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State's Minimum Wage Could Become Highest in Country

Here is a wrap-up of some of the latest political news.

A bill that would give Illinois the highest minimum rate in the country is being studied by the Illinois Senate.

Illinois’ current minimum wage is $8.25 an hour, making the state one of 18 states with a minimum wage higher than the national level of $7.25 an hour. The measure would increase the wage by 50 cents a year until it matches the inflation-adjusted equivalent of minimum wage in 1968, which was $1.60 per hour. The phased-in hikes would bring Illinois’ minimum wage to $10.55 in 2015, after which yearly cost-of-living increases would occur, according to Illinois Statehouse News.

Washington state has the highest minimum wage of $9.04.

The proposal, which was sent May 16 to the full Senate on a 9-5 vote of the Senate Executive Committee, is opposed by business owners who say it would make it harder for Illinois to compete for jobs at a time when the economy remains on shaky footing.

The rate was last raised in July 2010 as part of a phased-in increase initiated by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich in 2006.

Extreme Speeders Face Stricter Supervision Under ‘Julie’s Law’

Drivers who habitually drive at high speeds and get only a slap on the wrist when convicted, face a stiffer fate if Gov. Pat Quinn signs a bill that is on his desk.

Illinois House lawmakers on May 16 passed a bill drafted in response to a fatal 2011 south suburban crash that would toughen penalties for extreme speeders. the Chicago Tribune is reporting.

The legislation, now headed to the governor's desk, would prevent judges from granting a special probation known as court supervision to those caught driving more than 25 mph over the limit on a nonrural road or more than 30 mph on a highway. Currently, drivers caught driving more than 40 mph over the speed limit are not eligible for supervision.

Dubbed "Julie's Law," the bill was developed in part by the family of a 17-year-old Frankfort girl who was killed in a crash in Orland Park last June. Julie Gorczynski was riding in her friend's Jeep after her shift at an area movie theater when a 21-year-old man driving at least 36 mph over the speed limit crashed into the passenger side of the Jeep, police said.

Despite the driver's history of speeding violations, which the Tribune found resulted in at least seven court supervisions, Lukasz Marszalek still had his driving privileges. If some of those supervisions would instead have been convictions, Gorczynski's parents said it's possible his driving privileges would have been suspended before the crash that killed their daughter.

Rich and Pam Gorczynski have said they know the new law won't bring their daughter back, but they hope it can save another family from going through a similar tragedy.

Marszalek faces misdemeanor aggravated speeding charges in the crash that killed Gorczynski.

A Bumpy Road Ahead for Motorists on State Highways?

Money meant for maintaining state highways could be used for some of the Illinois Department of Transportation’s day-to-day expenses, Illinois Statehouse News is reporting.

Gov. Pat Quinn’s budget diverts almost $250 million from the state’s road fund, fueled by the state's motor fuel tax consumers pay at the gas pump and fees for vehicle license platess, to pay IDOT’s health-care, workers’ compensation, and building rent and maintenance costs, according to Transportation for Illinois Coalition, which pushes for an up-to-date transportation infrastructure in Illinois.

Quinn’s budget would violate state statute that says road fund money must pay for transportation-related expenses.

New ‘Drano’ Bill Heads to Governor

Remember the law that went into effect Jan. 1 that required you to show identification and sign a log when buying a caustic chemical at the hardware store?

Well, State Sen. Pamela Althoff, a McHenry Republican and sponsor of the plan, told the Daily Herald that the law is an example of a good idea with unintended consequences.

The law required consumers to provide identification and sign a registration log if they purchase caustic chemicals. Failure to do so could result in felony charges, and stores that fail to cooperate could face up to a $1,500 fine.

However, the vague language of the law, HB4523, had some retailers making customers sign the log for all chemical products, which has resulted in long lines and upset shoppers.

A proposal that would eliminate the need for customers to provide identification and sign a registration log when purchasing common household drain cleaners, pesticides and paints is in the hands of Gov. Pat Quinn.

The plan was approved by the Illinois Senate May 16 by a 56-0 vote.

“We had no idea that it would also apply to common household products, so we just had to fix that,” the Herald quoted Althoff as saying.

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