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ALEC provides legislators input on new laws, policy

US Sen Thom Tillis

US Sen Thom Tillis

By Dave Vieser. It was spring 2011 and former NC Rep. Thom TIllis, along with 31 other legislators were in New Orleans for the annual conference of ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council. Tillis was one of eight state lawmakers around the country to win 2011 “Legislator of the Year” awards from the group.

Now, fast forward to summer 2016: TIllis’ name is no longer on ALECs membership roll. “It’s true that Sen. Tillis was a member when he was in the North Carolina House,” said Tillis spokesman Daniel Keylin, “but he is no longer a member now that he is in the U.S. Senate.”

Keylin didn’t offer a reason for TIllis’ departure from ALEC. But ALEC is the subject of considerable animus as the I-77 toll plan moves forward.

“The senator believes ALEC is a think tank that helps spark substantive, non-partisan public policy debates and action, particularly when it comes to cutting the size of government bureaucracy and curbing burdensome regulations”

– Daniel Keylin, Tillis spokesman

ALEC drafts model legislation with input from business and politicians. It is active around the country, including North Carolina where a “House Select Committee on Public-Private Partnerships” was established by NC Speaker Tillis in 2011. The P3 legislation helped pave the way for the $650 million contract between Cintra and the NCDOT.

Blessed by ALEC, it has been blasted by Lake Norman Chamber CEO Bill Russell. “This is not a shining example of P3. This is an example where the public doesn’t want to be a partner. It is a bad marriage, a failed marriage, and it will cost this region and this state,” Russell said, predicting that the 900-page contract will be cancelled within a few years.

A leading Mecklenburg County Republican, County Commissioner Jim Puckett, said he is “embarrassed that anyone in Raleigh let alone the Republican party who claims to be the party of business tries to make a reasoned argument” for the Cintra project.

Cintra, of course, has presented at ALEC conferences.

Puckett said the P3 argument doesn’t hold water. “Their argument goes as follows: To solve a $240 million problem—17 miles of congestion—we need to expand to a $650 million road project that is 27 miles, so as to attract a private contractor; we give the contractor $200 million to $300 million in prepayment, infrastructure and backstop funds, then defend that decision by saying it will only cost us half of the $650 million amount because the private company is going to pay for the other half. This all while ignoring the fact that the company will generate up to $4 billion of revenue over the course of the contract. So to summarize, to save $200 million to 300 million, we invest $200 million plus, give up 27 miles of right of way for which we have already paid for 50 years and allow $3.5 billion to $4 billion to leave the NC economy and go to Spain. And this all seems reasonable to folks who claim Common Core math is problematic,” Puckett said.

It hardly sounds like a savvy business deal for any government. Indeed, Puckett says “the scheme was hatched under Democratic leadership and has been moved forward at breakneck speed by Republican leadership. I don’t care which party is in the majority because it is apparent no one is in control.”

For his part, TIllis continues to support ALEC’s goals. “The senator believes ALEC is a think tank that helps spark substantive, non-partisan public policy debates and action, particularly when it comes to cutting the size of government bureaucracy and curbing burdensome regulations” said Keylin.

On its website, ALEC promotes itself as a non-partisan public-private “state legislative organization with the goal of promoting Thomas Jefferson’s principles of limited government, free markets, and federalism through sound policy.” In reality, it is something right of center, with a strong record of supporting business interests in state capitols.

“I attended one of their meetings once but frankly I just don’t have the time to commit to their busy schedule of conferences and activities,” said NC Sen. Jeff Tarte, a Republican from Cornelius. Tarte nevertheless feels ALEC offers a worthwhile “private-sector, business-oriented” perspective for elected officials.

ALEC has been in the headlines around the country due to accusations that it pushes anti-union, anti-consumer legislation designed to benefit its major corporate sponsors. ALEC continues to deny those accusations. In May, demonstrators interrupted an ALEC meeting in Pittsburgh, Pa.

“Frankly I think some who have left ALEC have done so simply because they are tired of getting beaten up all the time”

– NC Sen. Jeff Tarte

Financial support for ALEC comes from some well known conservative strongholds, including billionaire industrialists Charles G. Koch and David H. Koch, well-known for funding a number of conservative and libertarian political think tanks and their support of Tillis.

Some legislators have bailed out of ALEC. Indeed, liberal forces have played hardball with ALEC members, according to reports in the Wall Street Journal.

“Frankly I think some who have left ALEC have done so simply because they are tired of getting beaten up all the time,” Tarte said.

Criticism has also driven away some sponsors, including Microsoft, Google, Facebook, eBay, BP, and T-Mobile. Nevertheless, the list of those who remain loyal to the ALEC cause remains impressive too, including Reynolds American and Altria, ExxonMobil, Chevron, and possibly Duke Energy.

Andy Yates is the founder of Red Dome Group, one of the top political consulting firms in the South. He said he is a fan of ALEC. “They don’t get everything right but I think they are overall a real asset, especially in terms of sharing ideas and solutions. I have a number of clients that have attended and they all feel they benefit greatly,” Yates said.

Discussion

One Response to “ALEC provides legislators input on new laws, policy”

  1. If it walks like a duck, and talks like a duck….What about the fact that Ferrovial was convicted of public corruption, and that under current US doctrine, corporations are treated as individuals. Anyone convicted of public corruption falls under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. I have written to our Congressman and to the DOJ – apparently to no avail. A little help here, please?

    Posted by Craig Northacker | July 15, 2016, 4:32 pm

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