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Four Ways ALEC Tried to Ruin Your State this Year

Publication Date: 7/7/2015
  • Author:Jessica Mason
  • Publication:prwatch.org

In a year with unprecedented rightwing dominance in state legislative chambers, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has continued to wreak havoc in states across the country--despite an ongoing exodus of high-profile corporate members, including BP, Google, and several high-tech firms.

ALEC's legislative playbook for 2015 focused on blocking action on climate change, thwarting local democracy, attacking labor unions, and further privatizing public education in the U.S., as CMD reported last year in covering its legislative agenda for the year.

Here are some of the worst policies ALEC legislators tried to push into binding law in state legislatures this year, so far...
Anti-Democratic "Preemption" Bills

From minimum wage increases to affordable housing policies to bans on hydraulic fracturing, some of the biggest progressive policy gains in recent years have happened at the local level. In response, ALEC is aggressively pursuing a war on local democracy, pushing “preemption” bills that block cities and counties from enacting ordinances that threaten corporate profits to promote the public good.

As Cara Sullivan, the staff head of ALEC's Commerce, Insurance, and Economic Development Task Force--which is funded by some of the largest global corporations--explained, "Perhaps the biggest threat comes from the local level... One solution that ALEC has passed is state legislation that preempts the polities from within the state from raising the minimum wage higher than the state level."

ALEC has long pushed bills like the "Living Wage Preemption Act" that blocks local governments from raising the minimum wage. It was instrumental in the spread of laws in nineteen states blocking local governments from enacting municipal broadband, and it has promoted legislation like the "Preemption of Local Agriculture Laws Act" that prohibit cities and counties from regulating GMOs.

Fracking: In Texas, the legislature enacted a bill sponsored by ALEC national co-chair Rep. Phil King (R) that bans local restrictions on fracking. Residents of Texas cities near the Barnett Shale have grown concerned about the environmental impacts of drilling, including elevated levels of groundwater contaminants, and voters in Denton had enacted a fracking ban with broad support. Rep. King’s bill overturned Denton's law and blocks other such bans, and similar bills preempting local limitations on fracking have been proposed in New Mexico and Oklahoma. ALEC acknowledged to NPR's Marketplace in May that it was working on fracking preemption bills.

Paid Sick Days: As paid sick day laws have gained momentum in recent years, with cities from New York to Takoma enacting the measures, ALEC and special interest groups like the National Restaurant Association have tried to eliminate local control over the issue. After ALEC shared Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s paid sick day preemption law in 2011, nine other states soon adopted the measures, in most cases with the bills sponsored by ALEC members.

Oklahoma and Alabama enacted paid sick day preemption laws in 2014, and ALEC members in other states are pushing the measures this year. In Pennsylvania, following Philadelphia’s enactment of a paid sick days law in February 2015, ALEC member Sen. John Eichelberger (R) even amended a Senate preemption bill so it would apply retroactively. (Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) is likely to veto the law if passed.)

"Death Star" Bill: In Michigan, an expansive anti-worker preemption measure known as the "Death Star" bill would block any local ordinance governing employer-employee relationships, including higher minimum wages, paid sick days mandates, and fair scheduling ordinances. As originally proposed, the bill likely would have blocked local LGBT anti-discrimination ordinances, but public outcry forced legislators to add a carve-out for employment discrimination. The bill was signed into law on June 30...