State lawmakers aren’t very original. Bad legislation hops from one capital to another. And a big reason for that can be found in a meeting taking place in Chicago this week.
That would be the annual convention of the American Legislative Exchange Council, known as ALEC. It’s a conservative organization that seeks to persuade state legislatures to promote policies which benefit corporate funders. That means bills favoring polluters over the environment, management over workers and school “choice” options over traditional public school systems.
ALEC has long promoted laws reducing or eliminating state income taxes. It has written model legislation requiring government-issued documents for voting. Its advocacy of the “stand your ground” gun laws has cost it some high-profile corporate funders.
The ALEC footprint is big in the GOP-controlled Missouri and Kansas legislatures. Areport
by The Center for Media and Democracy tallied up the ALEC-drafted bills introduced in state legislatures this year and found that Missouri introduced 21 bills, second highest in the nation behind West Virginia, with 25 bills.
ALEC is part of the reason the Missouri legislature has so much trouble passing laws to help its public schools with issues like student transfer policies and a better funding formula. ALEC members, especially House Speaker Tim Jones, persist in trying to attach some of the group’s educational agendas, like “parent trigger” laws, onto more standard education bills.
Many of the anti-worker bills introduced in Missouri this session, including attempts to marginalize unions, came directly from the ALEC playbook.
The ALEC influence can be seen in anti-worker and other bills introduced in the Kansas Legislature, too. The Topeka Capital-Journalreported
that more than two dozen state lawmakers were headed for the conference in Chicago, with some of them requesting taxpayer help with paying the registration fee.
AP reporter David Lieb, who is in Chicago,reports
that this week’s meeting drew about as many protestors as participants.
ALEC’s defenders insist the group is no different than, say, the National Conference of State Legislators, which acts as a resource and idea-sharing group for state lawmakers. The comparison is completely lame. No other group exists to co-opt legislators into promoting self-serving conservative and corporate agendas. No other group has managing to export so many bad ideas into state capitals. ALEC is unique, and the protests going on in Chicago this week are on point. People need to know what this group is and what it wants.