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Senate passes workers comp bill

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SPRINGFIELD — A plan to save Illinois businesses up to $700 million by changing the state's workers' compensation system passed the state Senate by an overwhelming majority Saturday, even as some lawmakers said the proposal does not go far enough.

By Andrew Thomason

SPRINGFIELD — A plan to save Illinois businesses up to $700 million by changing the state's workers' compensation system passed the state Senate by an overwhelming majority Saturday, even as some lawmakers said the proposal does not go far enough.

"It's important that we highlight, not to just the employers in Illinois, but to people who are looking at making investments around this nation that our job is not done here. This may not even be getting to first base," said state Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington.

Many Republicans, including Brady, were part of the 46 lawmakers who voted to reduce by 30 percent the amount doctors are paid for treating injured workers. The plan also allows employers to create a network of doctors from which injured workers must choose and caps the amount a worker can receive for wages lost over a lifetime because of an injury.

But Republicans, who supported the bill, said their votes came with a caveat.

"I would hope that we're all open to a realistic review. If the costs don't come down, we need to come back, but of course it needs a little bit of time to work," state Sen. Minority Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont, said on Saturday.

Bill sponsor state Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, said he didn't see any reason to introduce more changes in the immediate future.

"I refuse to accept that as a characterization that this is something that is not real reform, because that is just a lie," Raoul said.

But he did concede that if the system didn't correct itself in a few years, he would revisit the system.

The vote Saturday came less than 24 hours after the Illinois House approved a plan that would abolish the state's Worker's Compensation Act and Workers' Occupational Diseases Act, moving the nearly 50,000 claims to the circuit courts.

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