Court tosses law blocking NCAE dues collection

Jan. 03, 2013 @ 06:47 PM

Wake County Superior Court Judge Paul Gessner overturned a law passed by the North Carolina General Assembly last year that took away the ability for members of the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) to have their dues automatically deducted from their paychecks. 

The decision was made in early January in a midnight session. Governor Beverly Perdue vetoed the bill, but the state legislature overrode the veto. 

Member of the NCAE protested and challenged the law in court. It was the only professional organization named in the law. 

Gessner ruled the state’s largest teacher lobbying group was the victim of “retaliatory viewpoint discrimination.” 

The NCAE, which often endorses democratic candidates, said the law was in response to their endorsements. 

Union County Association of Educators Secretary Dawn Moretz said they were “excited, but tempered with concern.”

She was surprised by the decision.

“I wasn’t sure when they were ever going to decide,” Moretz said. 

The local organization was worried about retaining members as they attempted to transfer from paycheck deductions to automatic banking withdrawals. Some members were nervous about giving out their banking information, she said. 

“They were holding off to the last minute,” Moretz explained. “The latest they could flip was between December and January.” 

“For us, for the moment, it’s fantastic that everything’s legal because what will probably happen is we will continue with the way things are.” 

Moretz heard from “folks in Raleigh” that the legislature may propose a new bill that would disallow all organizations to deduct dues from paychecks. 

“It was illegal to do it just to you, so we’re going to do it to everyone,” Moretz said. “As a local and as a state organization, I think it’s safe to say we’re going to try to flip folks over to the electronic fund transfer.” 

State Rep. Craig Horn, R-68, voted for the legislation last January.

“I would suspect that they’re correct in that fear,” Horn said. “I said when we passed that bill that I didn’t think government should be in the business of collecting money for non-government organizations...I don’t think we should be in the business of collecting money for other people.

“Especially today since cash transfers are so easy to set up with one’s bank,” Horn added. 

At this point, Horn was unaware of any move to draft such legislation, however, he would support it if proposed. 

Horn did not comment on the court’s decision to overturn the law.

Frank McGuirt, D-69, voted to uphold the Governor’s veto last January.

“My contention was if they were going to not be permitted to deduct dues for one professional organization, it shouldn’t for any organization,” McGuirt said. “It was nothing but punitive....”

McGuirt was pleased to hear the judge’s ruling.

“For the moment, we feel secure,” she added. 

“We really do look forward to working with and not against the new session of folks that have come into power,” Moretz said. “We really want what’s best for public education...the sooner we can start putting our efforts together...the better our state will be.”

The NCAE is pleased with the decision.

“We are extremely pleased with the court’s decision in this important case, especially the court’s recognition that our members have a constitutional right to express their views on issues important to the education community. Standing up for those views is the very reason NCAE initiated this lawsuit,” President Rodney Ellis said in a statement.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.