HARRISBURG — A state Senate committee passed a controversial bill Thursday that Republicans say is needed to curb improper use of state funds but labor unions say is an attack on organized labor’s voice and ability to advocate politically for workers.
The bill, which originally would have barred the state and municipalities from collecting union dues and political contributions from employee paychecks, was amended to bar just the collection of political contributions from the paychecks of most public employees.
The bill passed the Senate state government committee on a party-line vote.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. John Eichelberger, R-Blair, said funds that the state collected should not be used for political purposes.
“We should not be using official resources to collect political money,” he said.
Numerous business and conservative groups support the bill.
Labor unions argue the state collects a host of deductions from all employees that are sometimes used for political causes.
“The payroll deduction legislation would single out public sector workers, while continuing to allow payroll deductions that go to insurance companies, big banks and financial companies.
There also is no saving to the taxpayer since payroll deductions are automated.
The state estimates the process costs less than $100 a year,” said Wythe Keever, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania State Educational Association.
Funds from union dues cannot be donated to candidates, though they can be used for some types of advocacy, such as sending a mailing to union members saying an elected official voted for or against an issue.
Political contributions, or PAC contributions, from union workers can be given directly to political candidates.
Earlier this week, a House committee passed a version of the bill that prohibits the state or municipalities from collecting dues money and political contributions from the paychecks of most public employees.
Kate Giammarise: 717-787-4254 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @KateGiammarise.