Mar 7, 2015
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‘…Thus, if you want to help the 14.7 million American children who are growing up poor, it serves your cause to point out that, according to the Children’s Defense Fund, the $77 billion that it would cost to reduce child poverty is much less than the $500 billion that poor children cost our nation every year.
And, thus, if you want to promote “school choice” over public education, your first and most prominent means of attack depends on promoting the economic benefits of getting more students out of public schools and into private schools.
That’s what’s happening in Texas right now. A bill has been filed in the Texas Senate that would establish a Taxpayer Savings Grant Program, which would divert public funds to vouchers that could be used to pay for private schools.
But the issue is national. The Texas bill is cobbled together from boilerplate supplied by the American Legislative Exchange Council (“Limited Government Free Markets Federalism”), a nonprofit organization headquartered in Arlington, Va. ALEC is dedicated to the promotion of conservative values and legislation. It provides an extensive menu of model bills suitable for sponsorship in every state, on issues ranging from climate change to “stand your ground” laws.
In the Texas version of ALEC’s vision for American education, vouchers for 60 percent of Texas’ per-student expenditure would be issued to parents who wish to transfer their children out of public schools.
West Virginia lowered the bar on renewable energy this week when Governor Earl Ray Tomblin signed into law Tuesday the repeal of its Alternative and Renewable Energy Portfolio, enacted in 2009.
In doing so, West Virginia became the first state of the 29 that currently have renewable energy targets to completely eliminate previously passed standards. The previous low bar was set in Ohio last July, when its legislature passed and Governor John Kasich signed into law a two-year freeze of its standards. It too is looking at revoking them permanently; the legislature has convened a panel, loaded with fossil-fuel advocates, to ponder whether to move ahead on this…
….“This whole thing is a charade,” West Virginia citizen-activist Bill Howley told Inside Climate News.”The Republicans had made it a big issue in the elections and they want to be able to say, ‘See, we told you we were going to do something about it and look, here it is.’”
A nationwide push is underway to repeal standards in the states that have them, according to an AP story, which identified the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the far-right fossil-fuel dominated Heartland Institute, as primarily drivers in rejecting renewable energy standards. ALEC has been coordinating the effort to repeal these standards for several years with its “model bill” dubbed the “Electricity Freedom Act.”
The central premise of King v. Burwell, a lawsuit asking the justices to gut much of the Affordable Care Act and take health insurance away from at least 8 million people, is that a seemingly innocuous choice made by many states actually has devastating consequences for the people in those states. In 2011, however, a leading conservative lobbying group rejected this central premise in a proposed legislative resolution offered to state lawmakers.
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is among the most influential conservative advocacy groups in the country. ALEC crafts model legislation that can be introduced by conservative state lawmakers, much of which has gone on to become the law in several states. The “Stand Your Ground” legislation which permits people in many states to shoot others and get away with it, for example, was pushed by ALEC. So are state laws making it harder to vote, keeping workers’ wages low, and blocking paid sick leave for workers.
In October of 2011, ALEC’s board of directors approved a model resolution that state lawmakers could pass, which asserted that “it is not in the best interest of the state for any state official to participate in planning or establishing health insurance exchanges as provided for in the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.” Significantly, however, the resolution also disagreed with the central premise of King v. Burwell, the lawsuit attacking the Affordable Care Act.
Illinois’ new Republican governor, Bruce Rauner, and organized labor have never gotten along. Now the relationship is souring even more. In his first State of the State address since taking office in January, Rauner voiced support for two proposals that are anathema to U.S. organized labor: so-called right-to-work zones and a ban on political spending by public sector unions.
Under Illinois law, unions are permitted to collect dues from all the workers they are legally certified to represent in a given workplace. The idea is to prevent nonmembers from “free-riding,” that is, receiving the benefits of a union contract without paying for the costs of negotiation and administration. “Right-to-work” laws prevent unions from making membership automatic and collecting fees from nonmembers.
In his speech to the legislature Wednesday afternoon, Rauner argued in favor of local-level right-to-work laws — which he termed “employee empowerment zones” — as a form of economic stimulus…
“…Gov. Rauner’s right-to-work-for-less scheme would cause wages to significantly drop for all working families while decimating the middle class,” Tom Balanoff, Illinois State Council president of the Service Employees International Union, said in a statement. “Right to work for less is not economic development. It is not empowerment. It is economic regression.”
