Friday, January 25, 2013

House committee approves bill that would prohibit teachers union from using voluntary paycheck donations for political advocacy

By SCOTT ROTHSCHILD, The Lawrence Journal-World

A House committee on Thursday approved a bill that would prohibit the Kansas National Education Association from taking voluntary paycheck donations from teachers and using those funds for political advocacy.

Supporters of House Bill 2023 said teachers were being coerced into signing over funds for political campaigning.

"There is peer pressure," said state Rep. Peggy Mast, R-Emporia. "This is just a step in allowing them the freedom to chose who they want to support in a political contest."

But opponents of the measure said it would make it more difficult for teachers and the state employee organization from participating in the political process.

"I am appalled that this committee would target a specific group of Kansans to deprive them of their rights, and I wonder who is next," said state Rep. Annie Tietze, D-Topeka.

State Rep. Tom Burroughs, D-Kansas City, said the bill was deceptive and heavy-handed, punished teachers and violated the Constitution.

But Republicans on the House Commerce, Labor and Economic Development Committee accused Democrats of exaggerating.

They said teachers can still make political donations, but under the bill they would not be allowed to voluntarily have a portion of their paycheck deducted for political purposes.

Burroughs, however, said the motive behind the legislation couldn't be exaggerated since a representative of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce testified that the bill was needed to eliminate public unions.

On Wednesday, Eric Stafford, senior director of government affairs for the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, told the committee,“I need this bill passed so we can get rid of public sector unions.”

Committee Chairman Marvin Kleeb, R-Overland Park, said he believed the full House would debate the measure next week. The committee approved the measure 10-5, with only Republicans voting for it.