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NYT on ALEC and ProgressVA

By Mike Signer | February 13, 2012 | One Comment

There’s an extraordinary op-ed in today’s New York Times on ProgressVA’s report on the far-right group ALEC’s legislative agenda in Virginia.  It’s very rare for a scrappy group like ProgressVA (run by the estimable Anna Scholl) to achieve publicity like this, but this shows the power of good analysis and the right issue.

The Beltway-run ALEC is trampling all around our beloved Commonwealth like a bull (or an elephant) in a china shop, and great advocacy like this goes a long way toward calling out the extremists in Richmond for what they are: reckless, out-of-touch, and fundamentally unconcerned with the problems of everyday folks around their kitchen tables.

ALEC has written model legislation on a host of subjects dear to corporate and conservative interests, and supporting lawmakers have introduced these bills in dozens of states. A recent study of the group’s impact in Virginia showed that more than 50 of its bills were introduced there, many practically word for word. The study, by the liberal group ProgressVA, found that ALEC had been involved in writing bills that would:

¶Prohibit penalizing residents for failing to obtain health insurance, undermining the individual mandate in the reform law. The bill, which ALEC says has been introduced in 38 states, was signed into law and became the basis for Virginia’s legal challenge to heath care reform.

¶Require voters to show a form of identification. Versions of this bill passed both chambers this month.

¶Encourage school districts to contract with private virtual-education companies. (One such company was the corporate co-chair of ALEC’s education committee.) The bill was signed into law.

¶Call for a federal constitutional amendment to permit the repeal of any federal law on a two-thirds vote of state legislatures. The bill failed.

¶Legalize use of deadly force in defending one’s home. Bills to this effect, which recently passed both houses, have been backed by the National Rifle Association, a longtime member of ALEC.

ALEC’s influence in the Virginia statehouse is pervasive, the study showed. The House of Delegates speaker, William Howell, has been on the board since 2003 and was national chairman in 2009. He has sponsored or pushed many of the group’s bills, including several benefiting specific companies that support ALEC financially, like one that would reduce a single company’s asbestos liability. At least 115 other state legislators have ties to the group, including paying membership dues, attending meetings and sponsoring bills. The state has spent more than $230,000 sending lawmakers to ALEC conferences since 2001.

Kudos to ProgressVA for this achievement.

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