Winger's Weekly Wrap-up

Veterans
Winger bill establishing more Veteran Treatment Courts is headed to the Senate. Legislation sponsored by State Representative Christine Winger to increase the number of Veteran Treatment Courts in Illinois overwhelmingly passed out of the Illinois House of Representatives on Wednesday.

“Veterans risked their lives to protect our nation, we owe them the opportunity for rehabilitation,” explained Winger. “It’s our responsibility to take care of our servicemembers when they return from duty especially when minor offenses are often attributed to trauma from their time in service to our country.”

House Bill 5003 passed with bipartisan support and is a huge step in the right direction for veteran services. Currently, there are 12 Veterans Court programs in Illinois that aid veterans with non-violent records to overcome struggles with substance abuse and mental health recovery. Veterans who qualify and successfully comply with court orders are able to have non-violent charges dismissed.

As of 2014, problem-solving courts including Veteran Treatment Courts kept 1,200 nonviolent offenders out of prison and instead provided them treatment, saving taxpayers nearly $20 million.

Domestic Violence
Legislation advances to enhance protection for domestic violence victims. Legislation that would expand the training standards for police to enhance protection for victims of domestic violence has advanced. While all law enforcement officers in Illinois are trained in procedures to recognize and handle domestic violence situations, House Bill 5538 would improve the training standards for officers to prevent further victimization caused by the emotional trauma of domestic violence.

House Bill 5538 updates the Illinois Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 and the Domestic Violence Act of 1986 to ensure that law enforcement training for new recruits includes more than just tactical procedures. The legislation also provides that every five years, continuing education programs for current officers will also be implemented in coordination with other agencies and community organizations that work with victims.

In many cases of domestic violence, the victim may exhibit behavior that, without understanding history and background, can be misinterpreted by those responding and investigating these incidents. It is not uncommon for the psychological trauma to cause a victim to react in a similar manner to someone with Stockholm Syndrome, causing the victim’s response to their abuser to be misunderstood. These kinds of complex situations emphasize why it’s so important for officers to recognize the psychological signs of abuse.

Jobs – March 2016 Unemployment Rate
Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) announces further increase in State jobless rate. The U-3 unemployment rate is limited to persons who are participants in the labor force, are completely unemployed, and are engaged in an ongoing search for employment. Over the most recently calculated 30-day period, this rate increased 0.1% from the U-3 rate of 6.4% in February to a rate in March 2016 of 6.5%. The March 2016 jobless rate was 60 basis points above the comparative year-earlier Illinois rate of 5.9% in March 2015, and was 150 basis points above the nationwide unemployment rate of 5.0%. During the past 12 months, the nationwide jobless rate has declined by 0.5%, from 5.5% to 5.0%; but during the same period the unemployment rate faced by Illinois has increased by 0.6%, from 5.9% to 6.5%. In addition to U-3 unemployment, other ways exist to count additional unemployed and under-employed Illinois workers. These alternative pathways, such as U-5 and U-6, generate even higher numbers for Illinois joblessness.

The IDES reported that Illinois’ weakest employment sector in terms of net jobs created/lost was once again manufacturing, with a net loss of 3,100 jobs in March 2016. This job loss included not only the closures of entire plants and divisions, as publicly reported under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining (WARN) Act, but also the marginal loss of single headcount positions that are found to be redundant. In cases like these, a single factory worker or members of a single work station are let go and not replaced.

Illinois actually increased the total number of nonfarm payroll jobs posted within State lines in March 2016 by 14,700 job positions over February, with strength concentrated in leisure, hospitality, construction, and financial activities. Despite this increase, U-3 unemployment rates increased in line with the return of additional adult Illinoisans to the labor force and their resumption of an active search for work. Illinois, in March 2016, remained 46,100 jobs short of the peak employment level achieved by employers and employees within the State in September 2000. Although more than fifteen years have taken place since this peak employment month, the State continues to generate fewer nonfarm payroll jobs than it had in that long-ago month.

Jobs – Major Layoffs
March private-sector layoff filings total nearly 900 Illinois jobs. Under the Illinois Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, large employers (defines as employers with 75 or more full-time employees) must make a public filing of intent to reduce their workforces by at least 250 employees or by at least 33% of their workforce. Unless the employers has been forced through circumstances outside its control to shut down at once, the WARN Act requires them to provide at least 60 days’ advance notice of the layoff.

