Topeka The House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday approved a budget provision that would prohibit state funds from being used for legislators to participate in several organizations, including the American Legislative Exchange Council.
State Rep. Pete DeGraaf, R-Mulvane, proposed the ban on state funds for legislators who are members of the National Conference of State Legislatures and the Council of State Governments.
But state Rep. Doug Gatewood, D-Columbus, said ALEC should be part of that ban too.
DeGraaf said he had no problem including ALEC, adding that he has attended ALEC meetings and his expenses have been paid through "scholarships" and not state funds.
The Appropriations Committee approved adding the ban to its proposed budget bill that now goes to the full House.
Since ALEC scholarships are funded by corporate interests, the proposed ban may have little impact on most ALEC members, although legislators said later that some state funds have been expended on registration for ALEC meetings but didn't know exactly how much.
ALEC has been at the center of controversy in recent months for pushing laws benefiting corporations, voter ID requirements and so-called "stand your ground" laws, which was cited in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed Florida teen. In the past several weeks, some of ALEC's largest corporate members have broken ties with the organization.
Even before the Martin shooting, ALEC was under fire from public watchdog groups that alleged the organization was a front for corporate interests, including Kansas-based Koch Industries, to influence state laws and public policies.
In Kansas, a contingent of 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.
ALEC, which enjoys tax-exempt status as a non-profit, 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.”
But the Center for Media and Democracy, which has been critical of ALEC, says there is a big difference between ALEC and the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The center says that ALEC has corporate leaders and members, who vote on bills behind closed doors, while NCSL doesn't. In addition, ALEC is funded almost entirely by corporations and nearly all of ALEC's legislative leaders are Republican, while the NCSL leadership is bi-partisan.
NCSL describes itself as a bi-partisan organization that provides research, technical assistance and opportunities for policymakers to exchange ideas on the most pressing state issues.
The Council of State Governments describes itself as a nonpartisan organization that brings state leaders together to share ideas, providing them the chance to learn valuable lessons from each other. The executive director is David Adkins, a former state senator from Kansas.