Archive for Sunday, September 11, 2011

Kansas legislators report on what they learned at ALEC meeting

September 11, 2011

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Approximately two dozen Kansas legislators will start the 2012 legislative session armed with information on defeating federal health reform, expanding charter schools and lowering business taxes that they received at the American Legislative Exchange Council meeting.

In written reports filed with the state, the legislators — all Republicans ­­— said Kansas will benefit by their attendance at ALEC’s annual meeting, which was Aug. 3-6 in New Orleans.

The written comments of Rep. Forrest Knox, R-Altoona, were typical of many of the legislators’ reports.

“The strongest benefit to Kansas of attending national organizations like ALEC is that I learn what is being done in other states and what worked and didn’t work in other states with the issues that are affecting all of us,” Knox wrote.

ALEC describes its mission as advancing free markets, limited government, federalism and individual liberty. The group includes legislators and representatives of corporate interests that produce “model legislation.” If the legislative members of ALEC approve the legislation they will then take those measures back to state capitals across the nation for possible approval. Some of those measures — aimed at thwarting the federal health reform law and the EPA — have been approved in Kansas.

Health care exchange implementation

Shortly after the ALEC meeting in New Orleans, Gov. Sam Brownback rejected a $31.5 million federal grant, which he had earlier accepted, to establish a health insurance exchange system. Brownback’s administration has stopped implementation of an exchange in Kansas for now although Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger is continuing to work on the issue.

The exchange is a key part of President Barack Obama’s health reform legislation. It is designed to provide citizens with a one-stop shop to purchase health insurance and determine eligibility for subsidies to get coverage. It was a major topic of discussion at the ALEC meeting.

In the written reports, Rep. Lance Kinzer, R-Olathe, and several other legislators mentioned discussions on exchanges. “This year I was able to attend in-depth presentations on health care exchange implementation that included a spirited and helpful discussion on the options available to states including the pros and cons of taking no action.”

In Kansas, legislators who attend conferences that are at least partially funded by taxpayer dollars are required to write a report about ways the Legislature and state will benefit by their attendance.

When it comes to ALEC, the state pays for registration fees to the meeting for those who serve on an ALEC task force, which according to reimbursement forms ranged from $375 to $575. Other expenses are picked up by the legislator unless he or she received a scholarship, which is supplied by donations to ALEC. The state pays all the expenses of legislators who serve on the national board.

ALEC reports

As of early September, about half of the legislators who had attended the ALEC conference in August had submitted their reports.

The Journal-World requested access to those reports already filed.

Some of the reports were brief — just a couple of sentences — but others were more in-depth, sharing information on policy issues and committee doings at the ALEC meeting.

Knox said that in an energy committee all sides of “green” energy were presented.

“The facts are that it is very limited in the energy it can supply and very dependent upon governmental subsidy. Conventional energy will be needed for the foreseeable future, most notably natural gas, if coal is not used,” he wrote.

Sen. Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, who serves on the national board of ALEC, wrote, “Many of the subjects the Legislature will address during future sessions are discussed at ALEC.”

Merrick is on ALEC’s International Relations Committee, which he said spent time looking at how the European Union is trying to exert greater influence in the United States through giving money to academic institutions and nongovernmental groups.

“Congressional oversight is needed to identify exactly how and where the EU is intervening inside the United States,” he said.

Conference agenda

An agenda of the ALEC conference showed that speakers included former U.S. House Majority Leader Dick Armey, who is now chairman of FreedomWorks; Tucker Carlson, a political analyst; Arthur Laffer, economist and chairman of Laffer Associates; Marvin Odum, president of Shell Oil and director of Upstreams America; John Castellani, president and chief executive of PhRMA; Steve Moore, journalist and editorial board member of The Wall Street Journal; and David Dieter, head of government and public affairs of Takeda Pharmaceuticals North America Inc.

Sen. Chris Steineger, R-Kansas City, attended the ALEC conference, and in his written report he commented on several of the speakers.

Steineger said that Carlson said Republicans should “shake off the birthers” and “shariah law criers” because they turn off mainstream voters. Steineger also said Armey “gave a rambling, boring ‘speech’ that had little content or takeaway ideas.” He said that Laffer said “Carter gave us Reagan,” and suggested that Obama will give way to a Republican.

