Union dues bill: Payback?
By M.J. Ellington, December 12, 2010, Montgomery Times
Many legislators say a bill prohibiting payroll deductions for organization dues and political action committees is the key to the special session on ethics reform. Others say the Senate bill in Gov. Bob Riley’s ethics reforms package is payback to the Alabama Education Association which supported Republican Robert Bentley and derailed Bradley Byrne’s campaign for governor. Either way, the bill by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, has attracted more attention than any of the other six bills introduced last week in the special session on ethics reform. Area legislators say they heard from more constituents with opinions on the measure than any other so far. The question that lawmakers will weigh is whether it is right or wrong to allow public employees to authorize payroll deductions for union dues or political activities. (read article)

Union backlash growing in Montgomery
By Brian Hughes, December, 12, 2010, Washington Examiner

Montgomery County’s public employees unions are turning up the pressure on officials who vowed to cut back on the region’s most generous compensation packages for local government workers. “They’re really upset,” said Councilman Marc Elrich, D-at large, of the growing union anger. “At the end of the day, though, we’re going to have to do what we have to do. I don’t imagine we’re going to score any points with any of them.” A report from the county Office of Legislative Oversight identified ballooning salaries and benefits as the cause of Montgomery’s fiscal crisis, and in turn, County Council members said they would explore slashing salaries, benefits and the size of the work force. (read article)

AEA payroll deduction provides ethics controversy
By Jennifer Foster, December 12, 2010, Opelika-Auburn News

Wednesday’s public hearing on ethics reform revealed that of the seven pieces of Gov. Bob Riley’s ethics reform package, only one promises much controversy. The bill would prohibit the state from making payroll deductions from the paychecks of state, local and public school employees for political action committees. In other words, it would outlaw the funding system on which the Alabama Education Association has relied for so long. AEA Executive Secretary Dr. Paul Hubbert complained at the hearing that the move was political retaliation. Several teachers also spoke out against the measure. Of course, measures like these disrupt labor unions’ automatic funding mechanisms, so the unions can be counted on to vociferously oppose them at any and every opportunity. (read article)

In Tax Deal, Many Public Employees Will Pay More
By Davis Kocieniewski, December 9, 2010, New York Times
More bad news for government workers. At a time when state and local governments across the country are imposing furloughs and layoffs, and President Obama has frozen pay for federal employees, it turns out that one of the few groups to face higher federal taxes next year may be public sector employees. The proposal to extend the Bush-era tax breaks unveiled by Mr. Obama this week would offer a tax cut for most Americans. The deal would end the Making Work Pay credit, which gave a tax reduction of up to $400 to workers with low and middle incomes. That credit will be replaced by a 2 percentage point decrease in the payroll tax for Social Security for people of all incomes. (read article)

Are Republicans Trying to Bankrupt States?
By Daniel Indiviglio, December 8, 2010, The Atlantic
This certainly sounds like the sort of thing that political conspiracy theorists would talk about in dimly lit D.C. bars: are the Republicans secretly planning to force fiscally troubled states to declare bankruptcy? As crazy this might be to imagine, James Pethokoukis at Reuters actually makes the idea sound pretty plausible. The purpose would be twofold: to avoid a bailout of state governments and to stick it to public employee unions. As proof that this might really be on the minds of Republicans, Pethokoukis notes their staunch refusal to allow the Build America Bonds program to continue as a part of the new tax cut compromise. (read article)

Secret GOP plan: Push states to declare bankruptcy and smash unions
By James Pethokoukis, December 7, 2010, Reuters
Congressional Republicans appear to be quietly but methodically executing a plan that would a) avoid a federal bailout of spendthrift states and b) cripple public employee unions by pushing cash-strapped states such as California and Illinois to declare bankruptcy. This may be the biggest political battle in Washington, my Capitol Hill sources tell me, of 2011. That’s why the most intriguing aspect of President Barack Obama’s tax deal with Republicans is what the compromise fails to include a provision to continue the Build America Bonds program. (read article)

Orange County sheriff’s deputies move toward mandatory membership
By Tony Saavedra, December 6th, 2010, Orange County Register
The Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs has quietly launched an effort to make membership in the union mandatory — a potentially controversial effort given the hundreds of thousands of dollars the group spends on failed political campaigns. The association, which represents about 1,800 deputies and district attorney investigators, sent out ballots on Nov. 30, with a deadline of Dec. 14 for return. In a lengthy complaint sent to county supervisors, one union member railed about the association’s political action committee, which has funded candidates who fail at the polls. Financial disclosures filed with the county Registrar of Voters show that the AOCDS spent at least $412,286 on the failed campaign of sheriff’s hopeful Bill Hunt in the June election and another $607,704 in that election on supervisorial candidate Harry Sidhu, who lost in the November runoff to Shawn Nelson. “I do not support the candidates the funds go to and I do not believe my money should be used to make my association a special interest/lobbyist. It breeds corruption in politics,” said the letter signed by Bryan Stevens. (read article)

Jack Dean is editor of PensionTsunami.com, formed to monitor developments in all three pension spheres nationwide — public employees, corporations and social security. PensionTsunami, like UnionWatch, is a project of the California Public Policy Center. Dean is a former newspaper editor and a past executive director of the Reason Foundation. He has been active in politics for more than three decades and currently serves as president of the Fullerton Association of Concerned Taxpayers.

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