Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has signed a measure to change the way the state considers injured workers' claims. The Republican governor held a ceremonial signing at a foundry in Clarksville yesterday. A major feature of the measure is that it removes workers' compensation cases from the state's trial courts and instead creates special panels appointed by the governor to hear claims and appeals. The legislation passed the Senate 28-2, and the House approved it 68-24.
Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan is moving forward with a plan to require local school districts to pay their share of teacher pensions. Currently the state covers pension payments for teachers in suburban Chicago and downstate Illinois. Madigan says it's a "free lunch" for those districts. He says the practice has exacerbated Illinois' nearly $100 billion crisis and "should come to an end as soon as possible."
A conference geared toward helping minority students get into the college of their choice is scheduled for June at Eastern Kentucky University. The Council on Postsecondary Education is accepting registrations for the event, which will be held June 28-29. It will be the council's 26th year for the Academically Proficient High School Junior and Senior Diversity Conference.
Federal watchdogs say they're launching an effort to bolster labor-law compliance involving hand-harvested crops in Illinois and Missouri. The U.S. Labor Department's Wage and Hour Division announced the initiative yesterday. The intent is to safeguard agricultural workers against violations of fair labor, visa, migrant, seasonal agriculture worker and sanitation laws.
A union-backed approach for dealing with Illinois' nearly $100 billion pension crisis is getting its first full airing. A Senate committee will hold a hearing today on the new legislative proposal. The measure gives workers and retirees a choice of benefit packages. Senate President John Cullerton says the plan saves money and would survive a court challenge.
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has announced that federal grants worth $28 million will be distributed to qualifying community groups that want to help educate consumers about the new online marketplace for health insurance. The state will accept applications through May 30. The national health overhaul law requires insurance marketplaces to be operating in every state by October 1.
The Tennessee Department of Education plans to use nearly $4 million in federal education funds to pay for eight leadership development programs. The grants are part of the $500 million the state won three years ago in the national Race to the Top education grant competition. Officials say eight recipients received grants, which were awarded to organizations in partnership with one or more school systems.
Illinois union leaders are encouraging lawmakers to support a pension reform proposal that they recently agreed on with the state's Senate president. A coalition of unions announced yesterday it reached an agreement with Senate President John Cullerton on a possible solution to the state's $97 billion pension crisis. Michael Carrigan is the president of the Illinois AFL-CIO. He says the group is trying to ensure fairness for public employees and retirees.
The Tennessee Department of Health is urging people to protect themselves from viruses transmitted by mosquitoes. Last year Tennessee experienced 33 human cases of West Nile virus, including one in December. Four out of five people with West Nile won't show symptoms, but others will develop severe illness that can result in permanent neurological damage or even death.
The Tennessee Arts Commission has reinstated its popular Arts Build Communities grant program. Through the program, the commission seeks to build communities by nurturing artists, arts organizations and arts supporters. Awards range from $500 to $2,000 and may be used for a variety of arts projects. Any projects that use ABC funds must be open to the general public.