In an interview with the Journal-World, Steineger — who was a Democrat until he switched his party affiliation last December — said he was aware of recent news reports of ALEC’s corporate ties, but said he saw little difference between ALEC and other groups that host conferences for legislators, such as the National Council of State Legislatures and the Council of State Governments.

“All have corporate lobbyists hanging around. The Statehouse has corporate lobbyists,” he said. He said ALEC is more free market driven but that all three organizations discuss similar issues.

There are differences, however. NCSL committees are made up of legislators, while ALEC’s committees are made up of legislators and lobbyists. ALEC produces numerous legislative proposals, or “model legislation,” and NCSL rarely does that. In addition, NCSL leadership is bipartisan, while most of ALEC’s members are Republican.

The NCSL describes itself as “a bipartisan organization that serves the legislators and staffs of the nation’s 50 states, its commonwealths and territories. NCSL provides research, technical assistance and opportunities for policymakers to exchange ideas on the most pressing state issues.”

The CSG describes itself as the “nation’s only organization serving all three branches of state government. CSG is a region-based forum that fosters the exchange of insights and ideas to help state officials shape public policy.”

Merrick, who is on ALEC’s national board, said Kansans are well served by those who represent them and attend ALEC events. He wrote, “The information obtained at the meetings is timely.”

Comments

PalinPalms 3 years, 10 months ago

I lerned that ALEC the the place to go to get plenty of money to run for relecetion and the good folks there even do my homework for me and write all the bills I'm agunna put in

Randall Uhrich 3 years, 10 months ago

If they follow the ALEC recommendations, we will have the Koch brothers writing our laws and expediting the corporate takeover of our government. Anyone attending the ALEC conference should be banned from legislatiing, as they have demonstrated that they cannnot be impartial.

JayhawkFan1985 3 years, 10 months ago

The Cultural Revolution in Kansas continues...a Great Leap Backward!

William Weissbeck 3 years, 10 months ago

Too bad ALEC spends it's time on how to repeal Obama's health care reform, but not how to improve it or replace it with a better system. The present system is unfair and unsustainable. It doesn't control costs. It doesn't provide equal access. What ALEC wants to maintain above all, is the employee's dependence on his/her employer for health insurance.

jafs 3 years, 10 months ago

Actually, it would make more sense if they wanted to eliminate employer sponsored health insurance, wouldn't it?

jayhawklawrence 3 years, 10 months ago

The ALEC is an organization designed to instruct legislators how to vote on behalf of the very wealthy clients they represent. If you study carefully their agenda and their methods, they should put fear into the hearts of average Americans because they promote a cult like allegiance that we have seen recently among certain right wing Republicans.

http://alecexposed.org/wiki/What_is_ALEC%3F

The fact that Kansas Republican legislators profess openly their attendance to these meetings and use our tax dollars to pay for them demonstrates the audacity and arrogance of the people who align themselves with this group.

Dave Trabert 3 years, 10 months ago

Anyone who believes it's wrong for taxpayers to cover travel costs for legislators attending the American Legislative Exchange Council must REALLY be upset about taxpayers covering the costs of participation in the National Council for State Legislatures. While ALEC members generally believe in limited government, NCSL is their counterpart, generally supporting big government. In keeping with their respective beliefs, ALEC members pay their own dues to belong, whereas taxpayers fork over $144,000 annually just in dues to NCSL.

House negotiators made many attempts in the budget negotiations to eliminate unnecessary dues payments but the Senate would not agree. Kansas basically belongs to the 'National Association of Everything' as indicated by the Dues & Subscriptions listings at http://www.kansasopengov.org/StateGovernment/SpendingCategories/tabid/2074/Default.aspx We (Kansas Policy Institute) also broke out travel and cell phone expenditures from the state checkbook.

Alceste 3 years, 10 months ago

It was my understanding that ALEC pays the costs of travel, lodging, and food for all attendees.

Who says there's no such thing as a free lunch? If anybody knows where to find one, it would be a hack legislator from Kansas.

Alceste 3 years, 10 months ago

http://alecwatch.org/chapterfive.html

I guess one has to dig a bit deeper to find out if these Kansas hacks also claimed expenses funded by Kansas.

As the above document notes, "ALEC membership has its benefits, and for 2,400 or so state legislators across the nation who belong to ALEC, chief among them each year is the opportunity to take at least one all-expenses-paid trip that looks a lot like a vacation. The allure of an attractive trip, in fact, could be enough to induce some lawmakers perhaps even those who are not comfortable with much of the organization�s special-interest agenda to sign on ALEC's dotted line and become a member at the bargain rate of $25 a year."

