Saturday, December 3, 2011

Automatic Dues Deduction, Should This Practice be Stopped?

In Michigan, public school employees who are members of the union, i.e. the Michigan Education Association, have their dues automatically deducted from their paychecks. A significant portion of those dues find their way to Political Action Committees (PACs). The PACs give donations of up to $5,000 to candidates for office who support the union's goals. In 2010 alone, the MEA-PAC made over $513,000 in contributions.

As reported in Michigan's Capitol Confidential, In June of 2010, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled in a 4-3 decision, that deductions for union PACs are a violation of the Michigan Campaign Finance Act. The court’s majority concluded that administrating a payroll deduction that sends contributions to a PAC constitutes a “contribution,” under the state's campaign laws.

Explaining, in part, the court said such deductions are illegal: “because public resources are being used to advance the political objectives of the committee” and are to be considered an expenditure “because public services and facilities in assistance of these same political objectives are being provided.”

Legislation to prohibit public school districts from deducting contributions to PACs from employee paychecks appears to be on a fast track in the Michigan House.

House Bills 5085 and 5086, sponsored by Reps. Mike Shirkey and Paul Opsommer, are scheduled to be taken up by the House Redistricting and Elections Committee on Dec. 6. It seems likely the measures will receive committee approval that day and be sent to the House floor. The apparent goal is to have the legislation passed by the House and sent to the Senate before the upcoming end-of-the-year holiday break.

“We think this is good policy,” said House Redistricting and Elections Committee Chair Pete Lund, R-Shelby Township, “The state should not be doing the collecting when people want to pay into PACs.” Read more.

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