SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - For the third time in less than a month, Illinois House Republicans refused to support legislation to freeze property taxes statewide. This time, one of the measures included the exact property tax language Gov. Bruce Rauner has proposed.
"I'm disappointed that House Republicans would again turn their backs on middle-class families and homeowners who struggle to pay their property taxes," said state Rep. John Bradley, D-Marion, who sponsored one of the tax relief measures. "The record is clear: House Republicans have rejected freezing property taxes not once, not twice, but three times in less than one month's time."
On Tuesday, the House debated two measures to freeze property taxes statewide, including House Bill 691 proposed by Bradley. Even though Bradley's proposal was identical to property tax relief language proposed by Gov. Bruce Rauner, the failure of House Republicans to support the measure led to its defeat.
"House Republicans don't want compromise, they don't want to help struggling homeowners and they don't want to strengthen Illinois' middle class," Bradley said. "Three times within a month the House voted to freeze property taxes, and all three attempts were overwhelmingly opposed by House Republicans, including a bill that included Governor Rauner's own proposal."
Bradley said he expects the House to continue debating property tax relief for Illinois homeowners, hoping at some point House Republicans will find a proposal they can support.
"The simple question to House Republicans is: are you loyal to your political party, or are you going to vote for taxpayers and homeowners?," Bradley said.
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By Jason Alderman

Setting a few hours aside for a midyear financial checkup in June or July can help you review how you're doing with savings, investing, spending and debt. It can give you the opportunity to spot irregularities and adjust your budget well in advance of year-end.

If you already work with a qualified financial or tax advisor, consider discussing this review process with them so they can guide you to any specific money issues you should be tracking.

Start by requesting at least one of your three credit reports. The idea is to make sure your credit balances are accurate and to check closely for any irregularities that might signal identity theft. Federal law requires that each of the major credit agencies - Experian, Equifax and TransUnion - give you your most recent credit reports for free (https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action) once a year.

If you discover unusual charges or accounts you didn't open, alert your advisors, take any steps they recommend and otherwise follow the U.S. Federal Trade Commission's step-by-step identity theft guide (http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/feature-0014-identity-theft) to help you take action. Remember to stagger receipt of each of your credit reports throughout the year so you have the opportunity to catch potential irregularities every few months.

Next, turn to your budget or start one if you've never made one before. The midyear review should focus on whether adjustments can be made to save or invest more or pay off more debt if more money is coming in from a raise or other resources. If spending is up by midyear, it's always important to know why and whether funds can be reallocated to better purpose.

Review your retirement and whether you're maximizing your contributions at work or in your own personal retirement accounts. Those who reach age 50 by the end of the calendar year will be able to take advantage of additional catch-up contribution allowances to beef up their balances as they approach retirement.

Midyear is also a good time to check the adequacy of one's emergency fund (http://www.practicalmoneyskills.com/calculators/emergency). Emergency funds help keep you from tapping your credit or savings balances in a sudden cash emergency. The amount of money you keep in your emergency fund should fit your needs, but consider a balance of four to seven months of everyday expenses in case there's a short-term job loss or an emergency repair. Consider keeping a year-round list of potential home, car or personal expenses and decide whether your emergency fund is adequate or you might need to set up other savings accounts to address bigger needs.

Make sure your tax withholding levels are correct. This is particularly important if your income has changed during the first six months of the year and you might be closing in on a higher or lower tax bracket. Consult your tax advisor for assistance, and the IRS features its own withholding calculator (http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/IRS-Withholding-Calculator) to help you decide.

Finally, make sure all your recordkeeping is up to date. Midyear is a good time to look over all your spending, saving and investment records to make sure all the numbers add up and underlying paperwork is in order. Also consider online banking, investing and bill payment as a way to save more time and money.

Bottom line: Taking a midyear break to review your finances gives you a thoughtful opportunity to spot errors, adjust your budget and save on taxes

July 9 & July 23: 8 AM - 4 PM, Principles of Leadership Excellence Series: Module 1 - Trust and Influence: New-School Leadership. The goal of the Principles of Leadership Excellence Certificate Series (PLX) is to provide you with opportunities to learn the skills, behaviors, and knowledge needed for effective, successful leadership.  Cost is MRA Members: $495  Nonmembers:$655 (Pricing also available if you sign up for the entire 6 module series).