Where was that meeting held this year, again?

chootspa 3 years, 10 months ago

Did you read the article, or are you just being rhetorical with Dave?

Alceste 3 years, 10 months ago

I'm saying that ALEC pays the freight, or will, for these Kansas hillbillys'. The fact some dug into the state General Fund for their little party in New Orleans is beyond specious.

Dave Trabert 3 years, 10 months ago

just so you know...legislator travel to NCSL and other conferences are also funded by taxpayers.

chootspa 3 years, 10 months ago

Just so you know, most of us don't have a problem with funding travel to the bipartisan NCSL conferences in spite of your failed attempts to frame it as an equivalent conference.

Dave Trabert 3 years, 10 months ago

ALEC is also a bi-partisan organization. As with NCSL, both have members of both parties. The difference is not party affiliation but perspective on the role of government. ALEC members generally believe in limited government. NCSL generally takes the big government approach.

chootspa 3 years, 10 months ago

Really, what's the percentage of "bipartisanship" in ALEC legislative membership? Oh, that's right. It's a secret. How often does NCSL hand out model legislation? (You'd think with their whole "big government" agenda it would be all the time, right? You'd also think they'd stop advertising that their policies do things like promote budget savings if their true agenda was "big government.") Does the press have open access to NCSL meetings?

PS, the "membership fee" you mentioned earlier is $50 for legislators in ALEC. Whew, how do they shoulder that burden? Oh, by having a disproportionate amount of fees shouldered by the corporations. They spend around five digits for their membership dues. I'm pretty sure NCSL charges everyone the same fee to attend meetings and doesn't let the corporations set the agenda or serve in executive positions. Can't say the same thing about ALEC.

chootspa 3 years, 10 months ago

Gotcha. Notice Dave's attempt to deflect by pointing out a different group with a different mission instead of answering your question.

Dave Trabert 3 years, 10 months ago

FYI, your comment would equally apply to legislators who attended the August NSCL conference in Chicago and the upcoming NCSL conference in Tampa.

chootspa 3 years, 10 months ago

So tell me, Dave. Does ALEC strictly rotate their leadership in an intentionally bipartisan fashion? NCSL does.

Dave Trabert 3 years, 10 months ago

ALEC does not pay costs for attendees (maybe for some presenters, like most organizations, but certainly not even the majority of attendees).

Taxpayers cover the travel cost of legislators and state employees to many conferences...not just ALEC.

chootspa 3 years, 10 months ago

ALEC doesn't pay the cost, because their corporate members do it for them through disproportionate membership fees.

chootspa 3 years, 10 months ago

For those who haven't met him before, let me introduce you to Dave Trabert and his many conflicts of interest. Mr Trabert is not a resident of Lawrence as far as I know. He is instead a propagandist for a Koch Industries-funded tea party think tank called "Kansas Policy Institute." The links he's spamming the forum with go to one of it's many sub-websites. It has quite a few of these branches in its astroturf mission to further the corporate agenda and the privatization of public taxpayer money, the latest of which appears to be an effort to expand charter schools. An effort, coincidentally backed by ALEC and ALEC member Koch Industries.

Having us believe that NCSL is somehow an ALEC counterpart is a false equivalency you're using to disguise the obvious differences, and I suspect it was in and of itself an ALEC strategy to try and deflect criticism and reframe the issue.

As the article says, "There are differences, however. NCSL committees are made up of legislators, while ALEC’s committees are made up of legislators and lobbyists. ALEC produces numerous legislative proposals, or “model legislation,” and NCSL rarely does that. In addition, NCSL leadership is bipartisan, while most of ALEC’s members are Republican."

jayhawklawrence 3 years, 10 months ago

Thank you for exposing Dave Trabert.

I hope our fellow Kansans will become aware of how this group and other similar groups are hijacking our government.

verity 3 years, 10 months ago

Thank you so very much, chootspa, for exposing Mr. Trabert. Who'd a thought we had a Koch-paid troll on these boards (I suspect there may be a few more). Just such a good example of what ALEC and KPI and any number of other organizations funded by the Kochs are up to.

chootspa 3 years, 10 months ago

He's using his real name and affiliation, I'll give him that, but he's dodgy about his own biased presentation of info and evades admitting his membership in the kochtopus.

