ALEC In The Halls Of The Nevada Legislature: Update

NyeGateWay introduced the subject of ALEC and the state of Nevada on July 23, 2011, and referenced the radical right wing  efforts to influence state legislatures by drafting so-called model legislation for adoption by friendly solons.   The topic of ALEC and “tort reform” came up for NyeGateWay’s review on July 13, 2011.  But, wait! There’s more.  About 799 more examples of ALEC’s national templates.   No, we won’t review all of these in this post but there are some pieces of legislation from the recent legislative sessions which bear a remarkable similarity to the ALEC proposals.

Vote Suppression

Background:  ALEC has long sought to limit voting rights by supporting “voter identification” laws which presume that there is (a) massive voter fraud and (b) this always seems to happen when legislators not sympathetic to corporate wishes are elected by the voters.  Nevada has had some issues with voter registration irregularities, but has seen no instances of prosecutable voting fraud in recent elections — e-mail spam and right wing blog outrage noted. [NTB]  ALEC acolytes are quick to respond that ACORN was responsible for “voting fraud,” but the problem wasn’t phony voters at the actual polling sites it was that ACORN illegally compensated those collecting registrations.  [LVSun]  Dodgy forms were self reported by the organization to voting registrars.  The entire, sometimes hysterical, issue drifted off the front pages after one former ACORN field director accepted a sentence of up to 3 years probation for illegally compensating workers.

The ALEC version:  (pdf)

(a) “Proof of identity” means a document or identification card that:
(1) Shows the name of the person to whom the document was issued;
(2) Shows a photograph of the person to whom the document was issued;
(3) Contains an expiration date, and is not expired.
(4) Is issued by the United States or the {State of Arkansas}

The Nevada Version:  (SB 373)  Introduced by Senator Mike Roberson (R-LV)

Sec. 2. “Photographic identification” means one of the  following forms of identification if it bears a recognizable photograph of the person presenting it as identification: 1. A driver’s license or identification card issued by the  Department of Motor Vehicles.  2. An identification card issued by a branch of the Armed Forces of the United States. 3. A United States passport. 4. An identification card issued by an Indian tribe. 5. A voter identification card issued pursuant to section 3 of  this act.Sec. 3.

The Nevada version is clearly more specific than the ALEC model language, but the effect is similar.  SB373 simply designated those kinds of identification which would be considered valid.  The constitutionality of these voter identification statutes is questionable:

“Many Americans do not have the necessary identification that these laws require, and face barriers to voting as a result. Research shows, for example, that more than 21 million Americans do not have government-issued photo identification; a disproportionate number of these Americans are low-income, racial and ethnic minorities, and elderly. “

Voter identification measures are to no small extent solutions in search of a problem.  The problems are usually media generated.  Allegations of voting irregularities are made, and a local broadcaster or newspaper dutifully reports the allegations.  Proponents of voter restrictions promptly cite the newspaper reports and broadcasts as proof the initial stories were true, utilizing an echo chamber propaganda technique.  We should note that voter registration irregularity when perpetrated by conservative organizations rarely rises to the level of interest created by charges made against progressive or liberal groups,  as happened when Nathan Sproul & Associates violated Nevada registration laws in 2004.  [GWU.edu]

Special Needs Scholarships

No one wishes to stifle the education of special needs children, but why ALEC would be interested in the highly specific topic of Special Needs Scholarships isn’t too difficult to fathom since a for-profit online school company was an ALEC corporate co-chair in 2011.

The ALEC education task force met on July 21, 2006 in San Francisco and included the following agenda item:  “The Education Task Force convened with several new legislative proposals to consider.  The School Choice subcommittee reported on a proposal designed to give scholarships to autistic students to attend the private school of their parents’ choice.  Modeled after Ohio’s Autism Scholarship Program, the Autism Scholarship Act is similar to ALEC’s Special Needs Scholarship Act (which includes autistic children), but is tailored in an effort to offer states more legislative options.”

Lo and behold, in the wake of the ALEC interest in Special Needs Scholarships, state Senator Barbara Cegavske (R-LV) introduced SB 81 in the 75th session of the Nevada Legislature, to create a “Special Needs Scholarship” program.  The bill did not emerge from the Senate Finance Committee.