July 10: 8 AM - 3 PM, Effective Communication-Beyond the Basics. Advanced tools, techniques, and strategies developed from the study of proven top performers in leadership.  Program uses the new DiSC assessment. Cost is MRA Members: $295  Nonmembers: $390

July 17: 8 AM - 3 PM, Communication from the Inside Out.  Savvy communicators know that words are just one part of the message that gets communicated.  Apply the idea of "who body thinking" to enhance your ability to communicate effectively.  Cost is MRA Members: $295  Nonmembers: $390

July 20 & July 21: 8 AM - 4:30 PM, ISO 9001: 2008 Internal Auditing.  This two day class will have a strong emphasis on best practice techniques used to audit the American Nationals Standard ISO 9001-2008 version.  Cost is MRA Members: $550  Nonmembers: $750.

August 6 & August 20: 8 AM - 4 PM, Principles of Leadership Excellence Series: Module 2 - Communicating for Results: Gold Medal Performance. The goal of the Principles of Leadership Excellence Certificate Series (PLX) is to provide you with opportunities to learn the skills, behaviors, and knowledge needed for effective, successful leadership.  Cost is MRA Members: $495  Nonmembers:$655 (Pricing also available if you sign up for the entire 6 module series).

August 7: 8 AM - 3 PM, Right Brain/Left Brain Thinking.  The human brain has two very different ways of thinking. The right brain is visual and the left brain is verbal.  Discover strategies for using your creativity for effective communication.  Cost is MRA Members: $295  Nonmembers: $390.

August 10: 8 AM - 11:30 AM, Human Resource Professional Certificate Series: HR Metrics: ROI for HR Initiatives.  This program will provide you with practical advice on how to cost-justify and present the business case for your HR-related initiatives.  Cost is MRA Members: $200  Nonmembers: $265.  (Pricing also available if you sign up for the entire 6 module series).

August 10: 12:30 PM - 4:00 PM, Human Resource Professional Certificate Series: Internal Investigations: A How-To Guide.  The workshop provides you with step by step instructions to conduct and complete thorough, legally compliant harassment, discrimination, and other types of internal investigations.  Cost is MRA Members: $160  Nonmembers: $205. (Pricing also available if you sign up for the entire 6 module series).

August 13: 8 AM - 11:30 AM, Business E-Mail - Write it Right, During this half-day workshop, you recognize the latest techniques for writing emails that make it easy for your readers to read, understand and respond to your messages.  Cost is MRA members: $160 Nonmembers: $205

August 17: 8 AM - 3 PM, Human Resource Professional Certificate Series: Fundamentals of Compensation.  This program explores the practice and theory of compensation management, discusses how to tailor a compensation program to support the organization's strategic goals and objectives.  Cost is MRA members: $250 Nonmembers: $340  (Pricing also available if you sign up for the entire 6 module series).

August 18, August 25 & September 1: 8 AM - 4 PM, Supervision: The Essentials.   This three day program provides your new, less experienced leaders with ideas and practices they can put to use immediately.  Cost is MRA members: $750  Nonmembers: $950.

August 21: 8 AM - 4 PM, OSHA's Electrical Safety Best Practices and NFPA - 70E.  Sessions explore the requirements of OSHA and NFPA 70E and keep you current on electrical hazards and the methods to control them.  Cost is MRA members: $275 Nonmembers: $370

August 24: 8 AM - 3:30 PM, Human Resource Professional Certificate Series: Finance Essentials for the HR Professional.  This course is designed to expose the HR manager to basic accounting practices including how to read and interpret accounting and financial reports. Cost is MRA members: $250 Nonmembers: $340  (Pricing also available if you sign up for the entire 6 module series).

August 27: 8 AM - 12 PM, Grammar Basics.  Is it affect or effect? Should I use 15 or fifteen? Which punctuation mark should I use.  This half-day program addresses those and many more basic grammatical questions.  Cost is MRA members: $160 Nonmembers: $205

August 31: 8 AM - 3:30 PM, Human Resource Professional Certificate Series: HR Professional as Business Partner.  Primary focus within this program includes developing the business partner role through effective coaching strategies to address performance management.  Cost is MRA members: $250 Nonmembers: $340  (Pricing also available if you sign up for the entire 6 module series).

