The Republican Who Protected Unions (And Democrats)

It’s an issue that united small business, big business, the Republican establishment, and the conservative grassroots. It drew the ire of the Democratic Party and labor unions. The legislative initiative was killed not by parliamentary tricks organized by Democrats, but by the Republican chairman of one of the Texas House’s most powerful committees.

Protecting employee paychecks from having membership dues deducted is simply good public policy on its face; there is no reason why any private entity should have first dibs on someone’s pay before they get it.

It’s also an issue that’s smart GOP politics. Public employee unions gave some 98 percent of their money to Democrats over the last three election cycles.

Yet House Speaker Joe Straus tried to kill the measure in the opening days of the session by sending the House version to a committee chaired by a pro-union democrat. (An appointment Straus made, by the way.)

Fortunately, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and the Senate took action and passed their version of the measure, Senate Bill 1968.

When the bill hit Straus’ desk in the House, he buried it for two weeks. It wasn’t until the Wall Street Journal (and TexasScorecard.com!) highlighted his game playing that Straus finally sent it to a committee.

This time, he sent it to the State Affairs Committee helmed by State Rep. Byron Cook (R-Corsicana). Cook, you might recall, was instrumental in conspiring with Democrats in 2009 to unseat a conservative Speaker and install Straus. It is fair to say that Cook owes his powerful chairmanship to the Democrats.

And he acted like it.

Holding a single, two-hour perfunctory hearing, Cook announced he was killing the measure. He claimed it was rife with procedural errors, yet never specified what they were. The factual problem with Cook’s assertion is that “points of order,” a parliamentary rule-enforcement device used to kill bills, don’t typically arise from the text of the bill itself but rather come from the accompanying documents. If Cook recognized a problem with the bill or its documentation, he could have easily fixed it.

Instead, it was Byron Cook killing a GOP initiative, a big-business initiative, a small-business initiative, a conservative grassroots initiative.

The winners? The public employee unions that get to continue using the government to collect their dues. The Democrats get their most reliable donor funded.

As unions dig deeper into employees’ paychecks, and spend bigger to “turn Texas blue,” they will have one man to thank: “Republican” Byron Cook.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael is president and CEO of Empower Texans, and its premier project, Texans for Fiscal Responsibility. A graduate of Texas A&M, former newspaper reporter, one-time Capital Hill staffer, think tank vice president and an Eagle Scout, Sullivan is married with three children. He divides his time between the Metroplex, the rest of Texas, and Austin.

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