It is bad enough when an elected policymaker promotes a bad policy. It is worse when an elected policymaker promotes a bad policy and then tries to mislead the public with, shall we say, “alternative facts” about it. (I am trying to be semi-polite here.)
Misleading the public is an everyday occurrence in the political realm (a major reason we now have a tweeter-in-chief in the White House). But this time I am talking – again — about Dan Patrick, and if you think I write too much about Dan Patrick, take your complaints to Dan. He gets a lot of my attention while the Legislature is in session because he is full of awful policy ideas to undermine public education, weaken educators’ livelihoods and smother children’s learning opportunities.
As you may already know, one of Patrick’s pet bills this session is Senate Bill 13, which is designed to punish educators and most other public employees who voluntarily choose to join unions and other professional associations, such as TSTA. The bill includes educators because they and their employee organizations have historicilly fought – and still are fighting – Patrick’s long-sought effort to take tax dollars from public schools for private school vouchers.
SB13, approved by the Senate last week, would repeal the long-time ability of TSTA members and members of most other employee organizations to voluntarily choose to have their membership dues automatically deducted from their paychecks by their government employers. It’s a secure and convenient way for busy government workers to pay membership dues in the organizations of their choice, in the same way as many government workers make charitable contributions.
Even the main sponsor of the bill, Sen. Joan Huffman of Houston, has admitted the practice costs taxpayers nothing. And, if it did, current law would require TSTA and other unions and associations to reimburse school districts and other governments for any administrative costs. The fiscal note on SB13 is negligible.
But Patrick refused to acknowledge the lack of cost in his weekly political email, in which he touted Senate approval of the bill and bragged about some of his other efforts to drag Texas back into the 19th century.
“It is clearly not the role of government to collect union dues, and certainly not at taxpayer expense,” he wrote. (The bold type is mine. The “alternative fact” is Patrick’s.)
Patrick also ignores the real fact that police, firefighters and EMS personnel are exempt from the bill. That means they can continue to have membership dues in their unions voluntarily deducted by their government employers.
Why? Probably because Patrick perceives them as more politically friendly and chooses to pick winners and losers among public employees. To their credit, though, police and fire unions also are fighting SB13.
The fate of SB13 now rests with the House, most of whose members, I hope, have more respect for teachers, school bus drivers, cafeteria workers, correctional officers and other public employees than Patrick and Huffman do.