Rauner’s support for local right-to-work comes on the heels of a push from conservative groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council and the Heritage Foundation to pass such measures in cities, towns and counties across the country. These groups say such laws promote economic growth by attracting employers who would otherwise be put off by a strong union presence. Since last December, five counties in Kentucky have approved right-to-work ordinances.
Do you know Alec? You probably do, even though you never heard of it.
Yes, “it.” Not a person, ALEC is the acronym for a secretive, corporate-funded, state policy front group: American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC’s “exchange” is very straightforward – it takes about $6 million a year from corporate powers in exchange for linking them directly to hundreds of right-wing state legislators. Like a speed-dating service, ALEC convenes two-to-three dozen private confabs each year, putting corporate executives face to face with lawmakers. In these closed-door sessions, the special needs of corporations are matched with eager-to-please legislators who go back home to push the corporate agenda into state law.
If your legislature is suddenly trying to take away workers’ bargaining rights, outlaw citizen lawsuits against abusive corporations, privatize public schools, reduce corporate income taxes while raising taxes on retirees, and otherwise advance extremist, special-interest notions that go against the public will and the common good – chances are you have lawmakers who’re carrying bills handed to them in one of ALEC’s backroom tête-à-têtes…
“The Associated Press reported that national groups including the Heartland Institute and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) are heralding the repeal of West Virginia’s alternative energy mandate as a lynchpin to repeal stronger renewable energy standards in other states. But the AP identified the Heartland Institute and ALEC only as “national small government groups,” ignoring their significant ties to the fossil fuel industry…
“…As The Washington Post has noted, “In many cases, the groups involved [in efforts to undermine renewable energy standards and other environmental initiatives] accept money from oil, gas and coal companies that compete against renewable energy suppliers.” The anti-renewables campaign by Heartland and ALEC is a case in point.
“The Heartland Institute, infamous for its annual climate denial conferences, received over $700,000 from Exxon Mobil between 1998 and 2006. Heartland has also received significant funding from organizations with ties to the oil billionaire Koch Brothers, including the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation and DonorsTrust, which has been partially funded by the David Koch-chaired Americans for Prosperity Foundation…”
“Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” featured a segment Sunday on how Philip Morris and other tobacco companies are suing countries around the world to limit ways the government can alert the public about the life-threatening risks of smoking. Oliver–who awarded the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) the honorary title of “Associate Producer of Creating Horrifying Things for Us to Talk About” of his show last season–detailed how Big Tobacco has been lobbying to limit graphic warnings on cigarettes. He did not mention how ALEC has helped the tobacco companies, with whom it has a long shared history and from whom it receives significant funding, push their anti-regulatory agenda globally.
Jeb Bush began his political career as a firebrand soldier of the Republican Revolution.
Although he’s now widely known as the moderate Republican choice for 2016, Bush ran multiple campaigns for Florida governor while promoting the “deinvention of government” through broad privatization and the rapid shrinking of the public sector—including the transformation of the state’s prison system into a for-profit industry.
Now a national candidate facing a public much more skeptical of private prisons and harsh sentencing, Bush currently supports relatively liberal criminal justice reforms and lighter sentencing laws. In the 1990s, however, he played the conservative tough-on-crime issue at top volume.
“People now cannot walk on their streets without fear of crime!” Bush said during his 1993 gubernatorial campaign. “The simple fact is we are not safe. Not in our homes, not anywhere.”
While Florida crime had just begun a 20-year decline that continues to this day, Bush spent much of the 1990s pushing to build more for-profit prisons in the Sunshine State and around the country, with the stated dual-goals of putting as many criminals in jail as possible and saving taxpayer money at the same time.
“Our criminal justice system is also an obvious target for privatization,” Bush wrote in a 1995 essay in Imprimis, an influential conservative publication. “Our prison population has doubled in recent years, and we are spending billions of dollars on prison construction and operation each year. But, according to a number of independent estimates, partial privatization could save an incredible sum—as much as 10-20 percent.”
In fact, Florida’s private prisons have notoriously had trouble reaching even the state-mandated 7 percent savings at several institutions…
EDITOR: In a recent column, MacIver Institute director Brett Healy predicted economic disaster for Wisconsin due to coming Environmental Protection Agency regulations designed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. A check on sourcewatch.org reveals Healy’s organization is allied with the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council. We can thank ALEC and friends for the recent fixed-rate increase just to bring electricity to our meters.
