May 19, 2005

SPRINGFIELD (May 19)—Guided by State Sen. Bill Haine (D-Alton), H.B. 2449, now known as the Railroad Employees Medical Treatment Act, passed the Illinois Senate unanimously today. The bill will now be returned to the House for a Concurrence vote before being sent to the Governor.

“The bill originally passed the House April 13, but the Senate made a minor amendment to some of its language, so the Senate version has to go back to the House for Concurrence before it can be signed into law,” said UTU Illinois Legislative Director Joseph C. Szabo.

Szabo said that within two hours of passing the Senate by a vote of 59-0, the bill had already “arrived” back in the House and was listed on the Order of Concurrence.

“That’s quick, and it means that a Concurrence vote could as early as Friday, but early next week is more likely,” Szabo said.

“During the floor debate Sen. Haine said it was the intent of the Senate that enforcement of H.B. 2449 be ‘strict’ and that the Illinois Commerce Commission assign a ‘priority’ status to Formal Complaints brought under this new act,” Szabo said.

“Sen. Haine said that he expects the Senate to be tracking complaints and made it clear that if the $10,000 civil penalties enforced by the Commission are not strong enough to change the railroads’ conduct, the Senate will consider imposing severe sanctions, including criminal sanctions, in the future,” he said.

Szabo said big thank-yous are due to Ass’t. Legislative Director John Burner and Alternate Legislative Director Bob Guy.

“These two really made the rounds and shared documentation to show the legislators just how serious this problem is,” Szabo said. “John and Bob just bulldogged this bill through to passage,” he said.

UTU members are asked to contact their state representatives one more time and ask them to vote “’Yes’ on concurrence.”

“We also need to call our state senators and thank them for the ringing endorsement they gave the state’s railroad employees with today’s unanimous vote,” Szabo said. “Saying a simple ‘Thank you’ can really pay dividends.

“Membership action is what got this bill passed the first two times, and membership action is what will bring this third and final vote to a positive culmination for all of the railroad employees in this state,” Szabo said. “Once the governor signs this legislation no railroad ever again will be able to withhold medical treatment from an injured employee or meddle in that employee’s doctor-patient relationship. Doing so will cost a carrier up to $10,000 for each violation.”

Szabo said the easiest way to learn how to reach a state representative is to use the search feature on the UTU Web page. Click on, follow the instructions, and you’ll get the local phone number of your representative’s district office.