Biss05312017A measure designed to narrow the gender wage gap in Illinois was approved by the state Senate Tuesday, May 30, 2017.

House Bill 2462, sponsored by Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston), would prohibit Illinois employers from asking job applicants about their salary history, a practice that perpetuates gender discrimination and wage inequality.

“Most employers don’t discriminate, but some do. And if you are unlucky enough to have worked for a company that pays less based on gender, then that discriminatory wage may to follow you from workplace to workplace throughout your lifetime,” Biss said. “One way we can begin to stamp out gender wage discrimination is by barring employers from asking applicants about their salary history as a basis for setting future income.”

Women in Illinois make up almost half the workforce but earn 79 cents for every $1 paid to men. The wage gap is worse for women of color: black and African-American women earn 63 cents and Hispanic and Latina women earn 48 cents for every $1 that white men earn. Working mothers earn 71 cents while single mothers are paid just 58 cents for every $1 paid to fathers.

In total, Illinois women who work full time lose nearly $20 billion each year due to unequal pay, according to statistics. Lost wages mean families have less money to save for future expenses or to spend on basic goods and services – spending that helps drive the state and local economy.

Massachusetts adopted a law similar to HB2462 in 2016. So far it is the only state to ban employers from asking about salary history, but other states have introduced similar legislation, including California, Maine, New York, Pennsylvania and others.

In addition, New York City and Philadelphia recently enacted ordinances banning salary history questions. And the federal Pay Equity for All Act has been introduced in Congress and would ban salary history questions nationwide.

Rep. Anna Moeller (D-Elgin) sponsored House Bill 2462 in the House. The legislation has passed in both chambers and now will go to the governor for consideration.

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Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) issued the following statement regarding today’s (May 30, 2017) favorable vote in the Illinois House on Senate Bill 81, which incrementally would increase the Illinois minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2022:

I’m encouraged by the House passage of Senate Bill 81, led by Representative Will Guzzardi, which would raise the minimum wage to $15. This is a commonsense solution that would allow us to invest in our communities and invest in people. I’m committed to $15, and I look forward to working with Senator Kimberly Lightford and our colleagues in the Senate to promptly send this bill to Gov. Rauner’s desk. Unfortunately, Gov. Rauner continues to fail to articulate any real plans to help low-income workers in Illinois. Across the state, under the Rauner administration, communities are hurting because of a system that works for millionaires and the machine but just isn’t working for the rest of us.

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Biss05302017Private equity firms would have to disclose the currently secret investment fees they charge to Illinois’ public pension funds under legislation sponsored by Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) that was approved in the Senate Monday, May 29.

These sometimes lucrative fees charged by private equity firms and hedge fund managers are exempt from disclosure to taxpayers under Illinois sunshine laws. Even the boards that oversee the pension funds are kept in the dark about some fees.

Biss maintains that this kind of secrecy flies in the face of a steadily growing national and global movement toward more transparency.

“This is not a time for Illinois taxpayers to be paying fees they don’t know about,” he said. “If you’re concerned about the asset levels in the pension funds, you should be concerned about the fees you’re paying. That is the only expenditure that is secret from you right now.”

Senate Bill 779 would attempts to increase the state’s pension funds’ investment transparency by requiring that:

  • pension systems disclose agreements with alternative investment funds and certain provisions of those agreements;
  • alternative investment fund managers and general partners disclose certain investment fees paid directly or indirectly to the alternative investment fund;
  • if an investment fund utilizes the Institutional Limited Partners Association template, the fund will be in compliance with the disclosure requirements; and
  • disclosures would be published on the systems’ websites and subject to FOIA.

The provisions of Senate Bill 779 would apply to every large retirement system or pension fund regulated by the Illinois Pension Code, as well as the Illinois State Board of Investment. The disclosure requirements would apply to new agreements proposed or executed after Jan. 1, 2018.

The Teachers Retirement System, the largest system in Illinois, currently has nearly $8.5 billion invested and committed to the private equity asset class.

According to a 2015 ranking by Institutional Investor’s Alpha magazine, the country’s 25 top-earning hedge fund managers raked in an estimated $11.6 billion in 2014. The previous year, the top 25 collectively earned nearly double that, estimated to be more than $21 billion.

Comparatively, the aggregate pay for all of the kindergarten teachers in the nation in 2014 was an estimated $8.5 billion.

“Common sense says that if we have that greater level of transparency, we’ll pay lower fees and have better returns,” Biss said. “We should know the fees we pay, and that knowledge will allow us to negotiate better deals on our pension funds. That’s a winning formula for taxpayers.”

Senate Bill 779 now will go to the House for consideration.

Category: Latest

DBiss05252017As Washington sends mixed signals about the future of affordable health care for millions of Americans, the Illinois Senate on Friday voted to bar health insurance companies from denying coverage to Illinoisans with pre-existing conditions.

House Bill 2959 garnered bipartisan support in the Senate’s 46-5 vote. The measure now has been approved in both the Senate and the House; it is expected to be sent to Gov. Bruce Rauner for consideration.

“This legislation guarantees that health insurance companies may not discriminate based on pre-existing conditions – something that roughly half of all non-elderly Americans have, according to the federal government,” said Senator Daniel Biss, an Evanston Democrat and the Senate sponsor of the legislation. Rep. Laura Fine (D-Glenview) sponsored it in the House.

On May 4, Congress passed the American Health Care Act 217-213, which would allow states to opt out of community ratings in the individual markets. These ratings provide a way of spreading risk by setting rates for health insurance among a geographic area regardless of age, gender or health status.

Under the act, if this restriction is removed, states could vary premiums by health status for people who have had a gap in insurance of 63 or more consecutive days in the past year. The state would be required to set up a program for subsidizing high-risk patients, either through a reinsurance system that would pay money directly to insurers or by setting up a high-risk pool. The state would not be required to provide insurance coverage for these patients.

Last week, the Congressional Budget Office released findings that the state waivers allowed by the bill pending in Congress could lead to skyrocketing premiums for people with pre-existing conditions, such as an extra $1,000 per month for maternity coverage in states that waive certain coverage regulations for insurers. Additionally, the CBO found that many people with pre-existing conditions simply would be priced out of coverage in states that use the waivers.

“While it’s unclear how all of these changes in Washington will shake out in the end, Illinois has too much at stake to sit idly by and wait to see what will happen,” Biss said.

“House Bill 2959 will help to protect vulnerable Illinoisans who rely on the ACA and are at risk of losing their coverage with no other affordable options available to them. Gov. Rauner should sign this measure into law so that we can provide a crucial protection for many of our constituents all over the state.”

Category: Latest

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