Utah Governor Signs Paycheck Protection into Law

President Bush’s efforts to enact legislation protecting the first amendment rights of America’s worker were given a boost Mar. 19, according to Am. for Tax Reform, as Utah Governor Michael O. Leavitt (R) signed a paycheck protection bill into law.  Utah becomes the sixth state to enact such a statute; the others are Idaho, Michigan, Ohio, Washington and Wyoming.

Under the “Voluntary Contributions Act,” no Utah worker may have monies deducted from his or her paycheck by an employer or union for political purposes unless the worker has first given written permission.  The measure also gets taxpayers out of the business of subsidizing political fundraising by prohibiting the use of public employer resources to collect political contributions.

“No worker should be forced to choose between retaining his or her rights in the workplace, and making political contributions,” said ATR’s Ron Nehring. “Some union officials are understandably unsupportive of paycheck protection because it shifts power to individual workers.  Paycheck protection gives each worker the power to decide whether to contribute money to politics. . . [A] worker’s first amendment rights are paramount.”

Paycheck protection legislation can be enacted at the state level, or by Congress.  State action in this area is permitted when there is a “compelling state interest,” in the words of the U.S. Supreme Court.  Other courts have ruled that protecting the free speech rights of a worker to not contribute to causes he or she opposes qualifies as a compelling state interest.

According to Nehring, the Utah action blows a hole in the Beltway argument that paycheck protection is some kind of deal-breaker for campaign finance regulation.  The measure won the support of conservatives and centrists in the Utah legislature before making it to Governor Leavitt’s desk.  It was supported, among others, by the Utah Taxpayers Ass’n and the Nat’l Fed’n of Indep. Businesses. [ATR Media Release 3/19/01]

Oklahoma House Committee Approves Right-to-Work Measure
The Small Business Comm. of the Okla. House voted 9-5 Mar. 28 to pass a joint resolution that would put the question of whether Oklahoma should become a right-to-work state to a popular vote this summer.  The measure, which passed the Senate Mar. 14, now goes to the full House for consideration. The would amend the state constitution to prohibit employment contracts that require employees to be union members or pay union dues.  The House committee altered the measure passed by the Senate by adopting a provision calling for an Aug. 14, 2001, special election on the issue.

Union bosses had hoped that the Senate-passed resolution would be referred to the House Business and Labor Committee, where the bosses supporters were expected to let the measure die as in previous years.

The Okla. State Chamber applauded the vote. “I hope the House will act on this important economic development resolution immediately,” said Richard P. Rush, president of the Chamber. [BNA 3/30/01]