By Travis Akin -
Lawmakers on their way out often find themselves making votes they would never even consider making when they were looking at running for re-election. It was lame duck lawmakers, after all, who carried the water for the 67 percent income tax increase approved in the dead of night during the lame duck session of 2011.
Here in 2012, there are 41 legislators in the House and the Senate who will not be returning for terms beginning in 2013. With so many legislators leaving, there has been widespread speculation that the lame duck session could be a flurry of activity on controversial issues such as pension reform and gaming expansion.
But why can’t legislators change the typical narrative for lame duck sessions? Instead of holding their noses and voting for imperfect legislation – lame duck legislators could help improve the Illinois economy by pushing for lawsuit reform.
Our neighbors to the north have made lawsuit reform a priority and the unemployment rate in Wisconsin is 6.9 percent while here in Illinois our unemployment rate is 8.8 percent. Wisconsin is aggressively implementing job creating reforms, but the economy in Illinois continues to flounder. Is it any wonder that according to a recent report from 24/7 Wall Street, Illinois is the third-worst run state in the nation while Wisconsin is ranked No. 21 in the same survey?
We desperately need to change the direction our state is headed. Lawsuit reform is not a magic bullet for job growth but it is a place to start. Sadly, meaningful lawsuit reforms are not even discussed let alone put in a position to be voted upon.
The reality is that companies look to locate or expand their businesses in places where the legal system is fair. A new study released from the highly respected survey company Harris Interactive ranked Illinois’ lawsuit climate the fifth-worst in the country and ranked Cook County the nation’s worst local jurisdiction for legal fairness and ranked Madison County the sixth-most unfair and unreasonable jurisdiction in the country.
Illinois’ lawsuit climate ranked beneath every bordering state including: Indiana (14), Iowa (10), Kentucky (38), Missouri (34), and Wisconsin (15).
Illinois’s poor legal climate is hurting the ability of the state to attract new jobs and opportunities. What we need is more jobs – not more lawsuits. Passing common sense lawsuit reforms in Springfield is an important first step on the road to economic recovery.
It is time for Illinois lawmakers to follow the lead of our neighbors to the north and finally pass some meaningful common sense lawsuit reforms into law that will restore fairness to our state’s long-abused civil justice system. Perhaps if lawmakers insisted on real reform initiatives during the lame duck session, Illinois could begin to change its image as one of the worst-run states in the nation and Illinois, instead of being a lawsuit magnet, could once again be a destination for jobs and opportunities.
Mr. Akin is executive director of Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch. I-LAW is a grassroots watchdog group of concerned citizens, community leaders and small business people dedicated to educating the public about the widespread costs of lawsuit abuse. I-LAW has more than 10,000 supporters throughout Illinois. Anyone interested in becoming a supporter of I-LAW or learning more about stopping lawsuit abuse in Illinois can visit www.ILLawsuitAbuseWatch.org.