Significant portions of Gov. Bruce Rauner and Senate Republicans’ pro-jobs reform agenda were stalled this week by entrenched opposition from Democrat lawmakers in control of the General Assembly.
Property Tax Freeze (SB 1046)
Illinois has the second-highest property taxes of any state, a distinction that a proposal considered this week sought to rectify by freezing property taxes until local voters approve an increase.
However, legislative Democrats blocked the effort to provide the people of Illinois with real property tax relief, and stymied the ability of local voters to control their own taxes.
Lawsuit Reform (SB 884)
Reform that would even the legal playing field and fix the state’s broken lawsuit system was stalled by Democrat lawmakers in a Senate Committee May 28. The compromise lawsuit reform legislation was intended to put a stop to the frivolous lawsuits that have pushed employers and jobs out of Illinois.
Ranking 46 out of 50 states, with one of the worst lawsuit climates in the nation, Illinois is home to two counties deemed “Judicial Hellholes” by the American Tort Reform Association.
The bill is the result of bipartisan working groups organized by Governor Bruce Rauner. The measure would limit the practice of venue shopping, where plaintiffs file lawsuits in courts based on where they are most likely to win regardless of where injuries actually occurred. The measure would have created a process where locations are prioritized based on the parties involved and location where the injuries were incurred.
The legislation would also limit the ability of plaintiffs to seek damages from wealthy businesses and individuals, even though they may have had significantly less involvement in causing the injury, as well as modifications to ensure a plaintiff only recovers the amount actually paid for medical bills.
Workers’ Compensation Reform (SB 994)
Pro-jobs workers’ compensation reform also failed to advance on May 27 when Democrat lawmakers voted against a major reform initiative that would have had a dramatic impact on the state’s economic health and jobs climate.
Illinois workers’ compensation rates are currently the seventh-highest in the nation, and are often cited as a reason companies choose not to move to or expand in Illinois. Employers testified in support of Senate Bill 994, saying the state’s high workers’ compensation costs have a significant impact on their bottom line and deter job creators from expanding or locating in Illinois.
Senate Bill 994 would have reduced workers’ compensation rates for businesses through a package of reforms, including a provision that would ensure the workplace is the major contributing cause of the injury.
Term Limits (SJRCA 14) and Redistricting (SJRCA 15)
Legislative Democrats refused to allow any public hearings on two constitutional amendments, one which would impose term limits on legislators and executive office holders and another which would have created a new independent commission to draw fair and balanced legislative district maps.