House considers legislation to remove criminal penalty from SB 1905

Mailee Smith

Senior Director of Labor Policy and Staff Attorney

Mailee Smith
November 4, 2017

House considers legislation to remove criminal penalty from SB 1905

An amendment has been filed in the Illinois House of Representatives that would remove language making local government officials criminals simply for enacting Right-to-Work laws. But significant problems remain.

Some state lawmakers have taken disagreement on economic policies to a whole new level.

On Oct. 25, 70 House members voted to override Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of Senate Bill 1905, a prohibition of local Right-to-Work ordinances. A successful override would have required 71 votes, so the measure failed. But lawmakers are said to be planning to take another crack at it the second week of veto session, which starts Nov. 7.

In addition to prohibiting Illinois localities from enacting laws that allow workers to choose whether to pay money to unions, SB 1905 has received much criticism for the criminal penalty it contains. Under SB 1905, any local leaders who disobey Springfield’s anti-Right-to-Work mandate could be thrown in jail – for up to a year – and/or fined up to $2,500.

The House sponsor of SB 1905, state Rep. Marty Moylan, D-Des Plaines, has tried to fix this ominous provision by filing separate language – in a separate bill – that would remove the criminal penalty if SB 1905 passes.

But there is no guarantee the second bill will pass. And in the meantime, if lawmakers vote to override the governor’s veto, they will have approved language that could result in jail time for local leaders simply for disagreeing on an economic policy.

There’s no guarantee a “trailer bill” will pass

On Nov. 1, Moylan filed an amendment to Senate Bill 770, an entirely separate bill from SB 1905. If enacted, the amendment would remove the language in SB 1905 holding local leaders criminally liable for enacting Right-to-Work ordinances.

But there is no guarantee the second bill will pass. It has to go through the entire legislative process, including committee and floor votes in both the House and the Senate. And then it would have to be signed by Rauner.

A lot could go wrong in that process. And if the amendment does not pass and the override succeeds, the criminal penalty in SB 1905 will remain.

SB 1905 is an attempt to criminalize policy disagreements

Regardless of whether the trailer bill passes or the override succeeds, it is remarkable that 70 state representatives and 42 state senators have already voted to impose criminal penalties on their local counterparts simply for disagreeing on an economic policy.

That’s not how democracy is supposed to work.

What’s more, these lawmakers are ignoring the desires of Illinoisans. According to a March 9, 2016, opinion poll by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, 61 percent of Illinoisans would vote for, or lean toward voting for, a Right-to-Work law. That included 56 percent of Democrats and 51 percent of union members surveyed.

Likewise, the majority of Americans support Right to Work and think forced union fees are wrong. In a 2014 Gallup poll, 71 percent of Americans polled stated they would vote for a Right-to-Work law. The poll also found that 65 percent of Democrats and 74 percent of Republicans would vote for a Right-to-Work law.

But that’s how entrenched some lawmakers are in their anti-Right-to-Work stance. They would rather eschew American democratic values – and ignore their constituents – than allow local leaders to consider an economic policy with which they disagree.

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