Payroll deduction of teachers’ and public employees’ union dues could continue under legislation approved by a House committee late Friday afternoon.

However, HB285 would require unions to conduct “certification” elections every five years to determine if their membership still wants their representation.

The House Business Labor committee, after a two-hour hearing, adopted a substituted and amended version of HB285, which also would require a union to disclose its number of members upon request.

As originally drafted, the bill would have prohibited school districts from deducting employees’ association dues as a part of their payroll processes. That language was changed in a subsequent version of the bill. The original bill called for certification elections every three years.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jordan Teuscher, R-South Jordan, had language in an earlier version of the legislation that exempted public safety employees’ associations but the committee voted to remove that language.

“I think that if this bill were to pass with a carveout like this, it would be clearly picking winners and losers and I don’t want to do that,” said Rep. Jefferson Burton, R-Salem, who amended the bill.

The bill is intended to protect public employees through enhanced transparency and accountability of public employee associations and unions, “while also making sure that we safeguard public resources,” Teuscher said.

“This is not an anti-union bill,” said Teuscher. His remark was met with laughter and scoffing from several audience members, many of whom said they were union members or representatives.

Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, questioned what problem the legislation sought to solve.

“I have to say in my tenure at the Capitol, I have never had one complaint on this issue, not one,” said Dunnigan, who has served in the Utah Legislature for more than two decades.

But others, such Rep. Brady Brammer, R-Pleasant Grove, said he has heard from union members who object to issues supported by the national associations to which state and local associations are affiliated.

Brammer noted that elected officials face regular elections, ranging from every two years for members of the Utah House of Representatives to six years for the U.S. Senate.

“But the unions have not had an opportunity to recertify in a long time. It’s OK for them to have to recertify every five years and have all the employees say, ‘This is the group that represents us best,’” he said.

Sara Jones, government relations director for the Utah Education Association, said Utah is a right to work state and there is no requirement that any employee join any professional association as a public employee.

“There is no state law that obligates any public employer as a school district to recognize or work with any labor organization. Every member of a professional association has voluntarily joined the association of their preference, and they can end their membership at any time,” she said.

Teuscher told committee members that he would continue to work to refine the bill.

“Anyone that has concerns, please come and talk to me,” he said.