Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Brownback says perception of ALEC influence is 'overblown'

TOPEKA, KAN. — The presence of the American Legislative Exchange Council agenda in the Kansas Legislature can't be denied, but Gov. Sam Brownback thinks the perception of ALEC's influence is "overblown."

"They do model legislation, they have meetings, but there are probably hundreds of groups that do model legislation and hold meetings. I think it gets overblown a lot," Brownback said during an interview Monday with the Lawrence Journal-World.

ALEC describes itself as a group that promotes free markets, limited government, federalism and individual freedom.

But its critics say it is a front for corporate interests that push legislation in Statehouses across the nation.

Both Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, and House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, have held high-ranking positions with ALEC over the years.

Approximately 50 Kansas legislators, all Republicans, are members of the group.

In recent years, the Republican-dominated Legislature and Brownback have approved numerous ALEC-developed bills.

Brownback's personal and business income tax cuts are modeled after ALEC policies.

In 2011, Brownback wrote a foreword to ALEC’s annual report, “Rich States, Poor States,” which is written by economist Art Laffer, whom Brownback hired as a $75,000 consultant on Kansas’ tax-cutting plan.

Brownback also signed into law the ALEC-inspired Health Care Freedom Act, which was designed as an impediment to federal health reform.

In recent years, ALEC has come under increased criticism and has been losing corporate members after civil rights and government watchdog groups complained about ALEC's push for voter ID and so-called "stand your ground" laws.