To register for any of these courses, or for more details, contact Kathy Riley at 309.277.4186 or at Kathy.riley@mranet.org.  You can also find training information on our website at www.mranet.org/Training-Events.

"Unsurprisingly, Speaker Madigan and the politicians he controls again ignored compromise reform proposals and instead voted to protect their special interest allies. This proposal ignores the most important reforms we need for our worker's compensation system, and in another instance, could actually undermine previous reform efforts. Sadly, instead of taking steps to make Illinois more competitive and job-friendly, this is another example of the Speaker and his allies putting politics ahead of the people. Illinois needs real reform."

BACKGROUND

Causation:

·         Under the Governor's proposal, an employer is responsible for an injury if the major contributing cause of the injury was work-related.

·         The Speaker's proposal does not raise the standard of causation, which is the lowest in the nation. Under the Speaker's proposal, the employer is still 100% on the hook for injuries that are primarily caused outside of the workplace.

Repetitive Injuries:

·         The Governor's proposal recognized that certain medical conditions or disabilities are the result of years of hard work, repetitive injuries. Therefore, under the Governor's proposal, an repetitive injury is compensable if the major contributing cause is occupational - even if that injury occurs over multiple employers.

SPRINGFIELD - The following statement is attributable to Lance Trover, Director of Communications:

The Speaker's proposal still leaves employers on the hook for repetitive injuries that are largely caused outside of the workplace. The proposal permits a current employer to seek to recover a "pro rata share" from previous employers, but that fails to take into account where an employee is largely responsible for the injury. For example, if an injury is caused 10% by the current job, 10% by a previous job, and 80% by personal habits (e.g. running, past athletics, etc.), the current and previous employer would still together be responsible for 100% of the injury.

·         The Speaker's proposal does not include any requirement to show how the worker's employment significantly contributed to his or her injury.

·         The Speaker's proposal will drive up defense costs and be difficult to administer.  It forces employers to go back and bring a separate case for contribution against other employers.

Traveling Employee

·         The Speaker's proposal only seeks to codify one factor from the Supreme Court's Venture-Newberg decision.  It does not mention the other factors we proposed: that travel must be necessary for the performance of job duties and the employer must furnish the transportation/employee must receive reimbursement.

·         By failing to codify all factors considered by the Supreme Court in Venture-Newberg, the General Assembly is sending conflicting messages to arbitrators on the authority of this case, opening the door for more inconsistent judgements.

Other:

·         No cuts to the medical fee schedule.

·         No changes to the use of the AMA Guidelines.

·         No mention of credits for person-as-whole injuries.

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Prepared Statement by Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa

Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee

Executive Business Meeting

June 4, 2015

 

On today's agenda is the bipartisan PATENT Act, which addresses the problem of abusive patent litigation tactics.  I've already spoken at length on the need for legislation to crack down on these abuses, so I'm going to be brief in my remarks.  Also, I want to complete the markup of this bill today, so I hope my colleagues will cooperate and be succinct in their remarks and debate.

Let me briefly talk about the managers' package.  There are a number of provisions that we've included in the bill, including non-controversial PTO requests, the Leahy/Grassley Patents for Humanity legislation that improves this PTO program, and other technicals.  One provision I want to highlight in the managers' amendment clarifies that in the fee shifting provision, "undue economic hardship to a named inventor or institution of higher education" is a factor that a judge can consider when determining if "special circumstances" make a fee award unjust.

Another provision I want to mention is the new section 11 which deals with inter partes and post grant review proceedings at the PTO.  I worked with the Ranking Member, Senator Cornyn, Senator Schumer, Senator Hatch, and a number of my other Committee colleagues on this particular piece.  This effort was in response to concerns that had been raised by certain industry groups about what they saw as abuse of the administrative proceedings at the PTO.  At the same time, there were also other stakeholders that believed these proceedings have been very effective at getting rid of weak patents.

This piece is the product of discussions with various industry stakeholders, including the life sciences and tech groups.  I think that many of us believe that the post grant proceedings at the PTO are working quite well with respect to weeding out poor quality and improperly granted patents.  So it was our goal to address concerns, but not derail the very important function that these proceedings have in knocking out weak claims and patents.

I hope that we've succeeded in making limited changes to the PTO processes to address these concerns.  I know not everyone is happy, but we really tried to strike the right balance of addressing concerns but not disrupting the PTO proceedings.

