The Republican-led Michigan House of Representatives is considering legislation that would prohibit public employees, such as teachers, from sending a political message using a publicly-owned email service.
Violating the law would result in a $10,000 fine for an organization, and a $1,000 fine and one-year imprisonment for an individual.
The House Oversight, Reform and Ethics Committee adopted the bill, HB 4052, by a 4 to 2 vote along party lines last week. It was first introduced by Republican state Rep. Al Pscholka in January, shortly after he was sworn in to his first term in service to the 79th House District.
The Michigan Education Association, a union representing the state's teachers, said the bill was "political payback" after a conservative activist lost a legal battle over the use a school district’s email service for union lobbying efforts. The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled the emails were not subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
"This is more than just another blatant attack on public workers and their unions," the Michigan Education Association said in a statement. "This is an unconstitutional attack on every citizen’s right to freedom of speech and freedom of association."
The Livingston Daily noted that the bill cannot be enforced without modifying the state's Freedom of Information Act, which lawmakers so far have not considered doing. Rep. Pscholka said the law would depend on co-workers who report violations by their colleagues.