- Associated Press - Friday, February 7, 2014

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - A federal appeals court has issued a ruling that impacts the finances of one of the state’s biggest political contributors, the Alabama Education Association.

The state teachers’ organization had challenged a 2010 state law that prohibits public employees from arranging to have money withheld from their paychecks that will be used to support political action committees and organizations engaged in political activity.

A federal judge put the dues check-off law on hold soon after it passed. On Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the preliminary injunction and said it’s unlikely AEA will succeed in challenging the law for vagueness. The 11th Circuit said AEA and its political action committee, A-VOTE, are engaged in political activity addressed by the law.

“Some of AEA and A-VOTE’s conduct indisputably falls within the act’s definition of political activity, and therefore the challengers cannot bring a facial challenge arguing the term is vague based on other applications,” the appeals court said.

The case goes back to U.S. District Court in Alabama, where AEA is also challenging the law on the grounds that it violates free speech rights.

Republicans passed the law in late 2010 after winning control of the Legislature from Democrats. AEA had used its PAC to support many Democrats. Without payroll deductions, AEA members would have to write checks to the organization and its political action committee.

Gov. Robert Bentley, who was sued by AEA, is reviewing the ruling and determining what action to take, a spokeswoman said Friday.

AEA did not respond to requests for comment. The organization recently reported it has $4.6 million in its political action committee to use to support candidates in the upcoming state elections.

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