Government Affairs Roundup
“Your Timely Roundup of Local, State, and Federal Updates”
Today’s update is going to be a short one coming off of a holiday weekend and just a little slower than usual with news. One important piece is to remind all of construction beginning on I-80 starting this Thursday.
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The Special Session That Wasn’t
For months the talk in Springfield centered on a special session dealing primarily with matters related to abortion and guns. With less than 80 days to the election, and a lack of consensus on the specifics of these two hot button issues, it is now looking very unlikely that lawmakers return to Springfield before the scheduled Veto Session.
As a reminder, the General Assembly has released the schedule for veto session. Lawmakers will be back in Springfield Tuesday, November 15 -November 17 as well as November 29-December 1.
Labor Board Proposes New Joint Employer Rule
The federal board that oversees labor management relations is proposing a new rule that would make it easier for workers to say they are employed by two employers at once, a move that could open the door to employee claims against businesses that rely on franchisees, contractors or staffing firms.
The proposed rule is one of the first significant policy moves by the National Labor Relations Board under the Biden administration and will likely be challenged in court by business groups. The rule would rescind a 2020 rule issued under the Trump administration stating that employees could only claim to be employed by companies holding “substantial, direct and immediate control” over their employment.
Under the current proposal, a company with the power “whether directly, indirectly or both” to control wages, hiring or work requirements would be counted as an employer. That raises the possibility that a company that hires a contractor to run a cafeteria or clean the office could be considered a joint employer of the contractors’ workers. Or it could mean that a fast food or hotel chain requiring workers to cook food or clean rooms a certain way could be considered an employer even if those workers are hired and paid by franchisees.
Companies could be held responsible if their contractors violate labor law under the National Labor Relations Act. It could also force them to negotiate with unions representing their contractors’ employees.
Economy adds 315,000 jobs in August, unemployment ticks up
Job growth slowed slightly in August but remained well above pre-pandemic levels as steady consumer spending powered another strong month of hiring. There were 11.24 million job openings at the end of July. The U.S. added 315,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate rose to 3.7 percent, according to data released Friday by the Labor Department, up from 3.5 percent in August.
The biggest issue in the job market continues to be too few workers in the labor force. We took a step in the right direction on that front. The labor force grew by 786,000. We are now 163,000 above the pre-pandemic participation level. But the population and the economy have grown over the past two-and-half years, and the participation rate is still below its pre-pandemic level.
If we had the same participation rate now as then, there would be 2.75 million more workers in the labor force.
Wages rose 0.3% from July and 5.2% annually from August 2021. Inflation is above that annual growth so inflation-adjusted wages are still declining. Education and health services added 68,000; professional business services 68,000; wholesale and retail trade 59,000; leisure and hospitality 31,000; manufacturing 22,000; financial activities 17,000; and construction 16,000.
Employer Guide to Tax Credits for Hiring Employees With Disabilities
Amid the ongoing workforce shortage, businesses are finding it more challenging than ever to hire talented workers. One source of talent employers should consider is people with disabilities. By recruiting, hiring, and retaining these individuals, businesses can give themselves a competitive edge and demonstrate their commitment to inclusion.
Businesses that make structural adaptations or other workplace accommodations for employees with disabilities may be eligible for certain tax incentives. Those interested in local programs and additional opportunities should reach out to the Workforce Services Division of Will County at 815.727.4444.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Employer Guide to Tax Credits for Hiring Employees With Disabilities details three federal tax credits, and what employers need to know. Here is a brief overview:
1. The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC): is available to employers for hiring individuals from certain target groups who have consistently faced significant barriers to employment.
2. The Disabled Access Credit: provides a non-refundable credit of up to $5,000 for small businesses that incur expenditures for the purpose of providing access to persons with disabilities.
3. The Architectural Barrier Removal Tax Deduction: encourages businesses of any size to remove architectural and transportation barriers to the mobility of persons with disabilities and the elderly. Businesses may claim a deduction of up to $15,000 a year for qualified expenses for items that normally must be capitalized.
Closures on I-80 in Joliet Over Multiple Weekends: Major Travel Delays are Anticipated – Alternative Routes are Strongly Encouraged
The Illinois Department of Transportation is reminding the public that bridge deck patching and repairs to Interstate 80 between Raynor Avenue and Gardner Street, in Joliet, will require lane and ramp closures over multiple weekends beginning, weather permitting, Thursday, September 8.
Starting at 10 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 8, lane closures will take place on eastbound I-80, between Raynor Avenue and Gardner Street. Additionally, the ramp from Chicago Street (U.S.52/Illinois 53) to eastbound I-80 will be closed. During that time, motorists should follow the posted detour to access the expressway. At least one eastbound I-80 lane will remain open at all times and westbound I-80 will not be impacted. Eastbound I-80 motorists traveling through the region should consider alternative routes to avoid the area. Local streets are unable to accommodate heavy or wide trucks, so other interstate routes are encouraged. The ramp and all lanes are anticipated to reopen by 5 a.m. Monday, Sept. 12.
Additionally, the eastbound I-80 ramp to Richards Street is closed for reconstruction, with an anticipated reopening in late fall. The posted detour directs traffic to exit Briggs Street and reenter westbound I-80 to access the Richards Street exit.
To complete the project, additional weekend lane and ramp closures are scheduled to take place, from 10 p.m. Thursdays to 5 a.m. Mondays, alternating between westbound and eastbound I-80 for approximately eight consecutive weekends, weather permitting.
The work consists of patching, milling, resurfacing and pavement striping to keep the pavement in acceptable condition until the larger corridor project can begin. By scheduling the work over multiple weekends this fall, the unplanned, emergency closures that have occurred with increasing frequency in recent years can be minimized. Also, by planning the repairs, they can be performed more safely and allow motorists the opportunity to plan ahead and use alternative routes to avoid the area when feasible.
As one of the country’s three coast-to-coast interstates, I-80 through Joliet and Will County carries approximately 80,000 vehicles a day, about 25% of which are trucks.
Advance work on I-80 started last year with a $41.7 million project to replace the eastbound bridges over Hickory Creek, Richards Street and Rowell Avenue/Canadian National Railroad, and westbound over Richards Street, in Joliet, Rockdale and New Lenox, while widening eastbound I-80 from Gardner Street to Rowell Avenue. Once the eastbound improvements are completed later this year, similar improvements will begin in the westbound direction.
Plans are being finalized on the overall I-80 project that will redesign and rebuild 16 miles from Ridge Road, in Minooka, to U.S. 30, in Joliet and New Lenox, while adding or extending auxiliary lanes to improve safety and reduce congestion. Interchanges are planned to be rebuilt or improved at Interstate 55, Illinois 7, Center Street, Chicago Street, Richards Street and Briggs Street, with a new flyover ramp linking southbound I-55 to improve flow and safety. More than 30 bridges are planned to be rehabilitated or replaced, including those over the Des Plaines River.
Executive Vice President
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry