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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

House narrowly passes bill that could hurt AEA

The Alabama House of Representatives narrowly passed a bill that could devastate unions representing state teachers and employees early Wednesday morning after about 15 hours of debate that spanned two days.
Democrats diligently delayed a vote on the bill, but they ran out of options and Republicans approved the bill 52-49 at almost 3 a.m.
The bill would stop the state from deducting dues from state pay checks for organizations that are politically active including the Alabama Education Association and the Alabama State Employees Association.
Republicans have said that state resources should not be used to collect dues for organizations that are politically active.
House Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, said it is not fair for taxpayers to pay for the costs to deduct those dues and deduct money for political action committees operated by those organizations.
Even though Democrat after Democrat asked state Rep. Lynn Greer, R-Rogersville, how much deducting the dues costs the state, he was never able to produce a figure for them.
"We know it cost something," Greer said. " ... It might be a large amount. It might be a small amount."
Democrats believe the bill is politically motivated and aimed to hurt the AEA, which typically supports Democratic candidates. The association is a force in state politics and the bill could hurt its financial resources.
House Minority Leader Craig Ford, D-Gadsden, said he feels the bill discriminates against teachers and state employees.
Hubbard said those are the talking points for Democrats. He said people can still be members of organizations and they can still pay their dues, but the state cannot deduct them from checks if the organization is politically active. The speaker said he is a member of the National Rifle Association, but those dues do not come out of his state check.
"That's the way everybody else does it," Hubbard said.
The Senate has already passed the bill, but the House amended it so the Senate would need to concur or a committee could be established to try to work out the differences.
The bill would allow state auditors to ensure the dues collected through state paychecks are not used for political purposes.
Rep. Richard Lindsey, D-Centre, said that would create additional bureaucracy and the Department of Examiners of Public Accounts would have to hire additional auditors and need additional office space.
Rep. Greg Wren, R-Montgomery, said saying the process on Tuesday and Wednesday was deliberative was an understatement. He said they were tough votes, but there was a "full and fair hearing."
Members voted on a variety of amendments and Democrats used the rules to talk for 10 minutes at a time to fill most of the 15 hours.
Republicans tried to shut off debate earlier Tuesday, but they did not have the necessary three-fifths vote to shut down the Democratic filibuster.
Wren said he supported the bill as part of an overall ethics package. Gov. Bob Riley called lawmakers into special session to address a variety of ethics reforms.
Hubbard said he expects lawmakers to pass the other ethics bills with most of them receiving bipartisan support.

--posted by Sebastian Kitchen

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