Archive for Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Kansas Statehouse’s ‘Big Three’ tied to controversial council

December 5, 2012


— Kansas’ “Big Three” in the Statehouse are closely connected to the American Legislative Exchange Council, a controversial group that has been under fire for pushing a corporate agenda in state legislatures nationwide.

Newly elected Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, and newly elected House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, are members of ALEC’s board of directors.

In 2010, Merrick was named ALEC’s legislator of the year, and Wagle served as the group’s national chairwoman in 2006.

And Gov. Sam Brownback is also closely affiliated with the group. In 2011, Brownback wrote a foreword to ALEC’s annual report, “Rich States, Poor States,” which is written by economist Art Laffer, whom Brownback hired as a $75,000 consultant on Kansas’ tax-cutting plan.

Brownback has also signed into law ALEC-inspired bills, such as the Health Care Freedom Act, which prohibits the government from interfering “with a resident’s right to purchase health insurance or with a resident’s right to refuse to purchase health insurance.” The law was aimed at blocking the new federal health reform law, which ALEC opposes.

ALEC describes its mission as promoting free markets, limited government, federalism and individual freedom “through a nonpartisan public-private partnership of America’s state legislators, members of the private sector, the federal government and general public.”

But its critics, most notably the Center for Media and Democracy, say ALEC’s goal is to get state legislatures to adopt legislation for corporate interests, including Kansas-based Koch Industries, which helps fund ALEC.

ALEC has been at the center of controversy for pushing laws benefiting corporations, voter ID requirements and so-called “stand your ground” laws, which were cited in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed Florida teen. In the past year, some of ALEC’s largest corporate members have broken ties with the organization.

In Kansas, approximately two dozen legislators, all Republicans, have been active in ALEC, going to its meetings, serving in leadership positions on its board and returning to Kansas with model legislation that they then start pushing through the legislative process. Most of those expenses have been funded through ALEC, which collects money from corporations.

Wagle and Merrick have been longtime participants in ALEC and defenders of its work. On Monday, shortly after being elected the next House speaker, Merrick said simply, “I don’t have an agenda.”

And Wagle pooh-poohed the idea that a pent-up avalanche of conservative policies were about to flood the Kansas Legislature.

“We’re going to take fresh looks at all issues,” she said.

Wagle said her main concern for the session that starts Jan. 14 is fixing the budget, which faces a $328 million revenue shortfall because of tax cuts approved earlier this year that were supported by Wagle and Merrick and signed into law by Brownback.

That law will decrease individual income tax rates for 2013, with the top rate dropping to 4.9 percent from 6.45 percent, and exempt the owners of 191,000 partnerships, sole proprietorships and other businesses from income taxes.

One of the major issues confronting legislators as they face a revenue shortfall is whether to allow a temporary sales tax increase to sunset as scheduled. Brownback hasn’t ruled out proposing to keep that temporary increase in place to help shore up the budget.

The sales tax is 6.3 percent, but it is scheduled to drop to 5.7 percent in July. The state boosted the tax in 2010 — before Brownback took office — to protect public schools and social services spending, but pledged that most of the increase would be temporary.

Wagle said she hasn’t ruled out keeping the tax at its current rate.

“I would like to try and get by without doing that. I don’t know if it’s possible,” she said.


bearded_gnome 5 years, 2 months ago

way to feed the leftist paranoia scott!

you left out the fact that all kinds of lobbying organizations have model legislation, including the far left KNEA teachers union, for example.

please scott, instead of blindly repeating the empty rantings of the left as they continue to demonize their oponents, be more balanced in your reporting!
no charges have ever been filed against ALEC, and no wrongdoing has ever happened.

corporations are groups of people, the owners, stockholders, the workers. the supreme court says that corporations thus have the freedom to function as collective people with people's rights.

the real problem the left has with the Koch brothers et al is that finally the big money closed system on the left has opposition, that big money system being the government and unions together with their allies in the majority of the media.

Bob Hechlor 5 years, 2 months ago

Teachers are real people. They work for a living and they know what it takes to teach our children. We need to be listening to them, not to corporation that are only out to make a profit. Mr.gnome, you live in opposite world. Better wake up, before it is too late.

chootspa 5 years, 2 months ago

The real problem is that they're totally wrong, and not just because they're a lobbying group masquerading as an organization. I mean they're totally wrong for the economy, and their unenlightened self interests will drag all of us down.

But aside from that, are over 2000 state legislators members of the KNEA?

time2kill 5 years, 2 months ago

'Kansas' is not plural. 'Kansas's' is the possessive form.

chootspa 5 years, 2 months ago

Either is correct, but AP style dictates that you leave off the extra s in the case of a possessive noun ending in s, whether it is a proper noun or not.

Cait McKnelly 5 years, 2 months ago
"After a Controversial Year, ALEC Convenes in Washington with Damage Control at Top of Agenda."
"ALEC came under particularly intense criticism starting in March 2012 for its national drive to promote the “Stand Your Ground” gun law that initially shielded 17-year-old Trayvon Martin's killer from prosecution, and weathered additional criticism in the following months over its role in advancing laws that make it harder to vote, that criminalize immigrants, protect corporations from civil liability, thwart environmental regulations, and cut holes in the social safety net -- all while enjoying tax-exempt "charitable" status.
In response to the criticism, more than 40 corporations, including General Motors, General Electric,, and Coca-Cola, have severed ties with ALEC. ALEC has also been the subject of multiple IRS complaints alleging that it has violated its charitable 501(c)(3) status by acting primarily as a conduit for corporate interests to lobby state legislators, thereby allowing these special interests to write-off their lobbying expenses as a charitable deduction."
I remember about a year or so ago, one of Kansas' legislators was confronted during a town hall with the fact that he was a member of ALEC. His reaction was confused, as if he couldn't understand why it was such a big deal. But then Kansas legislators aren't exactly known for being the sharpest knives in the drawer.

FlintHawk 5 years, 2 months ago

"Wagle said her main concern for the session that starts Jan. 14 is fixing the budget"

Somebody explain the logic here: Didn't the Guv and the Legislature "fix" the budget last session by lowering income and business tax rates? They need now to fix the fix?

Do these people understand the first thing about economics? Or are they simply knee-jerk carrying the Kochs' water?

And another thing: How come nobody's talking about regressive tax (sales) and who it hurts the most?

Every day we fall deeper into the rabbit hole.

Centerville 5 years, 2 months ago

So Rothschild has designated ALEC for today's three-minutes-of-hate. Can't wait to see what you'll be ordered to hate tomorrow.

Bob Hechlor 5 years, 2 months ago

It is not about hating. It is about standing up for working people and a good working state, instead of allowing the profit motive to sabotage everything for the sake of a few making insane amounts of money. In other developed countries, CEO's make up to 12 times what the working people make. In the US, they make 450 times. We can no longer afford them. They also use their massive wealth to take over our government, as ALEC has done in the state of Kansas. This is supposed to be a democracy, not a corporatocracy. The Koch brothers have no real expertise on how to run schools and educate our children. They really don't care about that at all. They care about their billions of dollars and the ego trip of controlling our government. So, center, you might want to start acting like a citizen instead of a puppet for the wealthy.

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