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Time runs out on controversial union dues bill

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After hearing from a slew of opponents who blasted the measure, a key Senate committee ran out of time Monday before it could vote on a controversial proposal affecting unions that represent teachers, firefighters, law-enforcement officers and other public employees.

The bill (SB 78), sponsored by Sen. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, would make changes involving deductions of union dues from employee paychecks.

For example, the bill would add a new step in which government employers would have to confirm with workers that they want dues taken out of their pay before the deductions could start.

That would be in addition to a current process of union bargaining agents submitting written requests to begin deductions. Rodrigues urged the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday to sign off on the plan, which has the support of groups such as Associated Industries of Florida, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Americans for Prosperity.

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But labor unions and other opponents called the legislation an unnecessary attempt at “union busting.”

Rich Templin, a lobbyist for the Florida AFL-CIO, warned the committee that the proposal “hurts front-ine workers” and “will create chaos.”

Sen. Tina Polsky, a Boca Raton Democrat who serves on the committee, said the measure would create “extra governmental oversight.” Polsky said she has received 1,000 emails asking her to vote against the bill.

“Our job should be to make people’s jobs easier, not harder,” she said.

The Judiciary Committee began to debate the bill just a few minutes before Monday’s meeting was scheduled to end at 5 p.m.

The meeting concluded before the panel had time to vote on whether to advance the bill, which is filed for the legislative session that begins March 2.