A recent Business Week article “Pssst … Wanna Buy a Law? When a company needs a state bill passed, the American Legislative Exchange Council can get it done” explained the role that ALEC plays in writing the legislation in Republican controlled state legislatures (like North Carolina, where as of 2010, both houses of the NC General Assembly are controlled by Republicans, for the first time in over a century). As explained by BW:
The American Legislative Exchange Council, a nonprofit based in Washington, brings together state legislators, companies, and advocacy groups to shape “model legislation.” The legislators then take these models back to their own states. About 1,000 times a year, according to ALEC, a state legislator introduces a bill from its library of more than 800 models. About 200 times a year, one of them becomes law. The council, in essence, makes national policy, state by state. ….
Corporate members can [….] pay from $3,000 to $10,000 for a seat on a task force. ALEC’s nine task forces, divided by subject, develop the bills that become ALEC models, such as the one Noble Ellington sponsored in Louisiana in 2004. Each task force has a private chair and a public chair and can move a piece of legislation on if two separate majorities have agreed to it, the state lawmakers and the private-sector members. The structure effectively gives corporations a veto.
According to the article, more than 90% of ALEC’s money comes from donations from groups like ExxonMobil, AT&T (who has worked with ALEC to prevent cities from laying down fiber-optic cables to sell internet directly to households) and Reynolds American (who has worked with ALEC for lower cigarette taxes).
So which North Carolina legislation has come from straight from ALEC?
- the NC Voter ID Bill (which passed the General Assembly but was vetoed by Governor Perdue). The NC Voter ID Bill if passed would have kept college students from the polls
- the NC Drug Company Immunity Bill (which didn’t make it out of the General Assembly), would have prevented individuals from seeking legal recourse against pharmaceutical companies for adverse side effects or injuries caused by an FDA-approved drug
- the Health Care Freedom Act (passed by the General Assembly, vetoed by Perdue), would have overturned the federal mandate for health insurance that was part of Obama’s Affordable Care Act*
- the NC Founding Principles Act, which went into law 6/23/2011 [HB588], requires NC high school students to take a semester long class on the “philosophical understandings of our nation’s founders.” It’s not clear where the curriculum for this course will come from, but the Center for Media and Democracy has posited that since the Founding Principles Act is being passed with ALEC’s help all over the country, that corporations may view the “founding principles” class as an opportunity to write a curriculum to inject their ideologies into public schools
- the Taxpayer Bill of Rights or TABOR (HB188), currently in Judiciary Subcommittee A, would limit the growth of state and local revenues to a highly restrictive formula: inflation plus the annual change in population. Far-right “think tank” Civitas Action (funded by local millionaire Art Pope) themselves found that if TABOR had been implemented in 2003, the state’s budget in 2008 would have been 14% smaller than what it was. What does that mean? 14% less funding for education, for police forces, for Medicaid, and all of the other vital public services our state provides.
- [EDIT: 1/5/12]: NC Municipal Broadband Law, went into effect without Perdue’s signature on May 21, 2011; pushed by Time Warner Cable. Cities in North Carolina have already laid down municipal fiber to provide low-cost Internet; this law prevents other cities from hooking up to their networks, and prevents governments from making sure their residents have affordable access to the web. Business Week did a great job of explaining how this types of law hurts communities.**
When TABOR has been implemented in other states, it has led to fiscal disaster; Coloradoans repealed their TABOR to stanch the massive cuts that were forced in education, public health, and Medicaid.
Republican North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis won ALEC’s 2011 Legislator of the Year Award and was one of 31 NC General Assembly members who attended the 2011 ALEC Conference.
The North Carolina Republican Party has sold out to ALEC–in 2012, North Carolinians need to retake our General Assembly out of corporate hands.