March 31, 2023

From 1996: Law exempts small stations from paying OT

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Editor’s note: Each month, INBA resource manager and archivist H. Wayne Wilson digs out an Illinois broadcasting-related news item from yesteryear.

The Illinois legislature considered Senate Bill 769 in 1996 that would exempt news announcers, editors and chief engineers from overtime pay in counties of 100,000 population or less.

The INBA opposed this legislation while the Illinois Broadcasters Association was supportive. In a Feb. 16, 1996, letter to state representatives, the IBA wrote “SB 769 is a bill designed to assist small market radio stations exist in a time of turbulence and change in the broadcasting industry. These ‘mom and pop’ stations are the backbone of broadcasting; and hopefully, will not go the way of other small locally owned businesses in our communities. What this bill will do is bring the state labor law into conformity with the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.”

The bill subsequently passed the state House on a 66-50 vote. (It had already passed the Senate 39-12.) INBA encouraged Gov. Jim Edgar to veto the legislation with the help of House assistant majority leader Bill Black, a Danville Republican. The representative wrote the governor on April 8 of that year, stating in part, “I voted for that bill and even spoke in favor of it. However, since the passage of that bill I have heard from several employees of radio stations who would be impacted if this bill is signed into law. Radio station employees have asked me how many occupational groups has Illinois singled out in the past as being exempt from overtime pay requirements. Perhaps this bill should be very carefully reviewed and may well merit your veto.”

INBA president Gay Martin and INBA Legislative Committee Chair Bill Miller further lobbied against the bill in conversations with Edgar’s press secretary, Gary Mack. Those efforts proved fruitless as the governor signed the bill, which went into effect on Jan. 1, 1997. The law remains on the books today, as part of a short list of other occupational groups exempt from receiving overtime pay.

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