ALG Hails Supreme Court Ruling Upholding Idaho Law Prohibiting Union Payroll Deductions from Being Used for Political Purposes  

February 24th, 2008, Fairfax, VA— Americans for Limited Government Bill Wilson today hailed the Supreme Court’s 7-2 decision in Ysursa v. Pocatello Education Association.  “We at ALG are extremely gratified that the Supreme Court agreed with us,” said Wilson.

“This a victory for taxpayers who do not wish to be forced to fund union politics,” he added.

The decision determined that a state government may prohibit its counties, cities, and towns from subsidizing union political activities via its government payroll systems.

“This is a great win. The First Amendment does not require government to devote taxpayer resources to facilitating the speech of its workers, their preferred political organizations, or anyone else,” said Wilson.

“This sets the table for states across the nation to set up similar prohibitions,” Wilson added.

Americans for Limited Government on June 6th had filed an amicus curiae brief in the case.

Ysursa v. Pocatello Education Assocation was heard this fall by the nation’s highest court, which granted certiorari to the state of Idaho’s appeal on March 31st. The case had involved 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 was a decision that Wilson had written in his daily column set up a “patently absurd—not to mention unobtainable—standard.”

According to ALG’s amicus curiae brief, drawn up by attorney Kevin Hall, the Ninth Circuit had 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 Supreme Court agreed, stating in its opinion, “The First Amendment prohibits government from ‘abridging the freedom of speech’; it does not confer an affirmative right to use government payroll mechanisms for the purpose of obtaining funds for expression. Idaho’s law does not restrict political speech, but rather declines to promote that speech by allowing public employee checkoffs for political activities.

Also, ALG had argued that “The supremacy of state government control over the property of political subdivisions holds especially true in states like Idaho that structure their government according to ‘Dillon’s Rule.’ This model of government reserves lawmaking primacy to the state legislature and prohibits local governments from exercising any power not expressly or impliedly granted to them by the state constitution or state statute…”

The Supreme Court agreed again, “[Our] decision is reasonable in light of the State’s interest in avoiding the appearance that carrying out the public’s business is tainted by partisan political activity. That interest extends to government at the local as well as state level, and nothing in the First Amendment prevents a State from determining that its political subdivisions may not provide payroll deductions for political activities.”

According to Wilson, the decision is a big win both for taxpayers and the First Amendment.

“The Ninth Circuit had tried to read into the First Amendment a right for political subdivisions to decide on their own whether or not to follow state law that explicitly banned them from using payroll deductions for political purposes,” said Wilson.

“The Supreme Court’s ruling has corrected this mistake, and has protected taxpayers from having their money stolen by Big Labor,” Wilson concluded.

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