ALEC News, Views and Articles for March 14th – 23rd

by Bob Sloan

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Georgia Media Overlook Move To Dangerously Expand State’s “Stand Your Ground” Law

In reporting on an omnibus gun bill in the Georgia legislature, state media have largely overlooked that the legislation would expand the state’s “Stand Your Ground” self-defense law to allow those in illegal possession of firearms to avail themselves of the law’s defenses and immunity provision.

House Bill 875, which would weaken Georgia’s already lax gun laws in several ways including allowing guns in churches and bars, has garnered significant media attention in Georgia. The latest development involved a procedural move by Georgia House Republicans to force a vote on the bill in the Senate amid worries by House Republicans that the Senate version of H.B. 875 would remove several of the House Republican’s provisions.

While the media has devoted significant attention to the issue of allowing guns in churches and bars, and the decision of House Republicans to eliminate a provision that would decriminalize the carrying of guns on campuses as part of its procedural move to force the Senate’s hand, it has largely overlooked the provision in H.B. 875 that significantly expands Georgia’s “Stand Your Ground” law… …However under H.B. 875, “Stand Your Ground” claimants would no longer be required to have been in compliance with Chapter 11, Article 4, Part 3 of Georgia’s criminal code. That part of Georgia’s code includes provisions on carrying weapons on school grounds, carrying a handgun without a license, the possession of firearms by convicted felons, the possession of handguns by minors, and the discharging of a firearm “while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.”

 

Oil Industry Conjures Illusion of Public Support for KXL Using ALEC Politicians

Millions of U.S. citizens have voiced their opposition to the Keystone XL (KXL) pipeline in recent months, with more than 2 million public comments opposing the project hand delivered to the State Department last week. At the same time, hundreds of state legislators have been lining up in favor of KXL, seemingly just as passionate and as heartfelt as those opposed to the project. But many legislators have been tasked with promoting the project by oil industry lobbyists who provide them with model bills, talking points and draft op-eds. According to documents obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), the American Petroleum Institute (API) and other oil industry groups have been directing state legislators to make public and legislative statements in favor of the pipeline project, and have provided legislators with draft legislation, language for op-eds and testimony to be presented as their own. Central to these efforts is the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), through which lobbyists — such as those from API — can meet in secret with state legislators from across the country. During the most recent annual ALEC meeting in August 2013, held in downtown Chicago, oil-industry lobbyist Michael Whatley provided legislators at the group’s International Relations Task Force meeting with a briefing on the KXL pipeline, urging legislators for their help in getting the project approved. Whatley — a lobbyist for the Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA) — has regularly attended ALEC meetings in recent years, and has presented to the organization on KXL in the past. CEA receives funding from the two leading U.S. oil lobby groups — the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) — and lists among its members leading oil companies, including ExxonMobil, Shell and BP amongst many others. Whatley’s lobbying firm HBW Resources also has a somewhat unexplained relationship with the Alberta Government — see Salon

BILL MINOR: Koch brothers permeate politics with their money and ideas

JACKSON — Money in politics. Lots and lots of money. Widely you hear laments that huge money pumped into political campaigns by wealthy donors with an agenda is wrecking the nation’s electoral system. Much of the focus centers on Charles and David Koch of Kansas, the billionaire brothers whose fortunes come from energy and chemical companies. The Kochs are best known as patrons of Republicans and are said to have spent more than $30 million so far in television ads and related attack material in a dozen or so races involving the most vulnerable Democrats. Many of the attack ads take aim at President Obama’s health care reform law — high on the Kochs’ hit list — even using bogus information dispensed through their high-sounding Americans for Progress. Koch money has been showing up all around the country, but especially in neighboring Louisiana where the Kochs are trying to toss Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu out of the Senate because she voted for the health care reform act. Earlier she won bipartisan support to restore $300 million in Medicaid funds for Louisiana that were slated to be cut. Here’s how the Koch ads do their hatchet job: Paid actors posing as Louisiana citizens make out that they have received notices canceling their health policies because of Obamacare. That’s baloney, but how does the viewer know…?

