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Bill on public union dues nears Pennsylvania House vote

| Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014, 3:48 a.m.

HARRISBURG — A key committee chairman said on Monday he's waiting for a “green light” from legislative leaders about whether to advance for full House vote a bill that would stop deductions of union dues from state, local government and school district payrolls.

Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Cranberry, said the State Government Committee “would have the votes today” to send the legislation to the House floor. The bill is pending before the committee that Metcalfe's chairs. A House floor vote on the issue “would probably be close,” he said.

Hundreds of unions workers from across the state plan to rally on Tuesday at the state Capitol against what the AFL-CIO considers a “right wing” bill aimed at silencing and weakening unions.

Stephen Miskin, a spokesman for Republican leadership, had no immediate answer on a vote but said “the consensus is building.”

“A lot of members are talking about this,” Miskin said.

Republican Gov. Tom Corbett said last week that he would sign the bill if the General Assembly sends it to him.

“I look to the leaders to see whether they have the votes,” Corbett said.

The sponsor of House Bill 1507, Republican Rep. Bryan Cutler of Lancaster County, said public employee unions can collect dues “directly out of paychecks with no questions asked. A portion of that money is spent on political activity, and there is a clear issue with any portion of public funds being used to collect money for political campaigns.”

“It's a matter of right and wrong,” said Rep. Eli Evankovich, R-Westmoreland County.

Supporters say the practice is legal.

Federal law allows members to opt out of the “political portion of union dues, despite the lies of the special interests,” Wendell W. Young, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776, told Cutler in a letter.

In the Senate, the issue is “under active discussion” in the GOP caucus and with House leaders and Corbett, said Senate Republican spokesman Erik Arneson. Sen. John Eichelberger, R-Altoona, sponsored a bill, but he said he concluded Cutler's bill is better.

Brad Bumsted is Trib Total Media's state Capitol reporter. He can be reached at 717-787-1405 or bbumsted@tribweb.com.

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