June 16th, 2008, Fairfax, VA—Americans for Limited Government on June 6th filed an amicus curiae brief in a critical U.S. Supreme Court case that will soon determine whether a state government may prohibit its counties, cities, and towns from subsidizing union political activities via its government payroll systems.
Ysursa v. Pocatello Education Assocation will be heard this fall by the nation’s highest court, which granted certiorari to the state of Idaho’s appeal on March 31st. The case involves an Idaho law banning the state’s counties, cities, and towns from allowing union payroll deductions to be used for the subsidization of political activities.
That law was overturned by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on October 5th, 2007 in a decision stating that the state could not constitutionally under the First Amendment prohibit its political subdivisions from making union payroll deductions because the state did not fund and directly administer those payroll systems.
It is a decision that Americans for Limited Government President William Wilson wrote in his daily column “sets a patently absurd—not to mention unobtainable—standard.”
“What it actually means is that Idaho could constitutionally enact such a prohibition upon its [own] counties, cities, etc. only if it administered every government payroll system of the State at all levels of government,” wrote Wilson. “In short ‘freedom of speech’ is not actually the issue at all—but rather the internal relationships between the State of Idaho and its own municipalities. And that’s an area that should be far outside the federal court’s legitimate purview.”
According to the amicus curiae brief, drawn up by attorney Kevin Hall, the Ninth Circuit erred in its “use of the First Amendment as a wedge between a state government and its political subdivisions [because it] has no basis in [the Supreme] Court’s jurisprudence.”
The Ninth Circuit acknowledged in its decision that it was legitimate if Idaho prohibited state employers from allowing payroll deductions by unions to be used for political purposes, a fact that Wilson seized upon in his column. He added, “[T]o boot, [the court also ruled] that the municipalities in question could enact similar prohibitions if they so desired. So again, freedom of speech is not at issue.”
When reached for comment Wilson was confident that the state of Idaho will prevail in this upcoming case: “The Ninth Circuit went too far. The First Amendment does not require Idaho or its municipalities to devote state funds to facilitating the political speech of its workers, their preferred political organizations, or anyone else.”
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