Kentucky lawmakers pass bill to block payroll deductions to public sector unions

Published 12:07 pm Monday, March 20, 2023

By Steve Bittenbender

The Center Square

Lawmakers in Kentucky approved a bill that would prohibit most public sector union workers from using paycheck deductions to cover dues or other activities.

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The Senate voted to concur with the House’s changes to Senate Bill 7 the day before. With that 25-12 vote, the legislation now heads to Gov. Andy Beshear’s desk.

Beshear, a Democrat, will likely veto the bill during the upcoming legislative recess. However, the Republican-led legislature will return to conclude the session on March 29-30. Based on the vote totals from Wednesday and Thursday, the GOP should have more than enough votes in both chambers to override a veto.

State Rep. Josh Bray, R-Mount Vernon, carried SB 7 on the House floor, telling colleagues the amended legislation would prevent public sector union workers, except for first responders, from using payroll deductions for union dues.

“Several courts have ruled, including the U.S. Supreme Court, that there is no constitutional right to a payroll deduction system for political fundraising,” Bray said.

When asked on the floor why first responders were excluded, the lawmaker noted that several state laws “treat them differently” than other public employees.

The House voted 66-33 Wednesday to send the bill back to the Senate after amending it.

The Kentucky State AFL-CIO fiercely opposes the bill, saying supporters of the legislation are using the same tactics they used to pass right-to-work laws. It added that the House amendment made a bad bill worse.

“This is special legislation targeting public employees. SB 7 seeks to stifle their freedom of speech and undermine their representation in the workplace and Frankfort,” the group said in a statement on its website.

The bill contains an emergency clause, which means it would take effect immediately upon it becoming law.

The Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, a free market think tank based in Bowling Green, said public sector unions can still collect dues. They just can’t use the government to do it.

“Passage of this legislation stops the direct transmission of taxpayer dollars from government payrolls to public-sector union coffers,” BIPPS said in a statement. “These funds are used to support political organizations and activities which members may not support.”