As small businesses, workers, and families across our state struggle under the COVID-19 shutdown, the General Assembly finally came together for four days, May 20-23, to debate urgent matters in highly unusual circumstances. The House met in the Bank of Springfield Center, spread out at tables in the expansive floor. The Senate met in its chamber at the capitol, but senators stayed mostly in their offices except to debate and vote in staggered rollcalls.
Quickly to some good news: The long-debated mandated paid sick leave legislation was killed off. Permanently? No, but for now it is.
More good news: The legislature did not codify the governor’s proposed rule that would have made it a Class A misdemeanor, with the possibility of fines and jail time, on business owners who do not follow the emergency order. There are existing legal actions already available to local and state authorities for enforcing health emergency rules.
A little more good news on unemployment benefits: NFIB worked with our business allies to negotiate HB 2455 that waives the benefit charges to individual employers due to benefits paid and caused by COVID-19. This change will save employers who laid off workers due to the pandemic and closure orders from costly increases. The bill fulfilled federal requirements so the state will receive approximately $2 billion in federal funds to pay for benefit expansions and $20 million to pay for the state to upgrade its IT systems.
And this good news on workers’ compensation law: As you may recall, Governor Pritzker used an emergency rule to greatly expand the workers’ compensation system in violation of the decades-long agreed bill process. After legal action, the rule was withdrawn. Business and Labor negotiated a compromise. HB 2455 establishes a rebuttable presumption for first-responder or front-line workers if the employee’s injury or occupational disease resulted from exposure to and contraction of the COVID-19 virus.
The legislature spent most of the four session days focused on passing a state budget based on fiscal assumptions that may not come to fruition. It’s unclear what state revenues will be, and it isn’t clear whether additional federal assistance may come to states.
Illinois Moves to Phase 3 reopening
The governor’s office states that all of Illinois will move into “phase 3” of the re-opening plan on May 30. This is good news for thousands of businesses ready, willing, and able to open up again. Employers will need to adhere the strict guidelines for workers and customers. For a look at industry by industry details, go here.
The General Assembly will meet again Nov. 17-19 and Dec. 1-3 for the fall “veto session”.