Kansas lawmakers attend ALEC meeting in D.C.
TOPEKA ? At least 18 members of the Kansas House of Representatives, including the two top leaders of the Kansas House and Senate, have been in Washington, D.C., this week attending a meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative political organization that is largely funded by corporations and that drafts model pro-business legislation for state legislatures.
ALEC’s annual policy summit began Wednesday and continues through Friday. That’s a gathering for the benefit of state legislators, most of whom will soon begin their 2015 sessions.
House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stillwell, and Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, both serve on ALEC’s executive committee. Spokespeople in their offices confirmed that both have attended at least part of the convention.
Both are eligible to have their expenses reimbursed by the state when they attend. An official in the Legislative Administrative Services office said their expenses won’t be known until they return and submits his receipts for reimbursement.
That official also said 16 other House members had registered for the conference through Administrative Services. She said there may be other members who registered on their own. Those members are responsible for their own expenses, although some may receive scholarships to attend that are funded through the organization.
ALEC has come under fire in recent years, and several of its corporate members have dropped out. Some of those, such as General Motors, have cited ALEC’s support for “Stand Your Ground” laws that allow people to use deadly force to defend themselves in any place where they have a lawful right to be if they reasonably believe they face an immediate threat of bodily harm or death.
A Florida version of that law was used in 2013 to acquit George Zimmerman for the killing of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager.
Other corporations, including Microsoft, have dropped out citing ALEC’s positions on environmental issues.
Among the model bills that ALEC promotes that could come up in Kansas next year is the “Electricity Freedom Act,” which would repeal laws and regulations requiring electric utilities to produce a certain percentage of their electricity from renewable sources such as wind.
ALEC also supports converting pension plans like the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System, which offers a defined benefit for the lifetime of a retiree, into defined contribution plans, which are similar to 401(k) retirement plans.
Besides Merrick and Wagle, the other 16 House members listed by Legislative Administrative Services as attending this week’s ALEC meeting, all House Republicans, are: John Barker, Abilene; John Bradford, Lansing; Susan Concannon, Beloit; Erin Davis, Olathe; Willie Dove, Bonner Springs; Bud Estes, Dodge City; Ramone Gonzalez, Perry; Dan Hawkins, Wichita; Kyle Hoffman, Coldwater; Marvin Kleeb, Overland Park; Jerry Lunn, Overland Park; Charles Macheres, Shawnee; John Rubin, Shawnee; Ronald Ryckman Sr., Meade; Sharon Schwartz, Washington; Troy Waymaster, Bunker Hill.