The largest single job loss posted in March 2016 was posted by Stoller Wholesale, a wholesaler of alcoholic beverages. Stoller was merged into a nationwide alcohol distribution holding company in 2013. After a transition period, the new parent holding company (Dallas-based Glazer’s) has announced its intent to shut down the 170-job Stoller warehouse in Elk Grove Village. The closure on June 1 was explained as being due to the redundancy of Stoller’s to the parent firm’s operations. Stoller’s WARN Act posting, like the other ones on this list, was filed in March 2016 and is included in the month-long WARN Act summary.

The largest single March 2016 announcement of lost Illinois manufacturing jobs was posted by Assembled Products, a unit of Wisconsin-based Jason Incorporated; Assembled Products is a maker of metal stampings. Eighty-one Assembled Products workers are expected to be laid off in Buffalo Grove, starting May 15. At the Chicago facility of paper packaging-maker WestRock, 49 jobs are expected to be permanently moved starting May 11. WestRock has formed a joint venture with a Mexican packaging company, a move that is expected to include the transfer of some the firm’s manufacturing work to its partner. Most of the job losses published this month were geographically located in the Chicago area.

Public Health – Zika Virus
Number of confirmed Illinois cases hits double digits. The tenth case of Zika has just been confirmed in Illinois, with two of the cases occurring among pregnant women. Infection with the mosquito-borne virus has been tied to microcephaly in fetuses, stillbirths, miscarriages, and the adult neurological condition Guillain-Barre syndrome. Public health officials in some Latin American countries are so alarmed by the rapidly spreading outbreak that they have taken the extraordinary step of advising women across their countries not to attempt to have a child. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control is advising women who are pregnant, or who are attempting to conceive, to avoid travel to Zika-affected areas.

The attention of U.S. public health authorities is now moving toward the possibility that Zika-infected mosquitoes may enter the United States. As of April 6, all 346 confirmed cases of Zika virus infection are associated with travel, and no confirmed cases are associated with transmission from mosquito to person within the United States. It is not yet known whether it is possible for infected humans to bring the virus back into the United States and become vectors of the infection through getting bitten by American mosquitoes. Experts are calling for redoubled efforts within the United States to reopen public health programs aimed at strict mosquito control, a pathway to public health that was partly abandoned in the 50 U.S. states after the invention of DDT sharply reduced transmission of malaria and yellow fever in the 1940s.

Delinquent Motor Vehicle Sticker Fees
House votes unanimously in favor of bill to suspend late fee. The supplemental fee for renewing a motor vehicle sticker is automatically charged whenever the owner of the motor vehicle delays filing a renewal slip and paying the vehicle license renewal fee. If the fee is paid on time, the driver will get a decal from the office of the Illinois Secretary of State to attach to the steel license plate on the relicensed motor vehicle. If the fee is not paid on time, the driver is required to pay an extra supplementary fee to re-license the motor vehicle, and the vehicle may also face the possibility of a police stop as a result of driving with an expired tag.

Until FY16, Illinois drivers received letters from the Office of the Secretary of State shortly prior to the expirations of their existing stickers. The letters contained friendly reminder notices intended to nudge the driver/vehicle owner to file the renewal application, pay the fee, and get the sticker. Unfortunately, the Secretary of State’s office no longer sends out these reminder notices. They point out that their agency has not gotten appropriated funds for its needs from the State of Illinois since the start of FY16 in July 2015. This explanation confuses Illinois drivers, who are well aware that the motor vehicle license renewal fees that they are required to pay every year contain more than enough to cover the costs of a robot mail piece.

A bill passed by the Illinois House on Tuesday, April 12 could help Illinois vehicle owners. HB 4334 carves out a fee holiday during periods when the license sticker warning notices are not being sent out. The fee holiday shall last as long as the period of time the warning letters are not being mailed. A second partial holiday, to last 30 days from the expiration of each’s vehicle sticker, is provided in this bill for motor vehicle drivers to use as an affirmative defense in court if they face a police citation for expiration of their motor vehicle license sticker. The House vote on HB 4334 was 114-0-0, and the bill was sent to the Illinois Senate for further discussion and debate.