State Sen. Shay Shelnutt (R-Trussville) is withdrawing a bill he previously filed after concerns from GOP lawmakers and Republican leadership on how it would predominately benefit teachers' unions like the Alabama Education Association (AEA).

On Saturday, 1819 News reported on Senate Bill 140 (SB140), which would have required local school boards to allow teachers to have their salaries deducted to pay for membership dues in professional teachers' associations, such as teachers' unions.   

Under current law, local school boards may deduct employees' salaries only for savings plans, IRAs, membership dues, voluntary contributions and group insurance premiums.

The AEA is the state affiliate of the National Education Association (NEA) and is the most prominent teachers' association in Alabama.

The AEA has had a contentious relationship with members of the Alabama Republican Party over the years. However, that relationship has evolved, with more Republican lawmakers than ever accepting political contributions from the organization.

Shelnutt has accepted at least $32,500 in contributions since 2018 through the AEA's political action committee, Alabama Voice of Teachers for Education (also known as AVOTE and A-VOTE), according to data from the Alabama Secretary of State's database.

According to ALGOP Chairman John Wahl, several members of the legislature have expressed concerns with Shelnutt's bill, which is why Wahl applauded Shelnutt's decision to pull it, praising his conservative voting history.

"The Republican Party had some very serious concerns with SB140 and the possible consequences for the people of Alabama if it passed," Wahl said. "We have clear rules regarding the AEA and the fact that we support people's right to work without interference from unions or associations. I reached out to the bill's sponsor, Shay Shelnutt, and we had a great conversation regarding our concerns and the potential for unintended consequences. I am thankful he understood the problematic nature of this legislation and agreed to drop it moving forward."

"Senator Shelnutt has a strong record in the State Senate and has been an absolute champion leading efforts to protect our children from woke policies," he added. "I appreciate his leadership, willingness to listen to our concerns, and his decision to pull SB140 from consideration."

The concern with the bill stemmed from a 2010 law that prevented the AEA from collecting union dues through payroll deductions. The AEA can still payroll deduct for insurance, retirement and other non-political purposes, but union dues and donations to the AEA's PACs are prohibited.

The AEA fought the law in court for years, but it went into effect in 2014.

Shelnutt's bill added the following line, which could have nullified that hard-fought 2010 law: "For the purposes of this section, membership dues include membership dues paid to professional educators' associations."

According to Shelnutt, the bill had nothing to do with the AEA. Instead, he says the bill sought to clarify that local school boards had to allow payroll deductions for dues in all professional teacher's organizations.

"There's a teacher's organization called ACOE that is short for Alabama Conference of Educators; they're the ones that came to me and approached me about their issue," Shelnutt told 1819 News.

He continued, "ACOE representatives came to me and said, 'hey, could you just draw up a bill that would clarify that, hey, if they're going to do payroll deduction for one, or if they're going to offer that to them, let's make them come up with a policy of, you know, they've got to let us do it too.'"

Erica Thomas also contributed to this story.

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