The EnvironmentaLIST: The most dangerous “model” laws written by ALEC

by Cassady Sharp

July 17, 2013

The same law that contributed to George Zimmerman walking free out of a Florida courtroom last weekend after taking the life of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was primarily written by the same super lobbying group behind legislation protecting natural gas companies from disclosing chemicals used in fracking. The American Legislative Exchange, or ALEC, is a unique kind of lobbying front group responsible for pushing legislation designed to enhance the bottom line of their corporate funders. Corporations like Koch Industries, ExxonMobil, Duke Energy, along with industry trade associations and large corporate foundations provide more than 98 percent of ALECs funding, whose members, which includes elected officials and corporations, write and pass laws that will benefit those corporations. Via the laws ALEC pushes through state legislatures, the lobbying group impacts Americans nationwide from voting right laws to environmental regulations (or lack thereof) to guns like Stand Your Ground. We've collected the most significant ALEC laws that could be coming to a state legislature near you, if they arent there already.

7. Electricity Freedom Act(see model bill)

This act prevents states from requiring their energy companies to increase electricity production from renewable energy sources, killing a key government incentives for clean energy projects. ALEC falsely claims that any renewable energy mandate sacrifices economic growth and American competitiveness, a dead horse they have continued to beat for decades. Because of the economic benefits of renewable energy standards in states likeNorth Carolinaand Kansasand in spite ofsupport from ALEC's otherKoch-funded friendsin theState Policy Network,ALEC's most heated attacks on RPS were shot down by Democrats and Republicans alike. Quieter ALEC-supported attempts to repeal or weaken RPS laws also failed in Ohio, Minnesota, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Maine and Oregon--not a good start for ALEC's top energy-related priority this year.

6. Resolution in Support of the Keystone XL Pipeline(see model bill)

ALEC is trying to use state resolutions to add pressure to the federal government to approve TransCanada's Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. In fact, ALEC took its member legislators on a Big Oil-funded trip to Alberta, Canada to promote tar sands, courtesy of lobbyists from TransCanada, Shell, Devon Energy, and other oil and gas interests. ALEC's conferences have featured seminars on the controversial pipeline, featuring speakers from oil companies and the Canadian government alike. The Center for Media and Democracy, which runs ALECexposed.org, has filed an ethics complaint in Nebraskafor a legislator's failure to disclose the trip and its sponsors. Keep in mind that ALEC is a tax-exempt organization, and their lobbying doesn't count as lobbying to the IRS. While ALEC has its own model resolution, its state legislator members introduced resolutions straight out of a TransCanada press release, coordinating across state borders to get an apparent jump in support for Keystone XL in Missouri, Michigan, Minnesota and Mississippi all at once.

5. Voter ID Act (see model bill)

These laws prohibit about 11 percent of citizens from votingby requiring a government-issued ID to vote at the polls. This 11 percent overwhelmingly consists of elderly people, low-income and minority voters and students. 33 states now have voter id laws and four states now have strict photo id requirements in effect. With the Supreme Courts recent gutting of the Voting Rights Act, we can expect this number to increase with ALECs full support.

4. Arizona's SB 1070 Immigration Law: "No Sanctuary for Illegal Immigrants Act" (see model bill)

In short, this bill was ALEC's way of making private prison companies rich by rounding up brown people without documentation and tossing them in jail. Although most of this law was struck down in Arizona, the "papers please" provision survives requiring law enforcement to check a person's status if they are stopped, detained or arrested. State legislators and prison and bail industry lobbyists met at an ALEC meeting to write the law which originally stated that law enforcement had to check a person's status only after "contact." The Arizona legislature changed narrowed the law to the current language.

3. Disclosure of Hydraulic Fracturing Fluid Composition Act (see model bill)

The title of this bill is a lie--ALEC's flagship fracking bill prevents oil and gas companies from having to disclose the chemicals in frack fluids that qualify as "trade secrets." Who took the idea to ALEC? ExxonMobil. Bloomberg reports that the ALEC bill has been introduced in at least eight states, although there appear to be more. Exxon's bill became Ohio law with ALEC's help, and aparticularly controversial fracking law sponsorship by ALEC legislatorspassed in North Carolina last year without anyone reporting ALEC's fingerprints. DeSmogBlog has documented attempts in Florida, Illinois and several other states. ALEC previously drafted a state resolution that puts the regulating authority into the hands of state agencies, which are woefully understaffed, underfunded and ineffectiveat regulating the powerful gas and oil industry, creating a one-two punch that leaves fracked communities in the dark on chemical disclosure and at the mercy of insufficient and often captured regulatory agencies for protection from fracking pollution.

2. Intrastate Coal and Use Act (see model bill)

This act serves toprevent EPA from regulating the coal industry. Specifically, the act prevents the EPA from overruling state permits for coal mining and producing dirty coal products(like liquid coal for fuel) if all the coal operations are conducted within the borders of a single state. This act relies on the "Commerce Clause" claiming that the federal government can only regulate commerce that goes beyond state lines, flying in the face of settled Supreme Court interpretation of the dormant Commerce Clause. The first version of this bill was passed in West Virginia in 2011, a state with 273 operating coal mines as of 2011.

1. Stand Your Ground (see model bill)

Considering the recent national tragedy of the Trayvon Martin ruling and the violence "Stand Your Ground" releases, this law should be repealed immediately in the states it's active. In strong conjunction with the NRA, ALEC has managed to push versions of this law in over two dozen states. It allows any killer to claim immunity if they felt a reasonable fear of bodily harm. The Florida version of this law passed in 2005 and was written by a NRA lobbyist. ALEC is behind loads of more dangerous laws or proposed resolutions that must be exposed, blocked or repealed if active. Please let us know other significant ones we missed in the comments below. And take action to cut ties between ALEC and the nation's largest utility company Duke Energy, a relationship polluting Americans and democracy. And read last week's EnvironmentaLIST.

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