May 2, 2005

SPRINGFIELD (May 2)—Two UTU bills were approved by the Senate Transportation Committee today and continue to remain on track toward final passage in the Illinois Senate.

H.B. 2510, legislation that would require crew-van operators to carry a minimum of $250,000 uninsured/underinsured insurance for each passenger, passed on an 8-0 vote and will move to the Senate floor for a final vote, possibly as soon as next week.

H.B. 2449, legislation that would prohibit railroads from delaying, denying or interfering with the medical treatment of injured rail workers, also passed on a 9-0 vote, but only after a commitment from the lead Sponsor, Senator Bill Haine (D-Alton) to look at a floor amendment that would transfer enforcement from local state’s attorneys to the Illinois Commerce Commission.

“The guts of the bill will remain solidly intact,” said UTU Illinois Legislative Director Joseph C. Szabo. “The language regarding violations for delaying, denying or interfering in any way with the medical treatment of an employee injured in the workplace will remain verbatim.

“The only proposed difference from the original language is that violations will be enforced by the Illinois Commerce Commission rather than by local state’s attorneys,” Szabo said. “Fines will continue to remain as high as $10,000 for each separate violation of the act.”

Szabo said bringing such cases before the Commerce Commission, which already enforces railroad workplace safety laws, has advantages.

“The House version of the bill called for each county to enforce the law as a criminal matter in its courts,” Szabo said. “With 102 different counties in the state, we would have had to deal with 102 different state’s attorneys. While I certainly liked the sound of a criminal penalty, the reality is enforcement may be easier for our members under the Commission approach.”

Szabo said that Senator Haine should have an amendment ready for Committee review by next week. Meanwhile, as a courtesy, H.B. 2449 will be held on the Senate floor pending a final vote until the Committee has the opportunity to deliberate the over the proposed amendment.

“We feel confident that will happen soon,” he said. “I don’t like delays, but this is simply a matter of doing a little ‘switching-out’ while enroute. This train will not expire under the Hours of Service.

“Our crew van insurance bill (H.B. 2510) is an express,” Szabo said. “Our medical treatment interference bill (H.B. 2449) is a local. But with your continued letters, phone calls, and emails to your State Senator, we’re going to have the steam to get this train into the station. We’re chugging along.”