I'd like to point out that, as this bill moves to the floor, there remain a few issues that need to be resolved.   As we indicated, the language we included in the managers' amendment that deals with amending claims in the PTO proceedings is a placeholder because it remains the subject of good faith negotiations.  This has been a difficult nut to crack, but I understand that both sides believe that we can reach a compromise that will work.  Unfortunately we weren't able to reach agreement before today's session, so the placeholder language stands, but I'm committed to getting resolution on this piece as we move to the floor.

In addition, there is a proposal by the life sciences community concerning the applicability of the PTO's post grant proceedings to patents that are subject to the Hatch-Waxman Act and Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act (BPCIA) processes.  The Hatch-Waxman process has been instrumental in facilitating the entry of low cost generic drugs in the market.  Consumers want access to cheaper drugs as soon as possible, so I've been a big supporter of this law.  I'm also supportive of incentivizing biosimilar market entry.  When the America Invents Act was considered, it's my understanding that there was no debate over whether or how IPR would impact these important processes.

It's imperative for us to hear from all sides, get additional information and data, and consult with the HELP Committee, which is the Committee of jurisdiction over the Hatch-Waxman Act and Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act (BPCIA) laws.  This is a complex issue that needs to be seriously and responsibly considered, including further review, discussion, and vetting.  My colleagues and I have already started getting views on this matter, and we continue to review and conduct outreach.

I agree that we need to preserve incentives for generics to come to market, and I'm committed to working on this issue as we move towards the floor.

Once again, I thank my colleagues for their hard work on this important bill.

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New Company builds on the strength of three great Iowa properties

SIOUX CITY, Iowa  - Dan Kehl, CEO of Kehl Management, received approval from the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission today to consolidate the ownership of the three Iowa casinos they manage in Riverside, Larchwood and Davenport Iowa.

The boards and unit holders of all three properties carefully considered the consolidation proposal and voted in May to approve the plan overwhelmingly.

"We are excited about combining the strengths of our three great properties.  We will continue to bring a world-class experience to our guests while finding cost savings and efficiencies in a multi-property company," said Dan Kehl, CEO of Elite Casino Resorts.

Kehl added, "This consolidation makes our company stronger.  We will be better positioned to cross market between the properties, bring in top-notch talent and offer the best service and amenities to our guests."  "Our employees, management and Iowa investors have built this company from the ground up.  It's a tribute to their hard work that Elite Casino Resorts exists."

Elite Casino Resorts will employ over 1,500 people and generate over $225 million in revenue each year making it the second largest revenue producer in the state.

Kehl Management and the Kehl family have been pioneers in the Iowa Gaming Industry after receiving the first Iowa Riverboat license in 1990.  Their first land-based casino in Riverside Iowa featured and Rees Jones designed golf course, hotel and spa which raised the bar for casino amenities in Iowa.  Rees Jones' most recent Iowa course, The Falls at Grand Falls Casino opened last month to rave reviews from golf publications.  

Later today, Kehl will travel to Davenport to break ground on the new $110 million Rhythm City Casino at the intersection of Interstate 80 and Interstate 74.
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Washington, D.C. - Congressman Dave Loebsack released the following statement today after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released new Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) obligations for 2014, 2015 and 2016. Loebsack has been leading the fight to highlight the importance of the RFS to Iowa.

"The new RFS obligations have been a long time coming. While the EPA has taken steps to improve upon its previous proposal, which would have devastated Iowa's farmers and rural communities, there is room for improvement in their newest proposal. The proposal announced today is still lower than the levels mandated by Congress. It is disappointing that the EPA has sided with Big Oil at the expense of rural families across the nation. The good news is that the proposal is not final and it is time for farmers to again stand up and tell the EPA that they deserve better and need to do what Congress has mandated.

"The RFS has proven it works, creates jobs, supports our agricultural communities and lessens our dependence on foreign oil, which is why the EPA must make it as strong as possible. I will continue to fight to ensure that the final rule is good for Iowa."

