Rezin’s Report: Aug. 25 – 29, 2014

The Governor concluded action on all bills sent to him during the 2014 legislative session, approving more than 100 measures and vetoing bills that would have established regulations for ridesharing companies like Uber, Lyft and Sidecar and brought uniformity to speed limits on Interstates and toll highways, State Senator Sue Rezin (R-Peru) said.

Among the more notable measures signed were bills granting protections to pregnant workers, legislation aimed at managing the reintroduction of large predators in the state and several measures affecting crime and courts.

Patronage Scandal Grows

Also, in recent days, the Governor’s office has come under heavy fire for a growing patronage controversy within the Illinois Department of Transportation.

The patronage issue has been festering for months, after a prominent anti-patronage attorney filed a motion in federal court in April alleging that the Blagojevich and Quinn administrations violated a federal court order by classifying workers as exempt from anti-patronage rules, even though the work they were doing did not qualify for the exemptions.

In August the Office of the Executive Inspector General issued a highly critical report, which essentially confirmed the claims in the federal court filing, saying the Department of Transportation consistently used job titles exempt from patronage regulations to hire politically connected persons and place them in jobs doing work that should have fallen under civil service rules.

Although Governor Quinn claimed his office was not involved in the patronage hiring, that has been disputed by former Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider who said “the vast majority” of improper political hires were referred to the agency by the Governor’s office. Most recently, Quinn’s Deputy Chief of Staff who oversaw the Department of Transportation for the Governor and also oversaw hiring of senior officials in exempt positions within the agency resigned, effective at the end of August.

Vetoed Bills – Ridesharing

The Governor finished out action on legislation by issuing controversial vetoes on two subjects – ridesharing and speed limits.

On the ridesharing issue, vetoes were issued on two bills, HB 4075 and HB 5331. Both dealt with the competition between traditional taxi companies and new startups, like Uber, Lyft and Sidecar, which offer rides to customers who connect through smart phone applications.

House Bill 4075 imposed new statewide regulations on the companies. Proponents argued that the requirements were needed to assure customer safety by establishing insurance requirements and banning agreements that exempt the companies from liability.

Opponents argued that the legislation was a thinly-veiled effort by traditional taxi companies to protect their business and shut out competition from the ridesharing companies.

While the original measure imposed greater restrictions on drivers who worked more than 18 hours a week, the companion bill, HB 5331, allowed drivers to “bank” that time, so that they could work more hours during weeks when special events occurred without triggering the higher restrictions.

Speed Limit Veto

Also vetoed was SB 2015, a follow up measure to legislation which raised the speed limit on Interstate highways in Illinois to 70 mph in January, which is consistent with most other states, including almost all Midwestern states.

Senate Bill 2015 would have brought the state’s Toll Highway system in the Chicago region up to the same 70 mph standard. 

In vetoing the measure, the Governor argued that studies show more than 90 percent of tollway drivers exceed the speed limit by 11-15 miles per hour during non-rush hour times. However, proponents of the increase, said that the statistics cited by the Governor actually make the case that the existing speed limit is too low and said it would make more sense to bring the speed limit up to a more reasonable level and enforce that higher speed limit.

Pregnant Workers

House Bill 8, which passed the General Assembly unanimously, would require employers to provide reasonable accommodations for all working pregnant women unless the accommodation imposes an undue hardship on the business.

Those accommodations would include breaks for increased water intake, bathroom breaks and breaks for periodic rest. Temporary transfer to less strenuous or hazardous position if available, appropriate adjustment or modifications of exams, training materials or policies, private non-restroom space for expressing breast milk and breastfeeding, and acquisition or modification of equipment if reasonable.

While pregnant employees can request a transfer to another job assignment, employers are not required to create additional employment that they would not otherwise have created.

Wolves, Bears, Cougars

In recent years, Gray Wolves, American Black Bears and Cougars once native to Illinois have begun to return to the state in limited numbers. In an effort to better manage their reintroduction, SB 3049 adds the three predators to the list of protected species in Illinois, while spelling out conditions that allow landowners to kill the animals if they are causing an immediate threat of physical harm or death to a person, livestock, domestic animals, or harm to structures or other property.

Anti-Crime Measures

A number of bills signed into law would have an impact on criminal offenses and the courts. Among these was a measure (HB 3744) that would give judges greater flexibility to order electronic monitoring in domestic violence cases, even if an order of protection has not been issued.

Another bill would provide an exemption from prosecution for soliciting a sex act, if the person is under 18. Senate Bill 3558 is part of an ongoing effort to address sex trafficking involving minors and treat young persons forced into prostitution as victims.

In an effort to reduce misidentification in police lineups, HB 802 would require new procedures, including preventing the person administering the lineup from knowing the identity of the suspect and prohibiting anyone who knows the suspected perpetrators identity from participating in the lineup, aside from the witness and the defendants’ counsel.

The use of ignition interlock devices that test a person’s breath alcohol before a car can be started, would be expanded under HB 4304 to include cases where the person did not injure anyone other than themselves in the accident that prompted the restriction.

And in order to help prevent financial or other abuse of the disabled, SB 3538 would add to the false personation statute, anyone who knowingly and falsely represents themselves as the legal guardian of a disabled person.

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