SPRINGFIELD – A controversial plan before Congress that would permit companies to fine workers who refuse to share their genetic information through workplace wellness programs has prompted Illinois lawmakers to tighten up a state law protecting workers from such repercussions.
“We’re seeing changes proposed at the federal level that are concerning to me and to others,” said Senator Andy Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat and sponsor of Senate Bill 318. “The goal here is only to protect the genetic information of individuals when that information might be used against them in the employee-employer relationship.”
The legislation advanced out of the Senate Labor Committee Wednesday. It was prompted by news that Congresswoman Virginia Foxx, a Republican from North Carolina, in March proposed the Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act (HR1313).
Supporters said the measure would enable employers to have the “legal certainty” to promote good health while lowering health care costs. However, critics said it would allow employers to pressure workers to share their private genetic information by rewarding them with lower health insurance costs, while penalizing those who choose not to disclose such details.
The Winston-Salem Journal, Foxx’s hometown newspaper, called the measure an example of “big government run amok,” in an editorial urging Congress to kill it.
Under Illinois’ Genetic Information Privacy Act, employers must handle genetic testing consistent with the federal laws. It prevents employers from requiring genetic testing as a condition of employment, from changing terms of employment as a result of genetic information, or from classifying employees based on genetic testing. Further, it says testing done in the context of a workplace wellness program is available to employers only in aggregate form, not on an individual basis.
Manar’s proposed update to the law would bar employers from penalizing workers who choose not to disclose their genetic information or do not participate in a program that requires disclosure of their genetic information.
“I think we have a strong law in Illinois, but I don’t think it’s very strong about barring employers from penalizing employees,” he said.
SPRINGFIELD- State Senator Laura Murphy (D-Des Plaines) advanced legislation through the Illinois Senate today to prevent disabled veterans from being forced to reapply for the Disabled Veterans’ Standard Homestead Exemption every year.
The exemption is available to veterans with service-related disabilities.
As of 2015, veterans with a 30 percent - 50 percent disability can receive $2,500 exemption, those with 50 percent - 70 percent receive a $5,000 exemption, and veterans with at least a 70 percent disability are exempt from paying property taxes.
“These property tax exemptions are a small token to show our thanks for making these great sacrifices for our country, but forcing disabled veterans to reapply every year is duplicative,” Murphy said. “My proposal removes the legal barriers that force them to reapply and make their lives just a bit easier.”
Senator Murphy’s legislation, Senate Bill 1437, passed the Illinois Senate with a vote of 55-0. It will now head to the Illinois House.
SPRINGFIELD – A bipartisan measure to help first-time business owners in Illinois was approved by the Illinois Senate today. The entrepreneur learner’s permit program was introduced by State Sen. Linda Holmes, a Democrat from Aurora.
“There has been a lot of talk about making Illinois more business friendly, but not enough action,” Holmes said. “This legislation encourages first-time small business owners to set up in Illinois by giving them incentives. It is important that we as lawmakers do whatever we can to strengthen Illinois’ economy in real and tangible ways.”
The entrepreneur learner’s permit would encourage small business growth by reimbursing first-time business owners for certain costs paid to the state for licensing and permits. The Illinois legislation creates a pilot version of a similar program established by the Connecticut State Legislature in July of 2016.
The measure, Senate Bill 1462, has been approved by the Illinois Senate and now moves to the House of Representatives.
SPRINGFIELD — Joining student activists as they visited Springfield to call for funding for higher education, State Sen. Pat McGuire asked them to tell Gov. Bruce Rauner about how the impasse is affecting them.
“I’m going to ask you to teach,” said McGuire, D-Joliet. “I have become an attentive student of Governor Bruce Rauner. In his State of the State address, he said ‘Job creators get excited by term limits.’ You know that’s not true. Job creators get excited by a well-trained, well-educated workforce. I’m convinced the Governor does not know our lives from a hill of beans. The real Illinois is not people like himself, worth $700 million. It’s people trying to get by on $8.25 an hour. People who need Monetary Award Program grants to continue their education.”
The Fund Our Future Rally drew students from Moraine Valley Community College, the City Colleges of Chicago, the University of Illinois, DePaul University and Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville.
McGuire asked students to “teach the governor” by giving him sharp, specific examples of what the budget impasse is doing to their education.
“Trust your experience,” McGuire said. “He can’t dispute what you’ve been through. He can’t dispute what you’re after.”