the aftermath of the huge income tax increase the Illinois General Assembly recently approved.
And now the Badger State will have another powerful tool to lure Illinois jobs away, as the Wisconsin legislature last week passed a package of common sense lawsuit reforms that will make the state's civil justice system more balanced and more hospitable to companies looking to expand or relocate there.
Unfortunately, due to Illinois's status as the "Lawsuit Abuse Capital of the Midwest," there will now be quite a few businesses looking to relocate to a state like Wisconsin that is not viewed as a plaintiff's paradise and a magnet for lawsuits, as Illinois is.
In fact, in a survey by the respected Harris Company, Wisconsin is ranked 22nd in the nation for legal fairness while Illinois is ranked 45th. The legal climate in Wisconsin is far better for job creation than the one in Illinois and yet lawmakers up there are not content with their middle-of-the-pack ranking. Wisconsin lawmakers want to be one of the better states for legal fairness and are actively trying to improve their ranking.
Contrast this to Illinois. For years, Illinois has been one of the worst states for legal fairness, but our lawmakers have done nothing to improve the state's reputation as a magnet for lawsuit abuse.
It is one thing to get beat on the football field, it is quite another to lose jobs and opportunities to other states because our legislature refuses to take simple steps such as legal reform to keep Illinois businesses in Illinois. Companies look to create jobs where the legal system is fair, so why would a company expand or even stay in a state ranked fifth worst in the country for lawsuit abuse?
Wisconsin may have taken the Halas Trophy back over the border on Sunday, but we can't sit idly by and watch Wisconsin poach companies and jobs from our state. It is time for Illinois lawmakers to follow the lead of our neighbors to the north and finally pass some meaningful common sense lawsuit reforms into law that will restore fairness to our state's long-abused civil justice system. That would be a victory all Illinoisans could savor for many years.
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