ALEC Tries to Bully Its Way Into Independent Vermont

Vermont Representative Bob Helm (Rutland-R) wrote an op-ed in the Vermont Digger about how "Good Public Policy Comes From Sharing Ideas." Reasonable enough, right?

But when Republicans use the term, "good public policy", a red flag should go up. And it didn't take very long to have that flag justified. 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. The American Legislative Exchange Council. A far-right organization that, to put it bluntly, is a major force in much of the radical legislation we've been witnessing with horror crop up in state legislatures across the US. What kind of ideas is Representative Helm interested in sharing with the Green Mountain State?

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.

It's the tea party nonsense that's been steamrolling conservative legislatures across the country, making things far worse for most Americans.

ALEC Exposed has documented a few of the "good public policy" ideas that ALEC has "shared" with legislatures in recent years:

Just a small sampling, but the fundamentals are there – school voucher programs, laws to benefit the super-wealthy, Koch Brothers-approved anti-environmental legislation (ALEC gets a lot of money from Koch). The group is a major force behind the radical right-wing agenda. If it's a crappy law, you can safely bet that ALEC has its hands in it.

If you click on the right-to-work link, you'll see "Model Legislation" documents from ALEC. Or, as Helm would put it, "independent thinking."

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..."

This is what Mr. Helm hopes to bring to Vermont.

But what has ALEC been up to lately? PRWatch has 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 now opposing GMO labelling laws. Very 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.
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