UPDATED: Paycheck Protection Returns To The House Labor Committee Today

UPDATE: The result for Paycheck Protection this year was an improvement over last year – but just barely.

Seabaugh’s bill, which would still allow state and local governments to pay union dues on behalf of law enforcement and firefighters but end the practice for all other public employees, earned an 8-8 vote in the House Labor Committee. The deadlock could allow the bill to get to the House floor on a motion by Seabaugh, where it’s expected it has a fighting chance at passage. And in the Senate it would find itself with very friendly sailing.

There is a major constitutional question about whether excluding law enforcement and firefighters from the change can be done; some speculation has centered on the possibility that should the bill pass Gov. Bobby Jindal might use his line-item veto to resolve that issue.

All eight Republicans on the House Labor Committee voted for the bill. All seven Democrats voted against it. Independent Dee Richard, who styles himself a conservative, joined the Democrats. Richard said during the hearing on the bill that he would vote for it if the teachers’ unions weren’t included.

This is the second year in a row that Richard has backed the teachers’ unions on a paycheck protection bill. This time it doesn’t appear his vote was fatal on the bill.

ORIGINAL POST: Last year around this time we covered the fizzling in the House Labor Committee of a bill that would do something extremely simple and highly important.

Namely, that it would have gotten the State of Louisiana out of the business of paying union dues for public employees. Currently, union dues are automatically taken out of the paychecks of employees for whom it’s applicable and those employees don’t even know what their dues are or where the money goes.

Legislation like that bill, which was brought by Rep. Alan Seabaugh a year ago, is called Paycheck Protection. The unions absolutely despite it, and for good reason – wherever it goes into effect, their membership craters. Their membership craters because as it turns out, public employee unions don’t provide a whole lot of value for their members, and when they have to actually go around and collect dues from those members rather than having the state do it for them they get a lot of “No, thanks.”

The major effect paycheck protection legislation has on the unions is that when they have to actually collect dues from their members they’re not able to justify the kinds of political campaign activity they otherwise can – because the members of, for example, the Louisiana Association of Educators are nowhere near as left-wing or hard-core Democrat as their bosses are. And when the unions have to satisfy the wishes of the members those dues can’t be invested in doing things the members don’t like.

But there’s another effect as well, which is that the members actually know what their dues are because they get a bill – or, if they set up automatic withdrawals through their bank accounts, they at least can see on their bank statements how much the union is taking every month. Go and ask teachers, for example, what their union dues are. The responses are fascinating; most of them have no idea. The unions don’t exactly advertise the number, either.

It’s a very common-sense piece of legislation that a Republican legislature like we have in Louisiana ought not have any trouble passing, but last year Seabaugh’s bill suffered an early-round knockout when it lost by one vote in the House Labor committee.

It must be understood that the House Labor Committee is the shame of the state legislature. Last year when Seabaugh’s bill went through that committee and failed (it was considered likely to pass on the House floor, the Senate Labor Committee and the Senate floor, and without question Gov. Jindal would sign it), that committee’s makeup was seven Democrats, seven Republicans and one independent. In a Republican-majority legislature, and that majority is in place in no small part due to the efforts of a lot of folks in the construction, energy and manufacturing sectors for whom the Labor Committee might well be the most important one in the House, there is no excuse for a membership which looks like that.

This year, the House Labor Committee’s makeup is a little different. It has eight Republicans, seven Democrats and one independent. Seabaugh is now on the committee.

But the committee’s chairman is still a Democrat. Herbert Dixon (D-Alexandria) isn’t just a Democrat; he’s a leftist who is completely bought by the unions.

And Dixon will do everything he can to kill both of the paycheck protection bills in front of his committee today.

There are two. The first one is HB 1059, by Rep. Kirk Talbot (R-River Ridge). Talbot’s bill would ban the state from collecting union dues for all public employees. The second, HB 451, is another try by Seabaugh. It attempts to sugarcoat the change a little by exempting cops and firemen from paycheck protection. That might be easier to pass out of the Labor Committee, but the problem is that it’s probably unconstitutional  to exempt cops and firemen from that bill.

We’ll find out this morning if either bill can make it out of Dixon’s committee alive, and we’ll report the results.

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