The Phoenix Flyer

Beshear vetoes bill to stop automatic payroll deductions for certain public employee unions

By: - March 27, 2023 6:02 pm

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear gives the State of the Commonwealth address in Frankfort, Ky., on January 4, 2023. Photo by Arden Barnes

Calling it “an attack on unions and teacher associations that support and protect hard working Kentucky families,” Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear vetoed a bill that would stop automatic payroll deductions for some public employees’ unions or association dues.

In his veto message, the governor said Senate Bill 7 violates the Kentucky Constitution by “targeting public employees.”

The Kentucky Education Association has opposed the legislation as it could no longer rely on automatic deductions for dues collection.

“Because it has an emergency clause, Senate Bill 7 will immediately impact the union membership of those public employees who use payroll deduction to pay their dues. Senate Bill 7 is an attack on unions and teacher associations that support and protect hard working Kentucky families,” Beshear wrote. “These are people who educate our kids, drive our buses, pave our roads and work in our libraries. Senate Bill 7 also has First Amendment implications, stifling public employees’ freedom of speech.”

Beshear said part of the bill “is so broadly worded” to prevent public employers from assisting groups like labor organizations with collections of dues and fees “that it could be read to prohibit payroll deductions for entities such as dental and vision insurance providers, financial service firms, and charitable organizations.”

Another provision in the bill would remove part of Kentucky statute that allows school district employees to give written consent for a payroll deduction for dues for organizations like the Kentucky Association of School Administrators, “which is dedicated to serving school administrators in Kentucky through advocacy, professional development, research, and leadership,” Beshear wrote.

Additionally, he cited a letter from the Amalgamated Transit Union, which has local unions in Covington, Lexington and Louisville, saying the legislation “would render the public transit systems in the Commonwealth ineligible for more than $76 million in federal transit funds” in fiscal year 2023. The U.S. Department of Labor certifies arrangements for continuing collective bargaining rights, he added, and the bill would deny transit employees the right to bargain over dues deduction.

Earlier this legislative session, both the Senate and House passed the bill with some rural Republican lawmakers joining Democrats in opposing the bill.

“Senate Bill 7 is simply designed to stop the practice of public employee unions using taxpayer-funded payroll systems to collect political contributions from members,” said Sen. Robby Mills, R-Henderson, the bill’s primary sponsor, while introducing the bill in the Senate.

The House added exceptions to the bill for police and firefighters unions.

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McKenna Horsley
McKenna Horsley

McKenna Horsley covers state politics for the Kentucky Lantern. She previously worked for newspapers in Huntington, West Virginia, and Frankfort, Kentucky. She is from northeastern Kentucky.