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Monday, March 19, 2012

Correcting Shot in the Dark's Errors about ALEC - addendum

How significant is this? On just one day last month - February 14, 2012 - Alliance for a Better Minnesota listed 5 bills drafted by ALEC that were being debated in our Minnesota legislature. ALEC legislation is being introduced and supported all the time. (Alliance for a Better Minnesota provides the ALEC legislation for comparison with the MN legislation):

At 8:15am, the House State Government Finance committee will hear HF 2033--what Republicans call the "Equal Pay and Benefits Act."....Though the language isn't identical, it's clear in both cases public sector workers are being attacked. The same sentiment and ideas lie behind Minnesota's HF 2033 and numerous ALEC model bills and recommendations.

At 10:15am, the House Government Operations and Elections committee will hear HF 1975, which removes the requirement that before an agency seeks out a private contractor, it must first verify that no state employee is able and available to provide the services needed. This is, quite simply, an attack on public workers. It hands their contracts over to private contractors!

...There's still more ALEC to come! At 12:30pm, the Education Finance committee will hear HF 1860. HF 1860 is a bill aimed at defunding and starving Minnesota's public education system by allowing school levy dollars to follow students to charter schools. One of ALEC's main goals in education is defunding public education by driving those dollars to charter schools. Just take a look at the ALEC Charter Schools Act:

"This legislation allows groups of citizens to seek charter from the state to create and operate innovative, outcome-based schools. These schools would be exempt from state laws and regulations that apply to public schools. Schools are funded on a per-pupil rate, the same as public schools. Currently Minnesota operates the most well-known program."

At 1pm, we turn to the Senate for more ALEC hearings. The Senate will hear SF 1577, their controversial, burdensome and unnecessary bill proposing a constitutional amendment requiring law-abiding citizens provide a photo ID to vote.

If all that's just not enough ALEC for you, you're in luck. Also at 1pm, the Committee on State Government Innovations and Veterans will hear our final ALEC bill of the day: SF 1614. SF 1614 has the distinct honor of being one of the Republicans' Reform 2.0 initiatives as well. I wonder if Reform 2.0 and ALEC are related somehow...?

SF 1614 creates a Small Business Regulatory Review Board, which sounds mighty similar to ALEC's Regulatory Flexibility Act.
How many legislators are more or less openly members of ALEC? There are approximately 30 that we know of, but since the members are secretive and the meetings are secretive, and since legislators lie about the legislation they offer and who really wrote it, it's hard to tell who they all are.

A recent MPR report listed this about the legislators and the number of bills since the conservatives gained a majority in both house and senate, quoting Common Cause Minnesota, another group which watches ALEC, so far as it is able:

"It really brings up the question of whose interest do our legislators, really have, these constituents or corporate special interests?" said Mike Dean who is the executive director of Common Cause-Minnesota. His group released a report linking more than 60 Minnesota bills to ALEC model legislation and naming 27 state lawmakers with ALEC memberships.

It is not a good thing to have special interest groups draft and pass their own legislation, it is not a good thing to have the origins of that legislation be a secret from voters and tax payers.  It is not a good thing when the same entities fund election campaigns, with far far greater resources than ordinary human beings who are citizens can bring to the electoral process.  It is not good for us to be lied to about legislation by our elected representatives.  It is, taken as a package, corrupting government - OUR government.  This is not only happening in Minnesota; it is happening to some degree, depending on the number of conservatives cooperating with ALEC, in every state in the nation.

The World Bank has a simple definition for corruption, one which I believe accurately fits quite comfortably the relationship between powerful, rich special interests contriving legislation that is then passed by conservative legislators who benefit either directly from generous donations either to their campaign or benefitting their election campaigns, or more indirectly by funding their pet culture war conservtive causes in exchange for preferential treatment in proposing and passing special interest legislation.

That definition of corruption used by the World Bank  is 'the abuse of public power for private benefit'. That would seem to be ALEC personified.

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