Last week, Gov. Rauner issued two executive orders. One creates a commission to study and identify ways to reform the criminal justice system and sentencing laws in Illinois. The second prevents public employee unions from collecting mandatory dues from some employees.
Executive Order: Rauner creates commission to study criminal justice system
Saying Illinois is in “desperate need of criminal justice reform,” Gov. Rauner issued an Executive Order Feb. 11 creating a new commission charged with identifying ways to reform the criminal justice system and sentencing laws in the state.
The Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform will study a variety of issues, including incarceration time, early release, prison alternatives and community supervision. Rauner said the thorough examination of the current system will be used to develop strategies to improve public safety and reduce recidivism and prison overcrowding.
Illinois has one of the most crowded prison systems in the country, and the state’s recidivism rate is dangerously high. The Department of Corrections is operating at 150 percent of capacity, while 48 percent of adult inmates and 54 percent of juvenile inmates are returned to the system within three years of release.
Executive Order: “Fair share” dues targeted
On Feb. 9, Gov. Rauner signed an Executive Order preventing public employee unions from collecting mandatory dues from certain employees. Calling them “unfair share” dues, Rauner said there are currently 6,500 state employees who have opted out of the union but are still required to pay dues to help finance certain union activities.
The Executive Order allows state employees who wish not to support government unions’ activities to stop paying the forced fees. It has no impact on those employees who wish to remain paying members of the union and fund union activities out of their paychecks.
The Governor said 29 other states have laws that prohibit government entities from forcing public workers to join or financially support labor organizations.
Rauner has hired a legal team to seek a declaratory judgment in federal court to rule on the constitutionality of fair share dues. Rauner points to a previous Supreme Court ruling on a fair share case, which found the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act violated the First Amendment by forcing certain state home health-care workers to involuntarily pay fees to a labor union despite opting out of the union.
In the interim, the Governor ordered fair share dues from the paychecks of the more than 6,500 employees to be put into an account and held until the courts issue their rulings. Rauner said that money would be returned to those employees if the courts support the Executive Order.