If Paul Revere were alive and in Utah last week, I’d imagine he’d have been ringing the alarm for us all screaming, “ALEC is coming, ALEC is coming!” Yes, it’s true. ALEC, also known as the American Legislative Exchange Council, was in town last week, and we should all be worried. The questionable ethics of ALEC go beyond just the dangerous policies proposed. At one Georgia conference, republican lawmakers were swept away to a fancy resort where they were wine and dined after completing their sketchy business for the day. However, although not every conference may be so extravagant for each ALEC lawmaker, there does seem to be one main recurring theme: corporate lobbyists cozy up with lawmakers behind closed doors to vote on “model legislation” as equals. ALEC, funded almost entirely by corporations, has a special way of swaying lawmakers. Not only do some of these lawmakers enjoy the lavish luxuries of being swept away on ‘vacation,’ some also receive enormous campaign donations from ALEC’s lobbyists. So what does that mean? It means the legislation being voted on benefits corporations, and in turn, leaves the people like you and me behind.
Here in Utah we have plenty of lawmakers with ties to ALEC; in fact, Senate President Stuart Adams is the ALEC National Chair. ALEC is well known for proposing what they call, “model legislation.” This legislation can be used by any ALEC member in any state. Lawmakers can use the ALEC model legislation word for word, only filling in the name of their state on the blank lines, or they can simply use it as inspiration to craft their own bills. The problem is that the model legislation being proposed is often detrimental to our communities, economy, and environment.
Speaking of the environment, how fortuitous that ALEC decided to drop into town when our air quality was even more abysmal from the uncontrollable wildfires in the West, the frequency and intensity of which have been exacerbated by climate change. The saddest part is, even when it’s right in front of their faces, they will still prioritize corporations over our ability to breathe clean air—at least, that’s what their track record proves.
Rejecting science is the norm for ALEC model legislation. In fact, when ALEC proposed the Resolution in Opposition to EPA’s Plan to Regulate Greenhouse Gases under the Clean Air Act, Utah quickly followed suit. In 2010, H.J.R. 12 Climate Change Joint Resolution was passed by the Utah Legislature. This Resolution denies climate change and asks the EPA “…to cease its carbon dioxide reduction policies, programs, and regulations until climate data and global warming science are substantiated.” And yes, the Legislature has since passed a resolution admitting the truth about climate change, however, it’s now 2021 and we are breathing some of the worst air we’ve ever experienced. All that to say is, asking the EPA to dismiss its carbon dioxide “Endangerment Finding” was highly dangerous to our health, and the health of our environment.
This less than exemplary behavior is just a scratch at the surface when it comes to the damage that ALEC’s model legislation has had on our state. ALEC’s toxic influence has seeped into our healthcare policy, education policy, economic policy, and so much more. Our lawmakers are responsible for representing us, not corporations. It’s time we tell ALEC to pack up and leave, and remind our lawmakers who they are accountable to.