Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Florida senator weakens antiunion bill amid broad opposition

TALLAHASSEE — Faced with certain defeat of his antiunion bill, a powerful Senate leader backed off his proposal to ban unions from collecting dues through payroll deduction Friday and offered up an alternative to keep the measure alive.

Under the amendment by Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, public employee unions could continue to have their dues automatically deducted from their paychecks but would be barred from using the money "directly or indirectly for the purposes of any political activity."

Banned activities would include contributions to candidates, political parties and committees, tax-exempt organizations and electioneering. If unions want to use their dues for political purposes, they would have to get written permission each year from each union member. Unions could continue to collect money to pay for education, training, legal defense, charitable causes and other nonpolitical activities.

The amendment, proposed after the bill barely made it through the Senate Budget Committee on Wednesday, was needed "to ensure that we're clear about what the intent of the original bill was," Thrasher said.

The Senate Rules Committee approved the amended bill, 8-4, sending the measure to a full vote of the Senate. Sen. Dennis Jones, R-Seminole, became the eighth Republican senator to publicly oppose it as teachers, firefighters and police unions members blasted the idea as a false fix.

"To say that unions are the only ones to use dues for political purposes is a little bit disingenuous," said Gary Rainey, president of the Florida Professional Firefighters. Hundreds of private corporations in Florida use payroll deductions to collect money for political activity, he said, and targeting public employee unions "is patently unfair."

Thrasher needs three more Republicans to get the measure out of the Senate and back to the House, which has already approved his original version. So on Thursday, Thrasher, the former chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, called in the party's top brass.

State party chairman Dave Bitner and the party's executive committee took the extraordinary step of sending a letter to all Republican senators, citing "union power and the obstruction of the American legislative system" in Wisconsin, and urging them to support the bill.

Meanwhile, the unions produced a spreadsheet of 48 insurance companies and credit unions that use payroll deduction to collect dues and make more than $10 million in campaign contributions.

Sen. Anitere Flores, a Miami Republican who opposed the original bill, switched her vote to get the bill out of committee. But, she added, the measure "doesn't address all the concerns I have."

Marianne Moran, representing Tea Party in Action from West Palm Beach, spoke in favor of the bill on behalf of "the hard-earned money" of union members, whom she said could "face retribution" for opposing the use of their dues for political purposes.

But Henry Kelley of the Fort Walton Beach Tea Party sent a letter to senators urging them to reject the bill.

"What does this bill have to do with the Tea Party principles of limited government?" he wrote, noting the state allows 360 other organizations to use payroll deduction from public employee paychecks. "I joined up with the tea party over fiscal conservative issues. Like it or not, unions, and any other group, have a right to lobby."

Mary Ellen Klas can be reached at [email protected]

Florida senator weakens antiunion bill amid broad opposition 04/15/11 [Last modified: Saturday, April 16, 2011 12:43am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tampa Bay small businesses give Tampa B+ for regulatory climate


    In a recent survey about small business sentiments toward state and local government policies that affect them, Tampa Bay ranked at No. 25 out of 80 — a B+ overall.

    Tampa Bay ranked No. 25 out of 80 in a recent survey about how small business owners feel about state and local government policies that affect them. | [Times file photo]
  2. Dirk Koetter to Bucs: Take your complaints to someone who can help


    TAMPA — It was just another day of aching bellies at One Save Face.

    Dirk Koetter: “All of our issues are self-inflicted right now.”
  3. Seminole Heights murders: fear and warnings, but no answers


    TAMPA — Interim Tampa police Chief Brian Dugan elicited loud gasps from the crowd of about 400 who showed up at Edison Elementary School on Monday night to learn more about the string of unsolved killings that have left the southeast Seminole Heights neighborhood gripped by fear.

    Kimberly Overman, left, comforts Angelique Dupree, center, as she spoke about the death of her nephew Benjamin Mitchell, 22, last week in Seminole Heights. The Tampa Police Department held a town hall meeting Monday night where concerned residents hoped to learn more about the investigation into the three shooting deaths over 11 days in southeast Seminole Heights. But police could give the crowd at Edison Elementary School few answers. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  4. Juvenile justice reform seen as help for teen car theft problem


    ST. PETERSBURG — One of Tampa Bay's largest religious organizations has decided to make reforming the juvenile justice system one of its top priorities for next year.

    One of Tampa Bay's largest religious organizations, Faith & Action for Strength Together (FAST), voted Monday night to make reforming the juvenile justice system one of its top priorities for next year. FAST believes civil citations could help Pinellas County?€™s teen car theft epidemic by keeping children out of the juvenile justice system for minor offenses. [ZACHARY T. SAMPSON  |  Times]
  5. U.S. general lays out Niger attack details; questions remain (w/video)


    WASHINGTON — The U.S. Special Forces unit ambushed by Islamic militants in Niger didn't call for help until an hour into their first contact with the enemy, the top U.S. general said Monday, as he tried to clear up some of the murky details of the assault that killed four American troops and has triggered a nasty …

    Gen. Joseph Dunford said much is still unclear about the ambush.