Healy totally ignored the fact that our planet is heating up, due largely to record levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. Healy clearly has an agenda. You and I may or may not agree with it.
I do understand his distaste for governmental regulations that often hamper the flow of the competitive marketplace. Still, regulations like the EPA’s exist to solve serious problems in the absence of effective legislative solutions. Our planet is undeniably heating up, and our oceans are undeniably rising. If we don’t reduce our carbon dioxide and methane emissions, our future is certainly imperiled.
The Citizens Climate Lobby proposes a legislative solution that Republican legislators like U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy and U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, and Democrats like U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin all should support. This proposal puts a long overdue, annually increasing fee on carbon dioxide and methane emissions, and returns all the money collected to you and me. As the price of coal, oil and gas rises, as renewable technologies improve and prices drop, we will make marketplace choices that ultimately save our planet. Your legislators need to hear from you.
It never ceases to amaze that as Republicans trumpet America’s greatness and exceptionalism, they paint a deplorable picture of the nation and in typical conservative fashion lay all the blame on government and particularly the waste of money on its social programs. The truth is their main complaint is using government funds to support any program that does not funnel taxpayer dollars to corporations and the wealthy, and they have particularly focused on what they call an obscene waste of money on public education that in their corporatist libertarian philosophy is better spent on for-profit private and religious schools. To bolster their contention that public education is failing miserably, they cite the deplorable performance of students enrolled in the public school systems, and they have had valuable assistance from corporate-owned media and the Koch brothers American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) who want to send taxpayer dollars earmarked for public schools to corporate-owned private schools and religious programs…
Walker’s plan for charter schools outdoes ALEC in privatizing education
Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to privatize authority over charter schools is a trifecta of bad public policy, “untested, excessive, and irresponsible,” Madison School Board member Ed Hughes on his blog.
Walker’s plan, as laid out in his 2016-2017 budget proposal, would privatize and politicize charter schools beyond what is being done anywhere else in the country, Hughes wrote.
The bill calls for the creation of a new state panel of political appointees that, instead of considering charter school applications itself, would review applications by nonprofit organizations to become charter school authorizers that could, in turn, enter into contracts with charter school operators for an unlimited number of charter schools…
…As specified in model legislation by the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, state authorities would be charged to assure that members of Walker’s proposed state board on charter authorization are “geographically diverse and have experience and expertise in governing public and nonprofit organizations; in management and finance; in public school leadership, assessment, and curriculum and instruction; and in education law; and understand and are committed to the use of charter schools to strengthen public education.”
In late January, two Republican Wisconsin lawmakers representing Milwaukee’s suburbs released an economic development plan for the city’s poorest neighborhoods that seems to draw straight from the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) playbook.
The “New Opportunities for Milwaukee” plan, proposed by Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield) and Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills), details what the lawmakers say will be solutions for the city’s chronically impoverished economy…
…The proposals outlined include “right-to-work” legislation, zero percent corporate tax laws, the repeal of minimum wage laws, and the creation of for-profit charter schools instead of public schools.
(“Radical” ALEC modeled legislation on RTW spills over into Canada and is defeated…)
OTTAWA, Ont. – In a ruling that points up the differences – in workers’ favor – between Canada and the U.S., the Canadian Supreme Court has ruled that public workers there have a constitutional right to strike.
The 5-2 decision on Feb. 4 in a case from Saskatchewan, is grounded in Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms-its constitution-the justices said. But it also reflects the fact that Canadian labor law, province by province, is more pro-worker than U.S. labor law. Many U.S. public workers, including all federal workers, lack the right to strike.
The Right-Wing Canadian federal government, which has a slim parliamentary majority, has been making noises about trying to override provincial labor laws and curb worker rights. It’s considering schemes crafted by the secretive Radical Right corporate American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in the U.S., which several GOP-run states have approved.
…With a 29-18 vote, the Senate passed SB 2389, which is more or less a symbol that enacts a compact for a balanced budget. Sen. Joey Fillingane, R-Sumrall, introduced the bill, saying that it essentially just sends a message to the federal government, urging them to limit their spending.
#Democrats pressed Fillingane, worried that the bill would prevent Mississippi from getting needed federal dollars.
#Sen. David Blount, D-Jackson, noted that SB 2389 is an American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) bill, considering that it is nearly identical to a bill ALEC drafted.
#When Blount asked why Mississippi would need to take measures to balance the federal budget instead of letting the U.S. Speaker of the House handle it, Fillingane said, “We all need encouragement.”