Exploring the role of ALEC in Lansing’s lame duck attack on Michiganders

A week or so ago, I put together a rudimentary post on how the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) contributed toward the recent flurry of regressive legislative activity that took place in Michigan. Well, our friend Bob Sloan, writing for PolicyMic.com, just dug quite a bit deeper. Here’s how his piece begins.

Fact: 282 bills were passed in Michigan during the lame duck session. 42% of all the bills passed in the last two years were in this last lame duck session, with 180 votes taken on the last day of the 2012 session alone.

Fact: In the session from Dec 13 to Dec 14 (ending at 4:29AM), 180 roll-call votes were held. This took place in the 18 hours leading up to the ending of lame duck.

No sooner had the GOP secured total control of Michigan in 2010, holding majorities in both houses and winning the governorship, than the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a right-wing ultra-conservative “bill mill” and THE source of money and corruption in politics today, lept into action. ALEC wasted no time in sending many of their most onerous “model legislation” bills to Michigan. These included the Emergency Manager law, privatization of public schools, expansion of charter schools, HB 5221 (Voter ID Act), which required voters to provide proof of citizenship when registering to vote, and HB 4305 with language similar to ALEC’s model “Immigration Law Enforcement Act.”

In fact, all of these proposed bills have language that is nearly identical to ALEC’s model legislation, most were introduced by ALEC member Rep. Dave Agema, co-sponsored by fellow ALEC members. ALEC member Sen. Mike Green (R-Mayville) sponsored legislation to allow concealed guns in schools, bars, hospitals and day care centers (passed, but vetoed by Governor Snyder).

The sponsor of gun legislation to allow concealed guns in schools, bars, hospitals, and day care centers was Sen. Mike Green, R-Mayville, one of 25 known Michigan ALEC members (Governor Snyder surprised everyone on December 18th by vetoing this legislation!)

As for the Right to Work (RTW) legislation, it was sponsored by multiple ALEC members: House Bill 4054 by Rep. Tom McMillan and Rep. Peter Lund, and House Bill 4003, sponsored by McMillan and ALEC members Amanda Price, Aric Nesbitt, Kenneth Kurtz, Kenneth Horn and Judson Gilbert. There were no committee meetings or public hearings on RTW because the bill’s supporters used a practice allowed by Michigan law in a lame duck year, termed: “vehicle bills” (inserting language after first reading to create “substitution bills” – changes not available to the public or the opposition).

In Michigan, some key tactics used include: “immediate effect” of GOP legislation; extensive use of “vehicle bills” in the Lame Duck session, often provided by the Koch-funded Mackinac Center; and “legislation by amendment.” That this is done in the lame duck session is significant also because some 25% of those voting during this session will not be in the next legislature…

[note: More on the nefarious activities of ALEC can be found here. And, if you’re interested in knowing more about Bob Sloan, the author of this piece, I interviewed him not too long ago about the incredible investigative work he’s been doing concerning the widespread use of prison labor.]

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5 Comments

  1. Kate
    Posted December 26, 2012 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

    Where is the left-wing ultra-progressive “bill mill” to counter ALEC?

  2. anonymous
    Posted December 27, 2012 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    Progressives aren’t nearly as well-funded and evil. There are liberal think tanks, but my sense is that they aren’t even remotely as devious. The Republicans don’t just wait for opportunities. They make them happen. And they’re willing to by ruthless. There’s no way, for instance, that Democratic leadership would have exploited a lame-duck session they way that we just saw it happen in Michigan.

  3. anonymous
    Posted December 27, 2012 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    And, speaking of prison labor, did you see this?

    “Are Your Christmas Gifts Made in the Chinese Gulag?”

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/12/27/are-your-christmas-gifts-made-in-the-chinese-gulag.html

  4. Kristin
    Posted December 27, 2012 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    I thought we *were* well funded and evil now. I’m a great supporter of more wonky answers to the conservative problem. Advocacy is great, but a little work on the inside would do us a world of good. If the smart people who ran Obama’s campaign applied themselves accordingly it seems like they might have an impact. Even if it was only to provide templates for people out in the states and even at more minute levels.

  5. Meta
    Posted December 27, 2012 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    Kate and Kristin,

    Work is being done. The following is from the Nation:

    “People are now looking to do what the right has done so effectively—coordinating ideas, narratives, legislators and activists to really push in a progressive direction,” says New York City Councilman Brad Lander, co-chair of the council’s Progressive Caucus.

    It was in that spirit earlier this month that Lander joined Seattle Councilman Nick Licata, Philadelphia Councilman Wilson Goode Jr. and Chicago Alderman Joe Moore to convene a meeting in DC with other progressive municipal elected officials from across the country—and key progressive allies—to discuss the creation of a national network focused on local progressive action.

    “There were also city council members from Los Angeles, Cleveland and smaller cities like Springfield, Massachusetts, and Pinecrest, Florida,” says Lander. “The legislators in the room were lead sponsors of an amazing array of progressive legislation—from responsible banking ordinances and local Community Reinvestment Act laws, to anti-blight and foreclosure laws, to paid sick days and a domestic worker bill of rights, to inclusionary zoning for affordable housing. And everyone had good thoughts on how to spread these ideas around the country.”

