Bill to amend Worker's Compensation Act passes despite opposition from Barickman
Sen. Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington) spoke out in opposition of a bill that changes how certain workers' compensation claims are recovered in Illinois.
Senate Bill 1596 was sponsored by Sen. Elgie R. Sims Jr. (D-Chicago). It amends the Worker's Compensation Act and the Workers' Occupational Diseases Act, and allows that specific sections limiting recovery do not apply to injuries or death resulting from an occupational disease such as mesothelioma, "as to which the recovery of compensation benefits under the act would be precluded due to the operation of any period of repose or repose provision," the bill states.
Barickman asked if the legislation was intended to be retroactive, and Sims said it was for those currently exposed.
"So when you say it's retroactive, your intention is that this class of individuals who are currently past statute of repose would now be able to file suit in court, correct?" Barickman questioned Sims on the senate floor. "I’m not sure I agree with the characterization of what the court asked for, but that’s neither here nor there.
"The sponsor has come forward with a proposal that is a solution to a problem both sides agree exist," Barickman continued. "This situation isn’t unique, but it’s rare. There's no dispute we should do something about this, but the dispute lies in what the proper decision is."
Barickman said the sponsor’s solution disrupts a very delicate balance in the worker's-compensation system.
"This legislation disrupts that system and disrupts it in a way by moving some of our employee rights out of that system and into the courts," Barickman said. "This proposal threatens that system. That’s why this matters. These court cases say that under Illinois law and federal law, because of our state and federal constitutions, we all have due-process rights. In the proposal put forward, it significantly jeopardizes the due-process rights that we all say are so important that we put them in our state and federal constitutions."
Barickman said he stood in opposition of the bill. Sims said the bill allowed those not currently protected to be protected.
The bill passed with 41 Yes votes and 16 No votes.