Some Political Contributions will Require Additional Step under Senate Bill

Mar 7, 2017

Senators are looking to make changes to the way some employees will pay their union dues or club fees.

Senate Bill 239 would require an employer to have the written consent of an employee to withhold any amount from their paycheck for contributions to a political candidate or candidate committee. That consent would have to come through a form submitted to the Secretary of State’s Office and is only good for 12 months.

“A person has to authorize that in writing every year if it’s going to continue or occur,”Senate Judiciary Chair Charles Trump said as he explained the legislation on the floor Tuesday.

Aside from the usual withholdings that pay for taxes or an employee’s health insurance, union dues or club memberships are sometimes paid through similar withholdings, and those groups do sometimes use the funds for political purposes.

Without written permission, an employer could be penalized for deducting the contributions from employee paychecks, but Trump said under the bill, employers could choose not to do the deductions at all.

Democratic Senator Mike Romano said while the political usages of union dues or membership fees to professional organizations might be easy to link to political activity, there are other deductions that are less clear.

Employers make deductions from paychecks to cover health insurance premiums or make contributions to retirement accounts, and Romano said many large companies also lobby lawmakers or contribute to political campaigns.

“If they’re using any part of the deduction that I pay, whether it’s an investment house or it’s a health insurance company, if they are using any part of my employee’s holding for political activities, then we have to fill out the form,” he said Monday.

Senate Judiciary Chair Charles Trump.
Credit Will Price / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Trump responded he does not believe deductions for health insurance premiums or retirement contributions will be affected by the bill.

Whether they are covered under the bill or not, Romano said filling out the additional forms and keeping track of them was a burden for any employer, whether in the public or private sector.

“Why are we interfering with private sector contracts?” Sen John Unger asked on the floor Tuesday, pointing to previous bills Republican leaders had push to reduce government interference in private business.

“We’re saying to employers ‘it’s up to you. It’s up to you whether you want to file a program where these sorts of deductions will occur from employee paychecks.’ I think this bill alleviates, potentially, the burden of employers who choose not to participate,” Trump responded to Unger.

The bill was approved on a 21-12 party line vote. It will now be considered by the House of Delegates.