Kendall Simmons 3 years, 10 months ago

I particularly enjoyed the paranoia of Sen. Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell.

"Merrick is on ALEC’s International Relations Committee, which he said spent time looking at how the European Union is trying to exert greater influence in the United States through giving money to academic institutions and nongovernmental groups.

“Congressional oversight is needed to identify exactly how and where the EU is intervening inside the United States,” he said."

Intervening??? The EU is donating money to academic institutions and NGOs and this is "intervening"? And it requires "Congressional oversight"???

Apparently Merrick doesn't realize that the US government itself donates vast sums of money to non-US NGOs.

Or that U.S. Code: Section 1011f already deals with donations to American universities and colleges from foreign sources, including governments.

Unfortunately, while Merrick worries about the influence of the European Union...the European Union!!!!...we're actually being sorely affected by the undue influence of the Koch Brothers and well-connected lobbyists with deep pockets. Too bad we can't get some Congressional oversight into that problem.

jafs 3 years, 10 months ago

Also, of course, with Citizens' United, anybody can spend unlimited amounts of money on political advertising.

The cat's out of the bag with respect to other countries "influencing" American policies.

tomatogrower 3 years, 10 months ago

We did not elect ALEC to write our laws. Fire the lazy lawmakers who belong to this group. Do your jobs or get out!

chootspa 3 years, 10 months ago

I'd love to see a listing of membership and compare model legislation with any official proposals we see from members. I'd also love to see corporate members of ALEC and how they stand to financially benefit from the proposals with third-party analysis of the impact. Ironically, this is the sort of thing that a Kansas "watchdog group" or a group purporting to favor "open government" might help us discover. Oh wait...

Alceste 3 years, 10 months ago

http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=ALEC_Politicians#Kansas_Legislators_with_ALEC_Ties

Kansas Legislators with ALEC Ties

House of Representatives Rep. Steve Brunk (R-85)[72]; Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force Rep. Pete DeGraff (R-81)[72][15]; Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force Rep. Carl Holmes (R-125)[72]; Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force Rep. Lance Kinzer (R-14),[72] ALEC Civil Justice Task Force and International Relations Task Force member, attended 2011 ALEC Annual Meeting[73] Rep. Forrest Knox (R-13,)[15][72] ALEC Telecommunications and Information Technology Task Force member, attended 2011 ALEC Annual Meeting[73] Rep. Peggy Mast (R-76),[15][72] ALEC Health and Human Services Task Force and International Relations Task Foce member[22] Rep. Marc Rhoades (R-72)[15][17][72]; International Relations Task Force Rep. Sharon Schwartz (R-106)[17][72] Rep. Scott Schwab (R-49),[72] attended 2011 ALEC Annual Meeting[73] Rep. Susan Wagle (R-30), former National Chairman, member of Board of Directors as of 2011[72] Former Rep. John Faber (R-120)[72]; Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force Rep. Amanda Grosserode (R-Lenexa), attended 2011 ALEC Annual Meeting[73] Former Rep. Deena Horst (R-69)[72] Rep. Joe McLeland (R-94); Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force Rep. Terri Lois Gregory (R-10), ALEC Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force member, attended 2011 ALEC Annual Meeting, including health-related panels[73] CONT:

Alceste 3 years, 10 months ago

Rep. Susan Mosier (R-Manhattan), attended 2011 ALEC Annual Meeting, including health-related panels Rep. Larry Powell (R-117), ALEC Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force member, attended 2011 ALEC Annual Meeting Rep. Roy Fund; Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force Rep. John James Rubin (R-18), ALEC Public Safety and Elections Task Force member, attended 2011 ALEC Annual Meeting Rep. Mario Goico (R-100); Public Safety and Elections Task Force Rep. Daniel J. Kerschen (R-93); Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force Rep. Joe Seiwert (R-101); Telecommunications and Information Technology Task Force Rep. Phil Hermanson (R-96); Telecommunications and Information Technology Task Force Rep. Gene Suellentrop (R-105); Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force Rep. Pete J. DeGraaf (R-81); Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force Rep. Steve Huebert (R-90)[15]; Education Task Force Rep. Terry Calloway (R-3), ALEC Education Task Force member, attended 2011 ALEC Annual Meeting Rep. Brenda Landwehr (R-91); Health and Human Services Task Force Rep. Kelly Meigs (R-17), ALEC Health and Human Services Task Force member, attended 2011 ALEC Annual Meeting Rep. Gary K. Hayzlett (R-122); Public Safety and Elections Task Force Rep. Marvin G. Kleeb (R-48),[72] ALEC Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force member, attended 2011 ALEC Annual Meeting Rep. Richard Carlson (R-61)[15], Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force member and 2011 ALEC State Legislator of the Year Rep. Joe Patton (R-54); Civil Justice Task Force Rep. Rob Bruchman (R-20), ALEC Civil Justice Task Force member, attended 2011 ALEC Annual Meeting Rep. Mitch Holmes (R-114) Rep. Ronald Ryckman (R-Meade), attended 2011 ALEC Annual Meeting[73] Rep. Scott Schwab (R-49) Rep. Don Schroeder (R-74)

