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Pa. Senate passes bill to restrict union dues, contributions

Staff and wire report

HARRISBURG — Republican senators are trying again to restrict how Pennsylvania's public-sector labor unions collect dues and political action committee contributions.

State Sen. Scott Wagner. Dawn J. Sagert photo

The GOP-controlled Senate voted 28-22 on Wednesday to send the bill to the House. Six Republicans voted against the bill, while two Democrats voted in favor of it. The Senate passed a similar bill in 2015, but it died in the House amid opposition from labor unions. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf also opposes it.

The bill would bar the state, school districts and local government employers from deducting any portion of union dues that underwrite political activity and union political action committee contributions from the paychecks of unionized workers. The voluntary deductions are often part of negotiated labor contracts.

Only deductions that pay for contract negotiation costs and other nonpolitical activity would be allowed.

Sen. Scott Wagner, R-Spring Garden Township, is sponsoring similar legislation to make the change a constitutional amendment. To amend the constitution, the bill must pass the House and Senate in two consecutive sessions and then a referendum would be voted on during the next statewide election.

Wagner's bill has passed two Senate committees and awaits final vote by the full Senate.

Jason High, a spokesman for Wagner's office, said Wagner is to see the Senate continuing to move both bills through the process because the state shouldn't be collecting political money for any special interest groups.

Tom Herman, president of Service International Employees Union 668, said he's disappointed the Senate is trying to silence working citizens' voices, and he hopes the House "has enough sense" to vote against the bills.

While Republican lawmakers have dubbed the bill "paycheck protection," Herman and other labor officials are calling it "paycheck deception," he said.

Herman said deductions for political use are voluntary and they go to support candidates from both parties.

"If you're supportive of working people, we're supportive of you," he said. "Most of the legislators that support this bill — in particular Sen. Wagner — are clearly not supportive of working people."

Local Sens. Richard Alloway, R-York, Adams, Cumberland and Franklin counties, Mike Folmer, R-York and Lebanon counties, and Mike Regan, R-Dillsburg, serve as co-sponsors on Wagner's bill.

— Dispatch staff reporter David Weissman and The Associated Press contributed to this report.