ALEC in Vermont? No, thanks.

As I looked through my news feed this morning, I managed to break through the usual morning fog to do a bit of a double-take after reading this op-ed on VT Digger from Representative Bob Helm (Rutland-R), about how “Good Public Policy Comes From Sharing Ideas”. Sounds reasonable enough, right?

Now of course, a red flag goes up whenever I hear or read a Republican use the term, “good public policy”, and it didn't take very long to have that flag justified, in the very first paragraph:

The Green Mountain State is home to some of America’s most thoughtful and hardworking people. Vermonters deserve good policy that addresses the issues closest to them, and there is no better way to find good policy solutions than by sharing ideas with others. One way to do this is through membership at ALEC.

ALEC. M'okay.

ALEC is the American Legislative Exchange Council, a far-right organization that, to put it bluntly, a major force in much of the radical legislation you've been witnessing with horror that has cropped up in many state legislatures in recent years. What kind of ideas are Representative Helm interested in sharing with the Green Mountain State? Go below the jump and find out. You aren't going to be too happy, to put it mildly.

ALEC's mission?

The American Legislative Exchange Council works to advance limited government, free markets, and federalism at the state level through a nonpartisan public-private partnership of America’s state legislators, members of the private sector and the general public.

So, basically, the tea party nonsense that's been steamrolling across the country, making things far worse for most Americans? ALEC's your people! 

ALEC Exposed is a great, meticulously documented source for all things ALEC. And it's a horror show, lemme tells ya.  Here's a few of the “good public policy” ideas that ALEC has “shared” with legislatures in recent years:

– Stand Your Ground laws

– Arizona's SB 1070 immigration law (the “show your papers” law)

– Opposing the Consumer Financial Protection Agency 

– Anti-union “Right to Work” laws 

… and that's just a small sampling, but you get the idea – school voucher programs, about a billion laws to benefit the super-wealthy, Koch Bros.-approved anti-environmental legislation (they get a lot of money from Koch) – we're talking about a major force behind the radical right-wing agenda that we've been fighting almost non-stop for the last two decades. If it's a shitty law, you can safely bet that ALEC has its hands in it.

If you click on the “Right to Work” link (as well as many other links at ALEC Exposed), you'll see “Model Legislation” documents from ALEC. Or, as Helm would put it, “independent thinking.”

Cue Bob Helm, again:

 Independent thinking is integral to the democratic process, and Vermont’s motto is a good reminder of this fact. Freedom and Unity can be achieved through thoughtful discussion and debate, and using all available people and resources to solve state policy solutions is a smart idea. Good policy is not created in a vacuum, and by using the tools ALEC has to offer, Vermont state legislators are better equipped to address the issues Vermonters care most about.

Independent thinking. Sounds reasonable, enough, again, right? Like this? 

Michigan Passes “Right to Work” Containing Verbatim Language from ALEC Model Bill:

 Amidst massive pro-labor protests, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has signed sweeping legislation attacking private and public sector unions, just hours after passing the lame-duck legislature. The operative language in the bills is nearly identical to the American Legislative Exchange Council's “model” Right to Work Act (comparison at link)

Or even better, in another example of this “independent thinking” that Mr. Helm praises:

Oops: Florida Republican Forgets To Remove ALEC Mission Statement From Boilerplate Anti-Tax Bill:

 

In November, Florida state Rep. Rachel Burgin (R) introduced a resolution (PDF here) that would officially call on the federal government to reduce corporate taxes, but she apparently forgot to remove ALEC’s mission statement from the top of the bill, which she seems to have copied word-for-word from ALEC’s model bill.

If you click on that one, you can actually see, in the bill, the first words are “WHEREAS, it is the mission of the American Legislative Exchange Council…”

Yes, they really are that brazen and stupid. And this is what Mr. Helm hopes to bring to Vermont. With my curiousity still unsatiated, I was kind of curious as to what ALEC's been up to, lately, and, as luck would have it, PRWatch had a great article on ALEC's goals for 2014.

As expected, it's more of the same: more right-to-work laws, more gutting of environmental protections, gutting tort laws, undermining patients rights, and , hey, would ya' look at this – opposing GMO labelling laws. How timely, considering that Vermont is about to pass a wildly popular GMO labelling law.
 
So, along with that other conservative front group that also touts “common sense”, Bruce Lisman's Campaign for Vermont, we now have some very obvious signs of ALEC trying to meddle its way into the legislature, using those same tactics.
 
According to ALEC Exposed, we currently have three too many ALEC politicians in the Vermont Legislature. In nice, big, bold letters:
 
  • Rep. Bob Helm (Rutland – R)
  • Sen. Peg Flory (Rutland – R)
  • Assistant Minority Leader Sen. Kevin Mullin (Rutland – R), who has recieved  a total of $8,095.83 in ALEC “scholarships” according to data from 2006 to 2008, and is also the State Chairman of ALEC.
 
Hmmm… all Rutland Republicans. How not shocking. Something in the water, perhaps?
 
So, spread the word, people – I often see a lot of Facebook “Likes” for Campaign for Vermont, by people I know would have nothing to do with them if they knew their agenda, and it's not a stretch to say that the same thing could happen with ALEC, if people buy into Helm's “reasonable” line of crap. If you're represented by one of these fine folks, don't hesitate to give them a call and put their feet to the fire.

 

Also, if you have the time, be sure to check out Bill Moyers' excellent expose on ALEC:

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