Editor's note: This story was updated March 30 to reflect the Senate's final passage of the bill.

In a vote that fell along party lines Wednesday, the Texas Senate gave preliminary approval to a measure that would end the state’s practice of collecting public employee membership dues for certain labor unions and other associations through payroll organizations. 

Senate Bill 13 by state Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, would only apply to state employees such as teachers and corrections officers, while exempting police officers, firefighters and emergency first responders as well as charitable organizations. The bill is one of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick's legislative priorities this session, and Gov. Greg Abbott signaled his support for the measure in January during his state of the state address to the Legislature.

“The bill aims to do one thing,” Huffman said in laying out her bill Wednesday, “And that’s to get the state out of the practice of collecting union dues.” 

The Texas Tribune thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Those opposed to the bill say the measure by Huffman is discriminatory and aims to pick winners and losers in the state. Supporters say SB 13 is needed to end Texas’ involvement in collecting union dues.

Before passage, Huffman added one amendment to her bill to ensure all law enforcement officers employed by school districts were exempted from the bill after the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, the state’s largest law enforcement group, said Wednesday morning they had been misled on the bill. Another seven amendments — all offered by Democrats in the Senate — were rejected on party-line votes, including one that would exempt teachers from the legislation.

Texas is a "right-to-work" state, meaning employees aren’t required to pay dues or join labor unions and other associations. Moreover, employees must opt in before membership dues can be deducted from their paychecks.

The state comptroller’s office collected more than $6 million in payroll deductions for more than 45,000 employees in fiscal year 2016, according to a recent Senate Committee on State Affairs interim report. The figures, though, only included people employed directly by the state, not teachers or other municipal employees.

During a February Senate committee hearing on the bill, more than 50 people testified on the legislation. Those opposed to the bill said the measure was discriminatory and aimed to pick winners and losers in the state. Supporters said SB 13 was needed to end Texas’ involvement in collecting union dues. 

The Senate on Thursday voted 20-11 to give the bill final passage. It now heads to the House.

The Texas Tribune thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Read related coverage from the Texas Tribune:

  • The Senate State Affairs Committee greenlighted a bill to the full Senate Thursday that would end the state’s practice of collecting dues for certain public employee unions through automatic payroll deductions.
  • Legislation to stop automatic payroll deductions for most public employee unionsis back after failing two years ago. Supporters say the state shouldn't be involved in collecting union dues; opponents say the GOP is trying to cripple certain unions.

Get The Brief

And stay two steps ahead of the Texas Legislature.