AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas educators lined the Senate floor and gallery Monday morning wearing red clothes and red pins that read "Stop Attacking Educators."
"SB13 is intended to silence teachers," said Gary Godsey, Executive Director of the Association of Texas Professional Educators.
Senate Bill 13 (SB13) would prohibit payroll deductions to unions and professional organizations for state employees.
Currently, if a state employee chooses to join a union or association their dues can be deducted by their employer and sent to the organization. The same option applies for charities. SB13 would end the practice for unions and associations but still allow charitable donations.
State Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Southside Place, wrote the bill.
"The government should have no official role in the affairs of trade unions, labor unions, employee associations or professional associations," Huffman said.
Except for those of first responders. Huffman's bill exempts police officers, firefighters and Emergency Medical Services personnel.
"They serve the community and they serve, the large majority of cases, with great honor and distinction," said Huffman. "They don't get involved, that I've ever seen, in business issues and for these reasons I feel comfortable exempting them."
But that feeling doesn't sit to well with Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls
"I sure liked the bill better before you exempted those, the first responders, because I just think it's, it's problematic to say this group of people does it this way and this group of people does it that way," Estes said.
And Huffman's reasoning for exempting first responders didn't go over too well with the crowd.
"As far as being a first responder, I believe I am. I believe all teachers are," said a teacher who traveled from Midland-Odessa to testify.
Godsey also explained that ATPE has never lobbied against any business legislation and pointed out money from dues is prohibited from being used to support political campaigns.
Even first responders, police officers, stepped in to oppose the bill. Two presidents of police associations told Senators they feared their deductions would be added to the bill at some point if it passes.
The President of the Austin Police Association called on the senators to stop the double standard.
"Do not discriminate against teachers. I think it's, it's horrible that we're even sitting here having this conversation," said Ken Casaday.
Huffman said while the service was needed at one time, there have been advancements in banking that make it no longer necessary.
"Most people have gotten into the habit of having either automatic payment of their bills or paying by credit card or so forth. So there certainly are many ways for organizations to encourage their members to set up automatic debits and so forth," said Huffman.
But a member of ATPE pointed out that their association is also open to school workers and those in rural communities often don't have bank accounts, credit cards or access to computers.
While teachers and school workers are the largest group impacted, the bill would also stop payroll deductions for CPS workers, parole and correctional officers.
"It's our money. Let us spend our money how we want. And another thing is if it's not broke, we don't have to fix it. It's not broke. Just let us be," one correctional officer told the senators.
The Senators decided to postpone a vote on whether to send SB13 to the full Senate until Thursday.
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