TOPEKA — Despite protest that it unjustly targets unions, the House passed a bill Wednesday that would restrict unions from using deductions from members' paychecks to fund political activities.
Currently, union members can sign off on the use of deductions from their paychecks for political purposes. House Bill 2130 would end that practice, forcing unions to seek funds for political activities through separate donations.
Supporters of the bill, including the Kansas Chamber and Americans for Prosperity, say it would remove government from the process of funding political campaigns and protect workers from seeing their dues used in ways they do not support.
"When you are not in the majority in your union, you may feel uncomfortable with where those dues are going," said Anthony Brown, R-Eudora. "Under the current system, they can't self-direct those dollars."
Some House Democrats objected that the bill would disenfranchise workers, ignore the democratic process employed by unions, and promote government intrusion in private affairs.
Furthermore, it assumes Kansans don't know what they agreed to have deducted from their paycheck, one Wichita lawmaker said.
"I have a problem with you saying union members are not smart enough to know where their money is going," protested Rep. Judith Loganbill, D-Wichita.
The bill will now go to the Senate, where representatives of labor interests plan to carry on the fight, claiming the constitutionality of the bill has yet to be sufficiently addressed.
"This is not a union issue, it's an attack on our freedom of speech," said Bruce Tunnell, executive vice president of the Kansas AFL-CIO. "When you start taking away my freedoms, where is it going to stop?"
Brown said he doesn't think there's a constitutional issue involved.
"There are still a whole host of ways members can make their donations to political action without having it done without their consent," he said. "This bill only affects deductions from paychecks, not their overall freedom to donate."