SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today signed a new law providing new protections to Illinois military members who are also business owners. Senate Bill 2547, initiated by Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn and sponsored by Sen. George Shadid (D-Peoria) and Rep. Ricca Slone (D-Peoria), protects employers who are forced to close their businesses because they are called up to active duty in the Illinois National Guard, or the U.S. Armed Forces, by providing that they don’t have to pay for the unemployment benefits of employees left unemployed as a result of their being called up for active duty.
SB 2547 stems from the experience of one Peoria area dentist who was also a reservist. The Air Force Reserve Colonel was called to active duty to serve as a dentist in Germany for six months. As a result of his activation, the dentist closed his Peoria practice, laying off his staff of three. When he returned from service, he saw a dramatic increase, more than three-thousand percent, in his unemployment rate due to the layoffs. The dentist sent an email to the Lt. Governor’s office to explore what could be done to address the rate increase. Under current state law, when a reservist returns from service, his or her business is charged the highest rate of unemployment insurance allowed. SB 2547 changes that.
“I would like to thank Lt. Gov. Quinn for doing so much on behalf of our military men and women,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “Those who leave their businesses and families to serve our country should be rewarded – not penalized – for their sacrifices.”
SB 2547 makes an exception in existing state law so that if, as a result of being called up for active duty that business owner has to lay people off, then there is no increase in the employer’s unemployment insurance rate when that owner returns from service.
“President Abraham Lincoln noted our duty to “…care for them who have borne the battle.’ When Illinois National Guard members and reservists leave to serve our nation in the global war on terrorism, they do not expect to return to a business facing higher tax rates due to their military service,” said Lt. Gov. Quinn. “Our duty is to ensure that those who leave their families or businesses are not penalized when they return to the homefront, and the bill signed today by Governor Blagojevich does just that.”
"This bill will strengthen the protection of our servicemen and women when they get called to active duty," said Sen. Shadid.
SB 2547 is the latest in a series of bills signed by the Governor offering new protection and benefits to Illinois military members. Governor Blagojevich also signed:
· House Bill 4371, the “Citizen Soldiers Initiative,” extends the Illinois Human Rights Act to all members of the Illinois National Guard and U.S. Reserves. Previously, the Illinois Human Rights Act only protected active duty service members from discrimination in regards to
employment, real estate transactions, access to financial credit and the availability of public accommodations. The new law provides that same protection to those serving in reserve units of the armed forces, the Illinois Army National Guard and the Illinois Air National Guard.
- House Bill 4660 strengthens employment protection for Illinois National Guard and Reserve members who are called to active duty. The new law imposes fines ranging from $5,000 to $10,000 against employers who terminate soldiers’ jobs while they are serving on active duty.
- Senate Bill 2526 requires the Illinois Department of Military Affairs to publish a document outlining the rights and responsibilities of military service members under State and Federal law. The information will be available to service members, their families and organizations that assist service members both electronically and in paper copy.
- House Bill 4372 gives Guard members the same rights when called to service by the President as they receive when the Governor calls them to service. Previously, military members were entitled to certain rights in connection with a stay, postponement, or suspension of court proceedings and a monetary credit or refund of college tuition and fees when they are called to service by the Governor. The new law extends those same entitlements to service members called to active duty by the President.
- House Bill 4491 amends the school code definition of eligible veteran or service person to include an “Illinois National Guard member” in the provision concerning MIA/POW scholarships. The change makes Guard members eligible for the scholarships if they are declared prisoners of war or missing in action, or permanently disabled from service-connected causes while on active duty or in training.
SB 2547 is effective immediately.