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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Florida's Republican legislators range from barely true to pants on fire on union bills

From WUSF.edunews

by Scott Finn

TAMPA (2011-3-26) - The Florida House of Representatives recently passed a bill regarding union dues. It would no longer allow state workers to have those dues automatically withdrawn from their paychecks.

One reason? State Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, said during the debate that taxpayer resources are being used to provide the personnel and the computers for automatic withdrawal of union dues.

He says taxpayers are telling him, “They think their resources ought not be used to facilitate private political agendas. Simple as that.”

PolitiFact Florida rated that claim “barely true.”

PolitiFact’s Aaron Sharockman researched the claim, and found three separate state reports showing the cost of automatic payroll deduction to be so slight that they couldn’t be quantified.

“Right now, there are 364 different entities that can do payroll deduction through the state,” Sharockman said. “It’s a common practice and done with relatively little human input.”

Also, state law allows unions to pay the cost associated with payroll deduction, letting taxpayers off the hook entirely, he said.

The debate over union dues got the attention of Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform.

He tweeted recently, "Withheld union dues fund half of Dem (Democratic) campaigns in Florida."

Norquist’s claim was rated “Pants on Fire” by PolitiFact.

Sharockman says it’s true that unions overwhelmingly fund Democrats, but Norquist’s estimate is way off. It’s more like 11 percent or less, he said.

In addition to laws involving unions, some lawmakers are trying to reduce regulation on Florida businesses this session.

Recently, the House Business and Consumer Affairs Subcommittee heard from Allen Douglas, legislative affairs director for the National Federation of Independent Business.

"Florida is one of only three states that require licenses for commercial interior designers," Douglas said.

"The argument will be it’s a public safety and health issue…But they can’t point out one single instance in the state of Florida where anybody’s been hurt or injured,” he said.

“It keeps people out of the industry, because it’s very hard to become a commercial interior designer in this state," Douglas said.

Aaron Sharockman of PolitiFact Florida says that claim is true. Other states have a weaker form of licensing, “but Florida is one of only three states that regulates the industry as tightly as it does.”Session 2011

Coverage of “Session 2011” is a joint project of WUSF and WLRN/Miami Herald News.

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