The legislature is starting up once more. Most of us have a preconceived idea that we took away from grade school civics that our local elected representatives act with local concerns at the top of their lists.
But as with many other things, money has corrupted our governmental processes even at this level. Where once the major concern was crafting legislation that would address problems that arose while having the least negative effects on citizens, now the concern for at least one group is to enact legislation in states (including Iowa) that promotes a national agenda.
Working behind the scenes the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) pushes “pro-business” legislation in state legislation throughout the country. ALEC has been around for a long time, but only recently has the climate been ripe for them to flex their muscle. They have semi-annual meetings where state legislators and corporate big-wigs work on what they call “model legislation” for states.
The “model legislation” is usually set up to change current public policy so that business can have a much more friendly climate in which to operate. States that have a Republican governor and Republican majority in both houses of their legislature have pushed hard to pass ALEC model legislation.
These states are in the news quite a bit recently because the legislation has been so extreme. Wisconsin is the prime example with the passage of union-busting legislation, public school fund strangling legislation, and of course the crown jewel – legislation to restrict the right to vote targeted at traditional Democratic constituencies.
Other states that have passed similar types of laws include Ohio and Michigan. Indiana is currently attempting to pass some of the ALEC model legislation. Other model legislation include things like privately run prison systems, privatizing libraries and privatizing municipal utilities such as water.
Over time, Iowa has been one of the sanest and most forward looking of states in their legislation. Yet the scourge of ALEC policies has at least a firm toe-hold in Iowa. Responding to an inquiry I sent, Charles Smithson, chief clerk of the Iowa House of Representatives, replied that ALEC membership was an opt out option. All Republican members of the House are members of ALEC. There were also four Democrats, three of whom have since dropped out.
So just as huge corporate money is totally corrupting our national politics, at the state level we have a similar problem. ALEC is the vehicle being used to bring corporations and legislators together, usually behind closed doors in unannounced meetings.
In the coming weeks we will try to focus on which of Iowa’s legislators have close ties with ALEC and which bills that are being introduced are based on ALEC model legislation.
Iowa is one step, literally one seat away from being another Wisconsin or Ohio. Had Liz Mathis not won in the special senate election last fall, the door to all sorts of ALEC legislation would have been opened.
Please go here to the alecexposed website for much more information on ALEC and their model legislation that is not good for Iowa.