Alternative Teacher Certification

This is another area in which ALEC has expressed an interest.  An ALEC meeting in December 2005 proposed a format for alternative certification in its State and National Policy Summit:

The Task Force also passed a substitute bill of the Alternate Certification Act.  This model legislation permits persons with a comprehensive alternative certification to enter the teaching profession without having to have a bachelors or masters degree in education.  States should enact alternative teacher certification programs to prepare persons with subject area expertise and life experience to become teachers through a demonstration of competency and a comprehensive mentoring program.

The archives of the ultra-conservative Heartland Foundation has model language for an alternative certification bill.  A bill for ‘temporary’ alternative certification, SB 259, was introduced in the 75th Nevada legislative session by state Senator Barbara Cegavske (R-LV).  The bill missed the deadline during the 2009 session, and languished in the Senate Education Committee.

SB 315, sponsored by Senator Ben Kieckhefer (R-Washoe) in the 76th session had more success.  This bill requires the Nevada Commission on Professional Standards in Education to “provide for the licensure of teachers and administrators pursuant to an alternative route to licensure.”  ALEC is getting its message to conservative state legislators.

Qui Bono?

ALEC is not a lobby shop, it is a coalition of corporate interests which contributes to the drafting of model legislation  to the advantage of corporate interests.  The Center for Media and Democracy notes:

“More than 98% of ALEC’s revenues come from sources other than legislative dues, such as corporations, corporate trade groups, and corporate foundations. Each corporate member pays an annual fee of between $7,000 and $25,000 a year, and if a corporation participates in any of the nine task forces, additional fees apply, from $2,500 to $10,000 each year. ALEC also receives direct grants from corporations, such as $1.4 million from ExxonMobil from 1998-2009.”

Who is making those corporate donations?  In addition to ExxonMobil, it is supported by the Charles G. Koch Foundation,  the Koch managed Claude R. Lambe Foundation, the Scaife Family Allegheny Foundation,  the Coors Family Castle Rock Foundation, with less than 2% of its funding coming from dues payers.

We find the usual corporate suspects supporting ALEC’s model legislation.  The Altria Corp. (tobacco) wants moist tobacco products given a ‘tax break’ making flavored tobacco products cheaper.   Humana and UnitedHealth benefit from health savings accounts framed on ALEC model legislation.  Pharmaceutical giant Bayer benefits from ALEC’s model legislation to make it more difficult for consumers to find tort relief after injuries caused by dangerous products.  The Corrections Corporation of America benefits from anti-immigrant legislation.  And, Connections Academy, a large online education corporation, and co-chair of the ALEC Education Task Force, benefits from ALEC sponsored measures to privatize education and promote private on-line schools.

Resources and References

The Center for Media and Democracy has launched a web site, “ALEC Exposed,” which has a categorized listing of those topics of interest to this corporate coalition.  Not surprisingly, ALEC is most interested in “worker’s rights” (read: union busting), tort reform (in the interests of the corporations), privatizing schools and higher education, promoting the interests of pharmaceutical manufacturers and health insurance corporations, diminishing the capacity of the EPA to enforce the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, and vote suppression legislation, among other items in its wish lists.

We know that at least three members of the Nevada Legislature have sponsored bills aligned with the interests of ALEC in the recent past; we don’t know to date if these members of the Legislature are “card-carrying” water carriers for the corporate interests which support ALEC.

UPDATE:  ALEC members as identified in public sources – Senator Dean Rhoads,
Senator Greg Brower, Senator Ben Kieckhefer, (Senator William Raggio), (Senator Dennis Nolan), (Senator Maurice Washington), (Assemblyman Lynn C. Hettrick)

Citizen Outreach asked for signatures on a petition supporting Senator Barbara Cegavske to be Nevada’s ALEC chairperson  December 4, 2010

ALECWatch pdf,  News Review (Reno)

1 Comment

Filed under conservatism, Nevada legislature

One response to “ALEC In The Halls Of The Nevada Legislature: Update

  1. I was very disappointed to see Senator Dean Rhoads is an ALEC member. He is normal sometimes.