Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin has signed legislation ending a practice that made paying union dues a mandatory condition of employment in the state.
The right-to-work law, House Bill 1, which passed in a rare weekend legislative session and then headed to the governor's desk, goes into effect immediately because lawmakers included language classifying it as "emergency" legislation.
"The law will allow workers in unionized shops the option to opt out of paying union dues without fear of losing their jobs," the Washington Free Beacon detailed about HB1.
This flurry of activity in the General Assembly's first week is apparently unprecedented in Kentucky history for bills approved and sent to the governor, ABC Lexington affiliate WTVQ noted.
Kentucky is now the 27th state where right to work is in effect, and the last southern state to do so. The law was a priority for Republicans who in the November 2016 election won control of both legislative chambers in the state for the first time in nearly 100 years.
"The legislation bans mandatory labor union dues, repeals the state's prevailing wage law, and bans union dues from being used for political donations. The actions were conducted by the state's Republican majorities in the House and Senate, fulfilling campaign promises made by conservative candidates in the fall," the Daily Caller explained. The law also blocks government workers from going on strike.
Most Democrats and their organized labor constituencies opposed the right-to-work bill, and presumably legal challenges are on the horizon. "Opponents say the bill is designed to weaken unions and enrich corporate bosses. Supporters say the bill is business friendly and will attract much-needed jobs to the state," the Associated Press, via West Kentucky Star, summarized.
Although pro-union protesters showed up at the state capitol in Frankfort for the vote, it was nothing like the chaos that ensued in 2011 in Wisconsin when the GOP majority in the legislature voted for a budget bill that, among other things, no longer required automatic union dues deductions from workers' paychecks in most public sector agencies and which prompted an unsuccessful recall of Gov. Scott Walker the following year.
Bevin also signed controversial bills banning abortion after 20 weeks and requiring an ultrasound before an abortion, the latter of which is already being challenged in court by the ACLU.
In a video statement, Matt Bevin has this to say about the right-to-work law, HB 1.
"This is not a piece of legislation that came easily. It did not come without a lot of contention. It did not come without a tremendous amount of passion, and very intentional and very sincere passion on both sides of this issue…This will mean incredible new opportunities for the commonwealth of Kentucky. This will mean incredible opportunity for the attraction of economic development and business for the creation of jobs…"In perhaps another example of flawed polling data, Republican Bevin was the upset winner of the gubernatorial election in November 2015 over Democrat Attorney General Jack Conway.
A former U.S. Army officer, Bevin is a successful businessman and a Tea Party activist. Bevin and his wife have nine children, four of whom were adopted from Ethiopia.
He emerged as a strong supporter of controversial Kentucky clerk Kim Davis who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
By executive order after taking office, Bevin removed the names of county clerks on state marriage licenses, which evidently resolved the Davis situation and potentially others like it.
Bevin's GOP running mate, now-Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton, a retired U.S. Air Force captain and businesswoman, is the first African-American political candidate to be elected statewide in Kentucky.
The Bevin/Hampton victory was notable in that Democrats had occupied the governor's mansion in Kentucky for most of the past four decades.
Republican lawmakers in Missouri are currently fast-tracking a right-to-work bill that enjoys the support of the state's new GOP governor, Eric Greitens, KSDK noted.
[Featured Image by Timothy D. Easley/AP Images]