Texas Senate passes bill to dissuade educators from joining trade associations
Date Posted: 5/07/2015
UPDATE: Shortly after this post was published, the senate moved forward with its third and final vote on this issue. This bill has passed. Please help defeat this measure in the House by contacting your representatives immediately! Senate Bill (SB) 1968, a bill to prohibit you from being able to payroll deduct dues to ATPE or any other employee organization, passed the Senate on second reading today. The bill passed on a straight party line vote with all Senate Republicans voting for the bill and all Senate Democrats voting against the bill. In questioning during debate on SB 1968, Senator Joan Huffman made clear that her intent was to restrict payroll deductions for public employee unions and associations in all political subdivisions including school districts across the state; however, she exempted unions that represent police officers, firefighters, and Emergency Medical Services. Further questioning on this carve-out made clear that her preference for one group over another was politically motivated. She answered that she believes that these groups do their advocacy business differently (in a way she likes) and deserve to be exempted. Interestingly, the groups she exempted from the bill -- police, fire and EMS groups and unions -- are against the bill, just like ATPE, which is not a union. Senator Huffman’s other rationale for the bill was that the state and other political subdivisions should not be expending resources for this purpose. When questioning made it clear that there is no cost here for any political subdivision to process payroll deductions, and when there is, they can pass it along in administrative fees, Huffman changed her rationale to say that she thinks the state has no business collecting these dues. Senators pointed out to the author that public employees use this method of payment because it is secure, prevents identity theft, and is convenient; it is also one of many deductions they can choose, such as United Way, religious organizations, and even conservative groups like Focus on the Family and the American Family Association. Senator Huffman replied that the bill does not prohibit deductions to charities or any other current function, only union and association dues, and she said these groups are not political. When pressed as to whether she thought the American Family Association conducts political activities, she claimed not to know. ATPE delivered a letter and lobbied every Senate office on the day that this bill was placed on the Senate Calendar. The letter makes clear that ATPE is a professional association and not a union and that we are opposed to this bill because many ATPE members prefer to use this option for its safety and convenience. We also pointed out that the bill is likely unconstitutional as it discriminates against specific classes of employees, and it violates their First Amendment rights and political speech protections. Despite all the obfuscation and smoke and mirrors about what the bill is intended to do, several issues are crystal clear. This bill is not necessary, it is 100 percent politically motivated, and it is directed straight at public employees in this state, including educators. The bill is likely unconstitutional and is nothing more than a slap in your face as a public servant
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