Late Tuesday night the Texas Senate passed a union dues reform bill which would remove government from the process of collecting and paying out public employee union dues. The 19-12 passage came after over two hours on the Senate floor and a four-hour committee hearing on Sunday.

Currently, public employees in a union can have their dues automatically withdrawn from their checks and transferred to the union. If Senate Bill 7 becomes law, the government would be removed from the equation and unions would have to set up a private dues collection method, like PayPal.

Similar to reforms proposed in previous sessions, the bill exempts police, firefighters, and other emergency service employees. Senate Democrats harped heavily on that point, questioning why teachers were being “targeted.”

But one union, the Houston Federation of Teachers, has already started the process of privately collecting members’ dues. Although their representatives testified against the bill, saying it’ll be difficult for some of their members, their website says they’ll begin private bank withdrawals for union dues by the end of August.

Democrats threw out a few amendments that would have expanded the meaning of first responder, exempt school teachers, and exempt employees of state agencies, but they all failed.

The lone Republican to vote against the bill was State Sen. Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville).

SB 7 now goes to the House where, like during the regular session, its companion legislation, House Bill 156, was referred to the State Affairs committee chaired by Byron Cook (R-Corsicana). If previous sessions are any indication, the reform has little chances of getting a hearing in Cook’s committee as he has been downright hostile to the conservative reform. However, the grassroots should stay engaged and pressure the house to pass union dues as well as the rest of the issues of the governor’s special session call.


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Charles Blain

Charles Blain is the president of Urban Reform and Urban Reform Institute. A native of New Jersey, he is based in Houston and writes on municipal finance and other urban issues.