Senate Sen. Karin Brownlee (R-23) Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook (R-10); Civil Justice Task Force Sen. Ty Masterson (R-16)[15]; Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force Sen. Ray Merrick (R-37), ALEC State Chairman,[74] "Legislator of the Year" 2010, Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force member, ALEC Board of Directors member and attended 2011 ALEC Annual Meeting Sen. Ralph Ostmeyer (R-40), ALEC Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force member, attended 2011 ALEC Annual Meeting Sen. Dennis Pyle (R-1); Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force Sen. Garrett Love (R-38), ALEC Telecommunications and Information Technology Task Force member, attended 2011 ALEC Annual Meeting Sen. Julia Lynn (R-Olathe), attended 2011 ALEC Annual Meeting Sen. Bob Marshall (R-13); Education Task Force Sen. Chris Steineger (D-6), ALEC Health and Human Services Task Force member, attended 2011 ALEC Annual Meeting Sen. Terry Bruce (R-34), ALEC Public Safety and Elections Task Force member, attended 2011 ALEC Annual Meeting Sen. Mike Petersen (R-28); Telecommunications and Information Technology Task Force Sen. Dick Kelsey (R-26)

chootspa 3 years, 10 months ago

Gosh, what a bipartisan listing you've got there! I think I counted one D.

chootspa 3 years, 10 months ago

Ha! Even better. Why it's just like NCSL. I don't understand why we're not all in a huff about that.

Alceste 3 years, 10 months ago

http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=ALEC_Corporations

ALEC Corporations

ALEC is not a lobby; it is not a front group. It is much more powerful than that. Through ALEC, behind closed doors, corporations hand state legislators the changes to the law they desire that directly benefit their bottom line. Along with legislators, corporations have membership in ALEC. Corporations sit on all nine ALEC task forces and vote with legislators to approve “model” bills. They have their own corporate governing board which meets jointly with the legislative board. (ALEC says that corporations do not vote on the board.) They fund almost all of ALEC's operations. Participating legislators, overwhelmingly conservative Republicans, then bring those proposals home and introduce them in statehouses across the land as their own brilliant ideas and important public policy innovations—without disclosing that corporations crafted and voted on the bills. ALEC boasts that it has over 1,000 of these bills introduced by legislative members every year, with one in every five of them enacted into law. ALEC describes itself as a “unique,” “unparalleled” and “unmatched” organization. It might be right. It is as if a state legislature had been reconstituted, yet corporations had pushed the people out the door. Learn more at ALECexposed.org.

Hadley_says 3 years, 10 months ago

"NCSL is their counterpart, generally supporting big government. In keeping with their respective beliefs" What a slime!

That is not the difference Mr.Trabert, and you know it.

In NCSL, the membership consists entirely of legislators, not corporate lobbyists like in ALEC. Likewise in the NCSL, the people drafting model legislation are mostly not corporate lobbyists and tax departments. And likewise, we don't find a NCSL paid shill posting spin on this forum, like ALEC has in you.

chootspa 3 years, 10 months ago

There's hardly ever any model legislation. In fact, NCSL says they don't draft any, only policy statements.

"NCSL believes the process of good government takes into account all points of view. However, the private sector does not hold positions on NCSL’s executive committee and is prohibited from controlling the content of sessions and programming at its meetings. NCSL does not create model legislation, but legislators will vote on policy at our summit on federal issues affecting the states. In turn, the Washington, D.C., staff advocates these positions with Congress and the administration. These policies are brought forth by our 12 standing committees that serve as forums to exchange ideas and information among state legislators and staff. "

Alceste 3 years, 10 months ago

Well, the A.M.A. is pretty much like ALEC but it claims to be like NCSL. Funny how stuff works like that, eh?

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