Texas firefighters aim to make state senator pay political price for union bill
In the last two Legislature sessions, State Sen. Joan Huffman has sponsored legislation to make it harder for public worker unions to collect membership dues
By Jeremy Wallace
AUSTIN, Texas — A Houston Republican is starting to pay a hefty price as she runs for re-election for running afoul with police and firefighter unions in Texas.
In the last two Legislature sessions, State Sen. Joan Huffman has sponsored legislation to make it harder for many public worker unions to collect membership dues. Now those groups are responding by funneling big money to help Fort Bend County Republican Kristin Tassin challenge Huffman in a primary on March 6 in one of the mostly hotly contested state Senate races in Texas.
Of the $90,000 Tassin has raised for her campaign, $27,000 has come from firefighter unions, most notably $25,000 from Houston Fire Fighters Political Action Fund -- Tassin's largest donation.
"Our membership was not too pleased with Sen. Huffman," said Brian Wilcox, communications director for the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association.
She's also collected $1,000 each from the Corpus Christi Firefighters Association and from the Texas State Association of Fire Fighters PAC.
Huffman sponsored SB 13 in the regular session of the Legislature in 2017 and a similar bill in 2015. The bill would have ended automatic payroll deductions that the state allow for certain public employee unions. Instead of allowing workers to send dues directly to the union, employees would be required to find another way to pay their membership dues. The bill exempted firefighters and police, but still drew their displeasure because they saw it as a union busting bill.
Huffman had argued that Texas needs to get out of the union collecting dues business and leave it to unions to do their own collecting.
Tassin, a two-term president of the Fort Bend ISD Board of Trustees, has been a vocal critic of the Legislature's approach to public education and the state's failure to better fund public schools. Tassin and Huffman are battling for the 17th District, which includes parts of Harris, Fort Bend and Brazoria counties.
Besides the $90,000 in campaign donations, Tassin also has a $50,000 loan from her husband, according to new campaign finance reports filed with the Texas Ethics Commission.
Huffman was first elected to the Senate in 2008.
Three Democrats are running in a primary to face the winner of the Huffman-Tassin battle. The Democrats in the race are Ahmed Hassan, Fran Watson and Rita Lucid0.
Early voting in the March 6 primary begins on Feb. 20.
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