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Manar advances update to Illinois’ genetic privacy law

manar 042617SPRINGFIELD – A controversial plan before Congress that would permit companies to fine workers who refuse to share their genetic information through workplace wellness programs has prompted Illinois lawmakers to tighten up a state law protecting workers from such repercussions.

“We’re seeing changes proposed at the federal level that are concerning to me and to others,” said Senator Andy Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat and sponsor of Senate Bill 318. “The goal here is only to protect the genetic information of individuals when that information might be used against them in the employee-employer relationship.”

The legislation advanced out of the Senate Labor Committee Wednesday. It was prompted by news that Congresswoman Virginia Foxx, a Republican from North Carolina, in March proposed the Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act (HR1313).

Supporters said the measure would enable employers to have the “legal certainty” to promote good health while lowering health care costs. However, critics said it would allow employers to pressure workers to share their private genetic information by rewarding them with lower health insurance costs, while penalizing those who choose not to disclose such details.

The Winston-Salem Journal, Foxx’s hometown newspaper, called the measure an example of “big government run amok,” in an editorial urging Congress to kill it.

Under Illinois’ Genetic Information Privacy Act, employers must handle genetic testing consistent with the federal laws. It prevents employers from requiring genetic testing as a condition of employment, from changing terms of employment as a result of genetic information, or from classifying employees based on genetic testing. Further, it says testing done in the context of a workplace wellness program is available to employers only in aggregate form, not on an individual basis.

Manar’s proposed update to the law would bar employers from penalizing workers who choose not to disclose their genetic information or do not participate in a program that requires disclosure of their genetic information.

“I think we have a strong law in Illinois, but I don’t think it’s very strong about barring employers from penalizing employees,” he said.

Manar, McCann urge governor to pivot on prison nurse outsourcing

Senator Andy ManarSPRINGFIELD – Bipartisan legislation that would allow 124 Illinois prison nurses to breathe a sigh of relief about their future landed on the governor’s desk today, and two central Illinois senators who sponsored the measure are urging him to rethink his position on privatizing prison jobs.

“There is no evidence that outsourcing these jobs, as Gov. Rauner proposed, will save money. You can’t just look at one side of the ledger and claim you’re driving a bargain for taxpayers,” said Senator Andy Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat and a sponsor of Senate Bill 19, which would protect the jobs of 322 state employees who work for the Illinois Department of Corrections as nurses, medical technicians and mental health professionals.

Video: Manar still looking for budget answers from Rauner administration

manar 031617Senator Andy Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat and chairman of a key Senate budget committee, explains the status of budget negotiations at the Capitol, including prospects for the Senate’s so-called “grand bargain,” the Rauner administration's reluctance to suggest cuts and examples of apparent mismanagement of the state by the governor.

Manar advances measure to address shortage of nurses in Illinois

manar 031617SPRINGFIELD – A measure designed to fill a projected workforce shortage in rural Illinois while connecting students with good-paying careers in health care advanced out of a Senate committee this week.

Senate Bill 888, sponsored by Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill), would allow community colleges to award four-year nursing degrees in an effort to deepen the pool of qualified registered nurses available to be hired by Illinois health care employers.

According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, a bachelor’s degree today is considered the national entry-level educational standard for a registered nurse. A 2015 report by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation indicated that about a third of registered nurses age 55 and older planned to retire within five years, prompting concerns about a statewide nursing shortage.

Manar said the district he represents, which spans rural and underserved areas of downstate Illinois, stands to be especially hard hit by the nursing shortage.

Currently in Illinois, only universities may award bachelor’s degrees in nursing, but they have not been able to address the nursing shortage in some areas of the state.

Community colleges are well suited to help four-year universities ensure hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and medical offices throughout the state have a pool of well-qualified nursing applicants from which to hire, Manar said, adding that it’s also a good way to stem the tide of young people leaving Illinois in search of jobs.

“This approach may be outside of the box for Illinois, but nationally we would not be an outlier. Eleven other states do this type of thing with their community colleges,” Manar said.

“This discussion is about something much bigger than simply the traditional mission of Illinois’ universities and community colleges,” he said. “This is about offering excellent health care, planning for the future, adapting to changing critical workforce needs, offering affordable options for job training, putting people in good-paying jobs and keeping young people in the communities – and the state –where they grew up. These are all vitally important issues in Illinois, and this legislation touches on all of them.”

Senate Bill 888 grants 20 Illinois community colleges the ability to award bachelor of science degrees in nursing and sets standards for establishing nursing programs, including accreditation, documenting unmet workforce needs and more.

It also calls for a four-year review of the effort by the Illinois Community College Board, including a comprehensive statewide evaluation of newly created programs and a written report submitted to the State Board of Higher Education, the governor and both chambers of the General Assembly before July 1, 2022.

The legislation does not require community colleges to offer the degrees. State money may not be used to establish or maintain the program, according to the legislation.

The measure advanced out of the Senate’s Higher Education Committee on Tuesday.

Sen. Andy Manar

manar2014hs

48th Legislative District

Years served: 2013 - Present

Committee assignments: Agriculture; Appropriations I; Appropriations II; Higher Education; Committee of the Whole; Executive Appointments (Vice-Chairperson); Education; Labor.

Biography: Born November 15, 1975, in Bunker Hill; B.A. in History, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville; past chairman of Macoupin County Board; married (wife, Trista), has three children.