By a vote of 20 to 11, the Texas Senate gave preliminary approval Wednesday to an attack on the freedom of teachers and nearly all school employees to spend their own money as they please. The bill in question, SB 13 by Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston), would prohibit voluntary payroll deduction of professional-organization dues by all school employees except law-enforcement officers. The bill also outlaws dues deductions for most other public employees in the state, except for law-enforcement officers, firefighters, and emergency medical-service personnel.
The argument behind this bill is nakedly hypocritical. On the one hand, Sen. Huffman and company say the government shouldn’t help any unions and other employee organizations collect dues. But then they say that argument doesn’t apply to law-enforcement personnel and firefighters, because they serve “with honor and distinction.” In more candid moments, the advocates of the bill have said they excluded police and firefighters because including them would make it harder to pass the bill. The bill’s proponents also claim to deplore any political engagement by unions and other employee groups–but then again they profess to be pleased with the perceived political leanings of police and fire unions.
Beyond the hypocritical rhetoric, the practical effect of SB 13 is to take dead aim at the freedom of individual employees to make voluntary deductions to the organizations that help you professionally, provide you with liability insurance and other services, and amplify your voice as you exercise your First Amendment rights to speak out on matters of public policy. As Sen. Eddie Lucio (D-Brownsville) put it, a vote to take away payroll deduction is “a vote against teachers.”
The final Senate vote on the bill is likely tomorrow. Then it will head over to the Texas House. Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston) noted correctly that a quite similar bill failed in the House in 2015, and he predicted this one will meet the same fate.
You have already made a difference in the fight against SB 13. By sending in your letters and making your phone calls and visiting your legislators in person, you have held up the bill for six weeks since it was heard in committee on February 16. You now can help make Sen. Whitmire’s prediction come true about the fate of this bill in the House by contacting your legislators anew in opposition to SB 13. Stay tuned for further word on who stood with you and who voted against you in the Senate–and on what you can do now to defend your paycheck freedom and defeat this effort to interfere with it. Don’t let your voice be silenced!