Senate passes bill aimed at AEA dues

Published 6:38 pm Friday, December 10, 2010

MONTGOMERY (AP) — The first bill passed by the new Republican majority in the Alabama Senate will hamstring two powerful organizations by stopping teachers and other public employees from having payroll deductions for membership dues and political contributions.

The Senate split along party lines Friday in voting 22-12 for the bill proposed by Republican Gov. Bob Riley. It will end payroll deductions by state, county and city employees for groups that lobby. The bill now goes to the House for consideration.

The House, meanwhile, passed three of the governor’s ethics bills and sent them to the Senate for consideration.

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Democratic opponents of the payroll deduction bill said it is designed to make it harder for public employees to belong to the Alabama Education Association and the Alabama State Employees Association because they will have to write checks for dues rather than having money withdrawn from their government paychecks. “It’s gotcha politics in the guise of ethics reform,” said Senate Minority Leader Roger Bedford, D-Russellville.

Riley’s communications director, Jeff Emerson, said the bill is not about politics. He said it’s about making sure taxpayers’ money is not abused by being spent to collect money for lobbying activity and political contributions.

He said it’s Democrats who are playing politics because they benefit from AEA and ASEA.

“They are trying to protect special interests that donate so much to their campaigns.” More than 150 AEA members filled the hallways outside the Senate chamber Friday, but were unable to stop the bill. Many said the state had allowed them to use payroll deductions throughout their careers, but trouble began when AEA supported Republican Gov.-elect Robert Bentley.

The House voted 104-0 Friday for three of Riley’s bills. They would ban the transfer of money between political action committees, prohibit pork projects from being hidden in the state budgets, and require people who lobby the executive branch to register with the Ethics Commission.

The three bills now go to the Senate for consideration.

The Legislature’s special session will continue Monday.