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Alabama Lawmakers, Unions, Spar over Payroll Deductions

Shortly before 3 a.m. this morning, Republicans in the Alabama House of Representatives pushed through a bill that would halt payroll deductions from public employees—including teachers—to their unions' political organizations.

Backers of the measure, such as Republican lawmaker Lynn Greer, argue that it's wrong for taxpayers' money to be used to collect money so that unions can pour it into campaigns.

Alabama Democrats wanted to know: How much money does this process cost taxpayers?

"We know it [costs] something," Greer said, according to the Montgomery Advertiser.

In a statement to its members, the Alabama Education Association, a teachers' union, described the bill as a "mortal threat to our schools, our profession, and our association."

The measure, approved during a special session, would have to be reconciled with a similar proposal approved by Alabama's Senate, before it could become law. Critics say the measure is an attempt to sap the influence of the politically active AEA and other public workers' unions, such as the Alabama State Employees Association.

The AEA's executive director speculated to the Associated Press that the bill is payback for the union backing Republican Gov.-elect Robert Bentley's campaign earlier this year, despite much of the GOP establishment having rallied behind his primary opponent, Bradley Byrne. See an earlier post for background on that entertaining election battle, and reports of AEA's behind-the-scenes work on that front.

My colleague Mark Walsh, our School Law blogger, has written extensively about the legal issues surrounding states' efforts to limit public employees' automatic payroll deductions.

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