A hotly-debated bill to ban the automatic deduction of teacher and other public union membership dues from paychecks is stalled and may be finished for the session.
The measure, House Bill 418, won approval 9-6 in the House Labor Committee and was set for a debate in the Louisiana House earlier this month.
But backers asked for a delay — they said too many House members were gone that day — and the legislation has languished since then.
It is not on the list of bills scheduled for House debate next week — the next to last full week of the session — although that could change.
Rep. Stuart Bishop, R-Lafayette, sponsor of the bill, said Friday he in unsure whether he will push for a vote.
“I will be honest with you,” Bishop said. “I haven’t given it a whole lot of thought because we decided to focus on the budget.”
State financial problems, including a $1.6 billion shortfall to keep spending at current levels, are the top issue of the 2015 Legislature.
The House on Thursday approved a $24 billion spending plan.
However, state Senate debate on the budget is still ahead, and that legislation could return to the House.
In addition, lawmakers in both chambers will be focused on a series of tax hikes and credits of around $700 million in the final days of the session, which ends on June 11.
Under current rules, thousands of public school teachers, state troopers and other members of law enforcement rely on automatic payroll deductions to handle their union or association dues.
Bishop’s bill would end that.
The proposal sparked heated disputes in committee, with teacher union leaders claiming they are the chief target of the measure.
Opponents called the bill an insult to working people.
Bishop countered that it is unfair for government to be involved in collecting membership dues for select groups.
Others said those dues are often funneled to national groups that promote political causes opposed by most residents of Louisiana.
The powerful Louisiana Association of Business and Industry is a chief backer of the bill.
Asked on Friday about the status of the legislation LABI Vice President Brigitte Nieland said, “All I can say is it is not dead.”
Shane Riddle, legislative political director of the Louisiana Association of Educators, said his group continues to urge lawmakers to reject the measure, and that public sentiment is opposed, too.
“We have been educating legislators quite a bit on our concerns with the bill,” Riddle said.
“I believe most of them understand this is not something we really want to deal with, especially this session with the budget problems,” he said.
Similar bills had died in the same committee in previous years, usually along party lines.
A similar split surfaced this time, with Republicans on the committee backing the measure and Democrats opposed.
That means any vote in the House could carry election consequences since most lawmakers face re-election this year.
Bishop said he has not counted votes to gauge support in the House.
He said he will decide early next week whether to press for a vote. “I am definitely not counting that out,” he said Friday.