…In fact, one of their front groups is ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, which sponsors legislative junkets to mock legislative forums where so-called model legislation that has a Koch imprimatur is handed out. Interestingly, among the bills pitched by ALEC are Voter ID, charter schools and blocking expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare. Do those sound familiar down in this neck of the woods? Last year more than 50 Mississippi legislators (including a handful of Democrats) were hosted by ALEC for a session in Orlando, Fla. At least Rep. Credell Calhoun of Jackson, one of the few Democrats invited, saw through the whole scheme. “The corporations seem to be taking over our government, from the state level all the way to Washington,” he said after returning from the trip.
The Center for Media and Democracy, a Madison-based liberal think tank, concludes in a study that the Wisconsin Legislature is marching in lockstep with the agenda of the controversial American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC. Some 46 percent of the current legislators have voted 100 percent of the time this session for ALEC recommended bills. While the CMD was lambasting the legislators, Zach Wisniewski, a blogger on BloggingBlue, congratulated the state Senate for unanimously voting to put the Milwaukee County mental health system under physician control rather than leaving crucial decisions up to politicians. But blogger Chris Liebenthal is beside himself. He can’t believe the Democrats in the Senate went along with the Milwaukee mental health system bill. He calls it a farce that turns over control of the county’s mental health system to private interests. Wisconsin’s new motto ought to be “block the vote,” according to blogger James Rowen. He cites the Legislature’s decision to curtail absentee voting hours, a move, Rowen says, that is aimed at making it more difficult for voters in populous areas to get to the polls. Rowen cites Gov. Scott Walker’s broadsides at Milwaukee in previous comments….
 New ALEC Initiative Takes Aim at Villages, Cities, Towns and Counties Across America 

The new ALEC-sponsored initiative is being called the American City County Exchange (ACCE), and it is being touted as “America’s fastest-growing volunteer membership organization of policymakers from villages, towns, cities and counties.”

New ALEC Initiative Takes Aim at Villages, Cities, Towns and Counties Across America  Despite being swatted around more in the past few years than any other time in its forty-plus year history, despite the organization’s past and current operations finally becoming of interest to mainstream journalists, despite it’s bleeding sponsors, and despite being directly linked to the odious and controversial “Stand Your Ground” laws in more than twenty states, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) – a Republican Party-oriented lobbying group — is launching an ambitious new initiative aimed at expanding its influence by providing model legislation to governments in villages, cities, towns and counties across the country. The new ALEC-sponsored initiative is being called the American City County Exchange (ACCE). On the ALEC website the organization is already touting ACCE as “America’s fastest-growing volunteer membership organization of policymakers from villages, towns, cities and counties. ACCE works with local officials to promote efficiency and minimize waste by implementing limited government, free market solutions.” According to the Guardian’s Ed Pilkington, ACCE “is looking to take its blueprint for influence over statewide lawmaking and drill it down to the local level.” Pilkington pointed out that ACCE “will offer corporate America a direct conduit into the policy making process of city councils and municipalities. Lobbyists acting on behalf of major businesses will be able to propose resolutions and argue for new profit-enhancing legislation in front of elected city officials, who will then return to their council chambers and seek to implement the proposals.” As has been its wont over the years, ALEC officials tend to be notoriously silent on developments within the organization. According to the Guardian, John Russell, ACCE’s director “declined to comment,” and ALEC spokesman Wilhelm Meierling “declined to say how many corporate and city council members ACCE has attracted so far, or to say when the new initiative would be formally unveiled.” Meierling told the Guardian that, “As a group that focuses on limited government, free markets and federalism, we believe our message rings true at the municipal level just as it does in state legislatures.”

Although there is no evidence of any widespread voter fraud in the country, Republicans are relentless in their attempts to make this bogus assertion a real cause for concern in the minds of many Americans. This, in turn, begs the question: Is voter fraud really threatening our Democracy?