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ANKENY, Iowa -The Environmental Protection Agency today announced its long-awaited proposed renewable fuel volumes under the federal Renewable Fuel Standard program. In biodiesel's primary RFS category, "biomass-based diesel," EPA has proposed 1.63 billion gallons in 2014, with gradual growth of about 100 million gallons per year to a standard of 1.9 billion gallons in 2017. Growth is also planned for the Advanced Biofuel category, which biodiesel also qualifies for. It is scheduled to be finalized in November. Grant Kimberley, executive director of the Iowa Biodiesel Board, issued the following statement:

"As the top biodiesel-producing state, we are enormously relieved the biodiesel industry's long limbo is almost over. Although the prolonged uncertainty strained our producers, we seem to be headed back on course for the original intent of the RFS.

EPA's proposal marks a significant increase for biodiesel volumes from their original proposal in 2013, which would have held the biodiesel standard flat at 1.28 billion gallons through 2015. Although the proposed volumes in later years are lower than the reasonable increases we had requested, and we look forward to opportunities for greater growth, these volumes still represent advancement. We are grateful to EPA for hearing us, and adjusting the volumes to promote steady growth in renewable fuel rather than abruptly reversing course. We also appreciate USDA's support in this effort. Further, having four years of known volumes is a huge step towards eliminating the disruptive uncertainty that has made business planning and investments difficult in Iowa. We sincerely hope our industry will not have to endure this under the RFS again."

Biodiesel is a top success story of the RFS, and our producers are eager to move forward with diversifying America's energy supply, boosting economic development, cleaning the air and reducing dependence on foreign oil."

The Iowa Biodiesel Board is a nonpartisan state trade association representing the biodiesel industry.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Davenport, IA- After over 20 years of service in the Quad City Area, Flowerama on Eastern Avenue and Kimberly Road in Davenport is closing its doors due to owner's retirement. The store's last official day of business is today, May 29. The store will be closed over the weekend of May 30 & 31. The store will reopen on Monday, June 1 to liquidate inventory.

About Flowerama

Flowerama in Davenport was a locally owned franchise opportunity. The Flowerama Corporation, with headquarters in Cedar Falls, IA, still owns and operates several other Flowerama franchsie locations nationwide.

 

Contact

To learn more about the Flowerama Corporation visit: www.flowerama.com

Action will mean market pay for employees in Davenport, Iowa and 12 other metropolitan areas

WASHINGTON - The American Federation of Government employees is proud to announce that thousands of federal employees will begin to receive salaries based on labor market conditions in their own cities in January. This expansion of localities is the culmination of years of efforts by AFGE and the Federal Salary Council to make federal salaries more sensitive to local market criteria.

During a meeting this past Friday with Beth Cobert, deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, AFGE received assurances that new pay localities will be established in 13 cities in January.

"AFGE has been leading the fight for several years to provide federal employees in these cities with salaries that are more closely aligned with regional standards," said AFGE Public Policy Director and Federal Salary Council member Jacqueline Simon. "I am delighted that the administration has supported this initiative and come through with its commitment to have the new localities in place starting next year. Federal employees nationwide have suffered terribly from pay freezes and below-market salaries. This is tremendous news and will help many middle-class families pay their bills."

The number of pay localities has not been expanded for several years, despite Bureau of Labor Statistics data showing that employees in these 13 metropolitan areas are earning significantly less than non-federal employees doing the same jobs.

The President's Pay Agent, a group of three agency officials who advise the president on federal pay issues, "tentatively" approved establishing the new pay localities in a report published in May 2013. The new zones should have been put in place by the start of 2014, yet the administration has failed to act until now.

"Everybody says the federal pay system ought to be 'market based,' and this change enhances the system's market sensitivity immensely," Simon said.

Federal employees in each of these 13 localities have been scraping by on salaries that are substantially below what businesses and local governments pay in their region for people doing the same jobs. The Federal Salary Council endorsed this list because each city had a measured pay gap above the catch-all Rest of U.S. locality.

The 13 cities are: Albany, N.Y.; Albuquerque, N.M.; Austin, Texas; Charlotte, N.C.; Colorado Springs, Co.; Davenport, Iowa; Harrisburg, Pa.; Kansas City, Mo.; Laredo, Texas; Las Vegas, Nev.; Palm Bay, Fla.; St. Louis, Mo.; and Tucson, Ariz.

Simon, along with AFGE National President J. David Cox, is a member of the Federal Salary Council, an advisory body appointed by the president that makes recommendations concerning the locality pay program to the President's Pay Agent, which comprises the Secretary of Labor and the directors of the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Personnel Management.

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