HARRISBURG -- The Pennsylvania Senate on Wednesday approved legislation to stop public employers from deducting political contributions from workers' paychecks.

The Senate voted by 28-22 to send the bill to the House, which will not return to session until mid-March. A spokesman for the House majority leader said the chamber would review the bill.

Supporters of the proposal argue that the state, school districts, and other public employers should be barred from deducting political contributions from wages.

"Creating a firewall between politics and our official business is critical," Sen. Scott Martin (R., Lancaster) said during floor debate.

Union officials have said the contributions are voluntary. Senate Democrats say the proposed law is intended to silence workers.

"It is a measure to shut down the voice of teachers," said Sen. Vincent Hughes (D., Phila.). "It is a measure to shut down the voice of others who work in schools, in our public schools, to limit their ability to speak up and speak clearly about the issues that they have concerns with."

Deductions of political contributions could continue under existing collective-bargaining agreements, but future contracts could not require the deductions.