State Roundup: Rauner diverts fair share withholding

From Illinois News Network and Staff Reports
ilnews.org

Illinois’ Governor has modified his efforts to withhold fair share dues from unions.

With several state officials not going along with Governor Bruce Rauner’s plan to hold fair share dues in escrow, including a motion to dismiss and intervene in the federal case by the state’s Attorney General, the Associated Press reports the Governor has tasked state agencies under the executive branch to keep two sets of books.

One set of books would be for “proper pay” while the other would include the deductions of the so-called “fair share” dues.

A Rauner memo said that Republican Comptroller Leslie Munger has “provided the method” for the governor’s new diversion plan. Munger’s office denied that via a spokesman.

According to the AP, Rauner’s plan drew criticism from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the largest of two dozen unions who filed a countersuit over the executive order.

“This legally questionable scheme shows the lengths to which Gov. Rauner will go in his obsession to undermine labor unions,” AFSCME executive director Roberta Lynch said in a statement. “To frustrate lawful fair-share agreements, Rauner is ordering payroll staff to make unauthorized reductions in employees’ established salaries.”

Earlier this year, Rauner ordered the fair share dues to be held in escrow pending a federal case. The latest change would have the funds being held in the agencies operating budget.

It’s estimated the withheld money could add up to $3.75 million being kept from state employees unions.

Reform advocates praise advancement of juvenile justice reforms

A group of juvenile justice reform advocates praise the advancement of several bills that would reform juvenile life sentences without parole.

The two bills, House Bills 2470 and 2471, made it out of the Restorative Justice Committee Thursday morning. During a press conference applauding the movement of the bills ex-offender turned reform advocate Xavier McElrath-Bey said his time in prison changed him both physically and mentally.

“Just as much as I had changed physically, and over time, I had also grown and matured. I had also developed a sense of morality, a sense of humanity and a sense of who I really was as a person inside despite what was said of me, and despite what my environment had tried to rear me towards.”

McElrath-Bey says despite his conviction of being involved in a homicide and other crimes, he was able to turn his life around.

Victims survivor: Current law is merciless, must change

Meanwhile the survivor of three homicide victims applauds the movement of the bills.

Jeanne Bishop said two of her relatives and their unborn child were murdered by a minor. Despite that, Bishop says the current law keeping minors locked up without parole is merciless.

“It says to young people that no matter how remorseful you are or how rehabilitated or how safely you can be returned to society, we’re gonna punish you forever,” Bishop said.

“We’re gonna lock you up forever. We’re gonna freeze in time forever this one act that you committed. And that, I believe, does not honor the lives of the victims.”

Other advocates contend the measures are key issues to assist in Governor Bruce Rauner’s efforts to decrease the state’s prison population by twenty-five percent. The advocates, Restore Justice Illinois, says there are hundreds of cases where individuals convicted as minors are serving life without parole or sentences of over forty years.

Mental Health Prison Diversion Commission Act passes House

A measure that creates the Mental Health Prison Diversion Commission Act passed the house and is on to the Senate.

Democratic State Representative Scott Drury’s measure creates a commission to gather information, review studies and identify areas of best practice on how the criminal justice system should handle individuals with mental illness or developmental disabilities.

Recent numbers provided by the Department of Corrections updated in October of last year indicates nearly one in four inmates are treated for a mental illness while nearly ten percent suffer from severe mental illness.

The John Howard association says they hope the commission, if enacted, moves quickly but says it’s an important issue that needs to be addressed to reform criminal justice and the prison system.

ARI summit highlights corrections cost savings

Healthcare, the role of law enforcement, development of a recovery-oriented system and more are topics during a Thursday summit for Adult Redeploy Illinois.

The summit brings together one-hundred-fifty ARI program site managers, service providers and state and local leaders to Bloomington. A press release about ARI says each individual diverted from prison represents over $15,000 in savings over keeping the offender behind bars.

Since it’s inception in 2011, ARI says they’ve diverted more than two-thousand offenders from prison using various programs. The result is an estimated $46.8 million in correctional cost savings. ARI staff assist non-violent offenders at twenty-two sites across nearly forty counties with several dozen programs.

Condominium measures pass House

A slew of measures changing various aspects of condominium law in Illinois passed the House Thursday, but one bill found some opposition.

Of the five measures the House speaker jokingly called “The Order of Cassidy,” Representative Kelly Cassidy’s House Bill 2644 found some resistance during floor debate.

The measure would do away with the ability for a provision in a condo declaration to be void if three-fourths of unit owners vote to do so.

Several lawmakers said the measure doesn’t do what the sponsor thinks it would do. Representative Peter Breen says the current law should not be changed.

“The issue here is that homeowners should have the right to act apart from the board of managers. They are their elected representatives, but if homeowners, seventy-five percent of them, decide to do something, they should have that ability.”

Representative Cassidy contends the measure protects the residents of the condominium units. Four other measures changing condominium law from Cassidy passed with no debate.

Former lobbyist suing over diminished benefits

The state’s retirement board faces a lawsuit over retirement benefits a former lobbyist, who served as a substitute teacher for a day, received and the argument is the same being used to in the challenge of pension reform being considered by the state Supreme Court.

The Chicago Tribune reports the former Illinois Federation of Teachers lobbyist is challenging a 2012 law that tried to scale back benefits he received for that one day spent as a substitute teacher. The benefits were based on his years as a union employee, not for teaching.

Senate confirms agency appointees, various board members

It’s confirmed, there are new directors of several state agencies.

At the Illinois Department of Agriculture Philip Nelson is the new director. The former President of the Illinois Farm Bureau, nominated by Governor Bruce Rauner, was confirmed Thursday by the state Senate.

Other confirmations Thursday include Jeffrey Mays to be the Department of Employment Security Director, James Meeks was approved to be the Chair of the State Board of Education, Hugo Chaviano was approved to be the Director of the Department of Labor and Erica Jeffries was approved to be the Director of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Appointees for various county Public Administrator and Public Guardians were also approved by the Senate.

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