- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 12, 2015

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Debate over a contentious anti-union bill was scrapped in the Louisiana House on Tuesday, amid strong pushback from police, firefighters and teachers - not to mention worries that there simply weren’t enough votes for it to pass.

“Today is not the right day for this fight,” said Rep. Stuart Bishop, R-Lafayette, who sponsored the measure, which would ban government payroll offices from automatically deducting union dues from public worker paychecks.

Though the future of the proposal is uncertain, several lawmakers predicted it wouldn’t be brought back this legislative session, when the main concern is closing a $1.6 billion budget shortfall. Voting against teachers, firefighters and policemen also was unpalatable to many lawmakers who face re-election in the fall.

“From what I sensed on the floor, the votes were not there,” said Rep. Lance Harris, a Republican leader in the House who supports the bill. “It’s a tough vote.”

In recent weeks the bill has stirred strong passion among supporters and opponents alike.

A coalition of state and national business groups saw the bill as a chance to deliver a death blow to organized labor in Louisiana, a state that already has a right-to-work law. They organized a public relations campaign, marketing the bill as “paycheck protection” and insisted they weren’t anti-union.

The measure appeared to be gaining momentum, but last week a video was leaked that made the business coalition’s intent clear.

“When you cut off the unions’ funding, they lose their stroke,” Lane Grigsby, who heads up a policy committee for the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, told supporters in the video. “This is a fatal spear to the heart of the giant.”

Meanwhile, the unions applied pressure, sending out thousands of letters and lobbying their home district lawmakers to vote “no.”

The video “certainly wasn’t helpful to the cause,” said Harris, of Alexandria.

But Harris predicted proponents only face a temporary setback - just as they did in previous years when the bill died in committee.

“I’m sure it will be back next session because people like me have a philosophical problem with government withholding dues … that goes to (political) campaign contributions,” he said.

___

Online:

House Bill 418 can be found at www.legis.la.gov


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