Last week, the House failed to pass legislation that would have prevented public employers from using taxpayer-funded payroll systems to automatically deduct money for campaign contributions or other political activity from employees’ paychecks.
Senate Bill 166 – which was defeated in a 90-102 vote on final passage – earned the support of the PA Chamber as a ‘good government’ measure, especially in light of the arrests and convictions of elected officials in recent history which have shown that a clear line needs to exist to avoid any use of taxpayer resources for political activity. Under current law, state and local governments can collect political campaign funds from the paychecks of government employees on behalf of public sector unions, which blurs the line between official government business and political activity. By removing the government from serving as the official collector of money for political purposes, S.B. 166 would have helped brighten that line and brought clarity to the process. While the legislation faced headwinds from some organized labor groups that are intent on keeping the status quo, it passed the Senate earlier this year.
Following the failed vote, PA Chamber President Gene Barr issued a statement expressing disappointment that the General Assembly didn’t get the bill to the governor’s desk (although the Wolf administration had already said the bill would be vetoed if it reached that point). “For far too long, newspaper headlines across the Commonwealth have highlighted criminal corruption cases against state and local officials for misusing government resources for political gain,” Barr said. “It is disheartening that this sorely needed good government bill didn’t cross the finish line.”