Let’s examine the facts. Between 2000 and 2010, there were 649 million votes cast in general elections and 13 cases of in-person voter impersonation.

It’s hard to see any rampant voter deception in those numbers. In truth, opponents of Government (i.e. – the Koch Brothers and the American Legislative Exchange Council – ALEC) and are just some of the powerful groups behind the “Voter Fraud Controversy” in the United States. They stand to lose the most money and power if Republicans lose elections. Using the Trojan Horse of “election reform,” Republicans are trying to disenfranchise countless low-income families, students, seniors and “minorities” from voting. Moreover, their voter suppression tactics have evolved over time…

Obama: Will He Cut Deportations or Stand Idle?

Obama has been on the defensive on the issue of deportations lately, being called the “Deporter-in-Chief” by Janet Murguía. The criticism from the immigrant rights community has been quiet for a long time as they tried to press Congress, which seems completely unable to address the issue in the House. Now, pressure on the President is coming to bear as a legislative solution seems increasingly unlikely, and relief is around five years and almost 2 million deportations late. Detentions and deportations have climbed upward largely as a part of the “get tough” political environment that also saw an increase in law enforcement across the board. These high numbers are also a result of the successful lobbying efforts of groups like the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the GEO Group and American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). These entities have all been heavily invested in a multibillion-dollar immigrant detention industry that has committed human rights abuses and is known to pay millions to lobbyists as well as political campaigns on both sides of the aisle. Despite their success, however, Obama can still unilaterally reduce deportations greatly…

(NOTE: CCA and GEO were both members of ALEC for years as legislation was written and disseminated from that think tank which incarcerated millions of Americans and legalized private prisons and privatizing penal services).

National Coalition To Broadcast Networks: Viewers “Deserve To Know What’s At Stake” If Minimum Wage Stays Low

A national coalition of organizations has signed a letter to four major broadcast network heads expressing their concern over the failure of broadcast evening news programs to note the public cost of low wages. A recently released Media Matters report found that over the past year, evening news programs on ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS have been largely silent about the burden that low minimum wages place on the financial security of public safety net programs. The report found that from March 1, 2013, through March 10, 2014, the networks only mentioned the reliance of minimum wage workers on federal, state, and local anti-poverty programs such as food assistance and welfare programs eight times, with PBS providing the majority. 22 national organizations that advocate on behalf of the millions of workers that would benefit from a minimum wage increase wrote the heads of the broadcast networks to express their “deep concern” over coverage of “the impact of low minimum wages on hard-working Americans, their families, and our country”…

Kansas Ruling Rolls Back Mandated Spending On Schools

Education: Teacher unions and the media are celebrating news this week that the Kansas Supreme Court has required more spending on the state’s public schools. The good news, however, can be found deeper in the ruling. The Kansas court ruled that funding disparities between rich and poor neighborhoods violate the state’s constitutional requirement for equity across school districts. The court has commanded the legislature to find a way to close the gap…

(NOTE: the following article from Canada demonstrates the influence of ALEC’s International Relations Task Force which is pushing the voter suppression meme across our border to Canada and other democratic nations.  Canada gives ALEC the Keystone Pipeline…and ALEC gives them model legislation to suppress Canadian voters…)

Voters’ rights under attack

Two numbers stand out in the heated debate over the Conservative government’s ironically named Fair Elections Act. One hundred and fifty nine. That is the number of academics in law, history, and political science from across Canada – including experts from the University of Saskatchewan such as Michael Atkinson, director of the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy, and John Courtney, a member of the Saskatchewan electoral boundaries commission – who signed an open letter to the National Post this week that warned the proposed legislation would undermine democracy in Canada. The other number is nine. That, according to pollster and political commentator Jaime Watt, is the percentage of Canadians outside Ottawa who are paying attention while their rights are being undermined. Mr. Watt, who provides public opinions data in the weekly Political Traction segment of CBC’s Power and Politics, says that within the Ottawa bubble – the politicians, bureaucrats and pundits for whom politics is a staple – there’s intense interest in the bill now flying through Parliament…