    Part of spreading those ideas will involve working with existing organizations and networks, some of which were represented at the meeting, including New Bottom Line, Progressive States Network, Democratic Municipal Officials, PolicyLink, Center on Wisconsin Strategy (COWS, led by its director, Nation contributing editor Joel Rogers), Progressive Majority, Center for American Progress and the Working Families Party.

    “There is a realization that a lot of progressive policies can be achieved at the local level, and there’s renewed energy to advance these policies in cities and communities around the country,” says Lander. “People are interested in helping each other and also in being part of a broader national effort, like we’ve been able to do with city council resolutions calling for the repeal of Citizens United. That’s exciting and energizing.”

    Lander says the need for this kind of network to share expertise and “deepen the progressive bench” is clear. While New York City councilmembers receive “a full-time salary and a few staff—that’s not enough to do deep policy research and campaign strategy.”

    “In a lot of places serving in the legislature isn’t a full-time job, and many local legislators have no legal or policy staff,” he says. “So you might be excited by the idea of making sure that all of your economic development projects pay workers a living wage, but you would be enormously helped by having some model legislation, and a network with the ability to help you draft it.”

    In the case of living-wage laws, for example, legislators can count on opposition from most local chambers of commerce. In addition to model legislation, the network would help provide talking points and data showing its benefits.

    “And then maybe when you have your hearing you can have someone come from another town who can describe how well similar legislation is working in their jurisdiction,” Lander says, noting that an executive from the Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles made a big impact at the New York City hearing on its living wage bill.

    Over the next couple of months an exploratory committee chaired by Licata will be working on the organization’s structure and funding, and by July 4 Lander hopes they will be ready to “bring a much broader set of people into the fold.”

    There is a complementary project being pursued by Progressive Majority and its director, Gloria Totten. Totten has organized groups that have networks of state elected officials—including the Young Elected Officials Network, Progressive States Network, the AFL-CIO and others—to form the Elected Officials Alliance to coordinate lawmakers across issue and organizational lines. This work is part of a broader strategy Totten is pursuing to link state and local officials to policy networks, including the EARN network, groups developing model legislation, and state and local advocates.

    The aim is to create a counterforce to ALEC, which for nearly forty years has provided model state law to more than 2,000 state legislators to increase business domination of American public life and weaken our democracy. In recent weeks we have seen ALEC’s regressive handiwork in action time after time, from helping Republican governors roll back workers’ rights to pushing an array of model voter suppression bills, to inventing new ways to harass and debase women who are trying to exercise their legal rights, to passing around the so-called “Stand Your Ground” gun bills that now blight twenty-three states across the country, as demonstrated so horribly in the killing of Trayvon Martin.

    On the policy side, the centerpiece of this new organizing effort is the American Legislative and Issue Campaign Exchange (ALICE) created by Joel Rogers of COWS. ALICE would offer model laws for both state and local legislators, citizen-directed efforts like ballot initiatives, and executive actions such as executive orders and regulations all based on the values of equity, sustainability, and responsible government.

    While ALICE would be broader than the municipal political network Lander and his colleagues are pursuing, Lander says “it’s all part of the same big picture.”

    “This is a great opportunity to connect people working on the ground in our communities—legislators, activists, labor unions and community-based organizations—to push together for policies that make our cities and towns more just and equitable places,” says Lander.

    This conscious and coordinated sharing of successes and ideas at the local and state levels shows one kind of inside-outside strategy we need to keep the right in check and protect and strengthen our democracy. This is particularly true in our cities, urban counties and bluer states, our political base, where our next generation of leaders must prove that they know how to govern in a way that makes people’s lives better. ALEC has put itself at the service of the 1 percent for decades now; it’s time we built similar networks to boost the 99 percent.

    Read more:
    http://www.thenation.com/blog/167186/building-progressive-counterforce-alec#

7 Trackbacks

  1. […] game the system. (As you’ll recall, the controversial anti-union legislation in question was forced through the lame duck legislature this past November without so much as a single hearing, in violation of […]

  2. […] game the system. (As you’ll recall, the controversial anti-union legislation in question was forced through the lame duck legislature this past November without so much as a single hearing, in violation of […]

  3. […] with which to send his memos, no telephones with which to communicate with his handlers at ALEC, and no employees to set up auctions. I mean, if Bill Nowling, the spokesman for Mr. Orr, is […]

  4. […] how, last winter, Michigan Republicans, flush with corporate money and armed with legislation drafted in far right think tanks, set out to end collective bargaining, and systematically roll back women’s rights, gay rights, […]

  5. By How Dick DeVos made Michigan a right-to-work state on January 27, 2014 at 10:34 am

    […] we know too well what happened next. DeVos, with the help of his friends at ALEC, began pulling unprecedented amounts of corporate money into the State. And, with this money, came […]

  6. […] [For information on how ALEC has worked to pass to legislation in Michigan written by corporate lobbyists, check this out… and this.] […]

  7. […] of course, isn’t anything new. For years, Michigan Republicans, under the direction of conservative groups like ALEC, have hijacked the legislative process during lame duck session in order to push through unpopular […]

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