During the last legislative session, a bill passed that prevents the state and local governments from working with abortion providers and affiliates. In Texas, this is no surprise, but it’s not likely there was a lot of that happening in the first place.
But the bill, authored by state Sen. Donna Campbell, ended up targeting a program used by about 33,000 employees across the state each year that sends millions of dollars to nonprofits, according to the Texas Tribune.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton this month issued a nonbinding legal opinion stating the State Employee Charitable Campaign that allows employees to send portions of their paychecks to nonprofits amounts to a taxpayer resource transaction, since the state payroll is funded by taxes. Under the new law barring state money going to abortion providers, employees no longer will be allowed to have money for Planned Parenthood automatically deducted.
With the action, Paxton and Campbell started pulling on a string, and it’s likely to take the whole sweater with it. And it has nothing to do with whether someone supports abortion — it’s whether they believe in the right of the state to dictate where citizens can donate their money.
The State Employee Charitable Campaign started in 1993 to allow state employees and retirees to directly contribute a portion of their paycheck to preapproved nonprofit organizations, of which there are about 1,100. Planned Parenthood, which provides health services and counseling to women in addition to pregnancy terminations, had been one of the options.
That was until Senate Bill 22, which prohibits local and state governments from conducting taxpayer-backed transactions with abortion providers or affiliates, according to the Texas Tribune. That law, in Paxton’s view, means Planned Parenthood needs to be stricken from the list.
The guidance is likely to wind up as kindling for a First Amendment challenge in court, just as it would if a Blue State deemed donations to the NRA equaled support for school shootings.
By approaching this issue from a moral standpoint, the government is opening itself to challenges on the other charities on that list of options. If someone disagreed with a certain religion or organization’s tactics, before all they had to do was choose to not donate to that organization. But now they can question why a special piece of legislation hasn’t been crafted for their personal objection.
The idea that this deduction is still the money of the state is a perversion. The deductions are not of government money, but instead hard-earned paychecks of Texans, and what happens to it should not be up to state leaders to dictate.
And that’s why this could end with no nonprofits getting funds in the future. Given the option of sending money to Planned Parenthood or sending it to no one, we easily can see state leaders opting for the latter and depriving the remaining 1,100 worthy charities of an easy source of donations.
There are lots of options for payroll deductions, and not everyone will agree with the practices or politics of every available choice. That does not mean the state should be allowed to take away the options it finds objectionable — and the rights of its employees to support the nonprofits it chooses in the process.