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The Big W: The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in favor of First Amendment protections in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees.
What it is: For years, unions had relied on a SCOTUS decision from the 1970s to collect fees from all public employees, including non-members, to cover the costs of collective bargaining. Mark Janus, a public employee in Illinois, challenged that ruling, arguing those mandatory fees violated his right to free speech. Collective bargaining with the government affects public policy issues and is, therefore, inherently political in nature.
Why it’s important: No one should be forced to fund political speech they disagree with by paying mandatory union fees as a condition to keep his or her job. Yet, only 28 states had passed laws protecting public employees from being subjected to those fees. The court’s ruling is a victory for the free speech rights promised to every American by the Constitution.
Prosperity produced: Unions can no longer force public employees to pay fees. To attract more members, they’ll be compelled to better serve those they represent.
Runner up: In Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Wolf signed a bill that orders automatic sealing of criminal records for misdemeanors and charges not leading to convictions. This type of law is referred to as “clean slate” legislation, as it gives deserving people a clean slate with which to re-enter society.
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