Naperville Chamber discusses federal rules concerning health care

<p>U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-14th District</p>

U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-14th District

The Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce is taking aim at the federal health care legislation’s definition of full-time work.

A voice vote at the Chamber’s Legislative Committee lunch Monday unanimously approved the Save American Workers Act legislation that would change the definition of full-time work from 30 to 40 hours per week for the purposes of forcing employers to either provide insurance for employees or pay a fine.

“This has been devastating on workers,” U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren, (R-Winfield), cosponsor of the legislation, told about 50 people at the Hotel Arista in Naperville.

With the employer mandate already delayed for one year, various exemptions for hardships granted and new efforts to delay parts of the legislation from taking effect until after the 2016 elections, Hultgren stressed that the uncertainty surrounding the Obama administration’s signature legislative achievement was hurting economic growth and job creation.

He said that the real cost of Obamacare is yet to be determined, saying that “we haven’t seen the end of that (debate) yet …the law that’s there doesn’t work.”

State Sen. Linda Holmes (D-Aurora) said she was concerned about the effect on small business.

“In theory it (Hultgren’s proposal) makes sense,” Holmes said after the vote.

Holmes, a former small business owner herself, indicated that there might be room for a compromise, suggesting that a 37 and a half hour work week might be an agreeable middle ground.

Hultgren also criticized the Dodd-Frank legislation designed to overhaul regulations on the financial community in wake of Wall Street’s involvement in the real estate market crash of 2008 and the subsequent recession.

He called the regulations “micromanaging,” stressed that the regulators were not accountable to the U.S. Congress and pointed out that huge financial institutions supported Dodd-Frank because they had resources to cope with the added level of regulation that smaller institutions lacked.

“They know it will drive out competition,” he said.

Naperville City Councilman Steve Chirico asked if bipartisan infighting in the public sector was likely to ease soon.

Hultgren said that “it started to get worked out a little bit,” but admitted that “it’s frustrating.”

Hultgren pointed to several recent developments, including the passage of an actual federal budget and a farm bill, both of which he admitted were not perfect, but “a step in the right direction.”

Former candidate for Naperville City Council Jeff B. Davis asked about the possibility of legislation allowing “card-check” union organizing, criticized by many as the elimination of the secret ballot.

“I don’t ever see it coming back,” Hultgren said.

Hultgren stressed that there existed several areas of agreement that the two parities could build on regarding Obamacare, including the provision allowing children to stay on their parent’s health insurance until the age of 26, and the need to provide insurance for those with pre-existing conditions.

The Chamber began taking input from members on several other legislative issues, both state and federal. A handout asked members’ opinions on proposals to hike both the state and national minimum wage, implement a progressive income tax in Illinois and the imposition of a service tax on sales involving professional services.

Chamber President Nicki Anderson said that staff would evaluate the responses and decide whether or not to place proposals before the Legislative Committee.

Holmes is already on record as opposing the progressive tax and she isn’t thrilled about a hike in the minimum wage either.

She pointed out that the minimum wage was never meant to be a wage that would support an individual and stressed that an increase would only hurt teenage workers, such as those employed in the summer by park districts and restaurants.

Holmes pointed out the value of lower wage jobs in terms of an individual’s long-term job prospects.

“It’s where they get their training,” she said.

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