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Thursday, May 23, 2024 | Back issues
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Teachers Say N.C. Violated the Constitution

RALEIGH, N.C. (CN) - North Carolina's public schoolteachers union sued the state, claiming its Legislature held "an unconstitutional midnight session of the General Assembly" to kill teachers' voluntary payroll deduction for union dues, in an act of "retaliatory viewpoint discrimination."

If North Carolina Session Law 2012-1 is allowed to stands, the North Carolina Association of Educators says, the union will suffer a "crippling decimation of its funds" that will gravely impair its ability to represent its members.

According to the complaint in Wake County Court, Republican state Sen. Ralph Hise introduced the bill, "An Act to eliminate the Dues Checkoff Option for Active and Retired Public Employees," as SB 727 on April 19, 2011.

The union calls it "the Anti-NCAE Bill," and says it was written expressly to frustrate its efforts, as it was aimed only at domiciled employee's associations that have at least 40,000 members - a description that can only be applied to the state's teachers union.

The North Carolina House of Representatives ratified the bill, but Gov. Beverly Perdue vetoed it on the last day of the legislative session.

The Legislature reconvened 4 weeks later, and the state Senate voted to override the veto, but the House failed to act, seeming to effectively kill the bill.

But in November 2011, the General Assembly ratified an act to reform the state's Racial Justice Act, a bill that was unrelated to SB 727, but which was also vetoed by the governor. This prompted that calling of a special session of the Legislature to give it time to consider overriding the veto.

The union says state lawmakers went much further than that, violating the state constitution in the process. Shortly after 11 p.m. on the closing night of the special session, the Legislature decided to raise the issue of when it would next formally convene. An amendment proposed that they reconvene at midnight that very night to "consider a legislative override of any bill vetoed by Governor Perdue."

At 1:12 a.m. that morning, the House voted 69 to 45 to override the governor's veto of Senate Bill 727. Because the Senate had previously voted to override the veto, the House vote had the effect of enacting it into law.

The union says the lawmakers violated the North Carolina Constitution on its face, and that the law violates their union members' rights to free expression and association.

It seeks a restraining order, immediate declaratory relief that the General Assembly's actions violated the state constitution, an injunction and costs.

The union is presented by Robert F. Orr with Poyner Spruill of Raleigh.

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