Just last week ProgressVA, along with some great progressive allies, participated in a forum on the corporate front group the American Legislative Exchange Council and their role in writing our laws. It was a great event with a fully packed room and we appreciate everyone who was able to attend and watch online. Additionally, the entire event is now available on YouTube.
Some quotes and highlights after the jump.
- Tom Perriello, Former Congressman (VA-5), "When I went to Congress, I had a staff of about 16 or 17 people. Several of whom could work just on policy. If we were writing a piece of legislation, there are support systems within the staff to help - legislative writing committees, there's staff to do that. There's a budget office that can help run numbers on exactly how much this might cost. You can have impact statements done by nonpartisan experts, all to support the impact of this legislation. What Delegate Hope and others in state legislatures across the country have is none of that. In many cases no staff, in many cases almost no salaries therefore you're carrying a full time job. There's not an independent set of institutions to analyze these bills. So what it means to write legislation at the state level is that it's done in a very different way. And when you have an organization, a corporate organization, that is sitting there ready to hand these right-wing legislators a ready-to-go bill, a ready-to-go budget analysis (that's often totally made-up), talking points--ways to communicate this, you have created an enormous in-kind contribution where essentially the corporations are writing the laws."
- Doug Clopp, Deputy Program Director, Common Cause, "I come from Maine. And I could never figure out, on the third floor of the Maine state legislature, how a freshman legislator, from rural Maine, who owned a variety store, could drop a 74-page bill, completely dovetailed to Maine statute, that could deregulate Maine's utility industry and hand it over to corporate for 50 cents on the dollar. I could never figure out, how again in a citizens' legislature, Patrick has talked about this, that has a really limited staff, that how we could see bills to eliminate collective bargaining, how we could see bills to severe consumer rights to the courts for corporate products that kill that are poison. So finally I went over to one of my conservative corporate lobbyists and I said, hey, where does this stuff come from? And he said, well Doug it comes from ALEC - its an ALEC bill."
Additionally, the event was moderated by Del. Patrick Hope, and other speakers included ProgressVA's Anna Scholl and:
- Kim Anderson, Director, Center for Advocacy, National Education Association
- Diallo K. Brooks, Director, Field Mobilization, People for the American Way
- Naomi Walker, Director, State Government Affairs, AFL-CIO
In addition to great presentations from all the speakers, the night also included an information Question & Answer session which begins at 59 minutes in. From the event's description:
More than 50 bills drawn from ALEC sources have been introduced in the Virginia General Assembly. ALEC is driving the recent surge in state voter ID laws, which erect new barriers to voting and disproportionately hinder minority and elderly voters. ALEC promoted as one of its models the infamous "Stand Your Ground" laws, which confer civil immunity on perpetrators who avoid arrest and prosecution under this law. ALEC's Civil Justice Task Force is devoted to preventing injured people from holding wrongdoers accountable in court. On top of this, ALEC does not operate in a transparent manner. Its model laws are adopted in closed meetings and require approval by a majority vote of its corporate members to be adopted.
The event is sponsored by: the Fairfax County Democratic Committee National Affairs Committee, AFL-CIO Virginia; NOVA Labor; ProgressVA; People for the American Way, National Education Association, Progressive Democrats of America--Virginia; NOVA Council of MoveOn; Primary Matters Coalition; NAACP Alexandria, Arlington and Prince William Branches; Alexandria, Arlington, Falls Church City, Manassas, and Manassas Park Democratic Committees; and the 8th Congressional District Democratic Committee.