Thursday, August 4, 2011

Gov. Perry’s Legislative Agenda Bears Strong Resemblance To ALEC’s Corporate-Backed Model Bills

On July 15th this blog published an article about the American Legislative Exchange Council's (ALEC's) connection to Texas law making. ALEC is a “corporate front-group” that represents the interests of big-name corporations by drafting legislation for state lawmakers. ALEC, which has the support of conservative heavy-hitters like Koch Industries, Walmart, and ExxonMobil, has written close to 800 model bills as templates for legislators on a wide range of issues.

Today, Think Progress published an article detailing the close correlation of Gov. Perry's legislative initiatives with the legislative bills written by the American Legislative Exchange Council and circulated to affiliated conservative lawmakers in all fifty states.

ThinkProgress analysis of documents recently released by the Center for Media and Democracy show that ten of Perry’s recent initiatives mirror either ALEC model legislation or policy recommendations from ALEC’s state affiliate, the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation.

Perry designated four of ALEC's bills “emergency” legislation in the 2011 session — all of which became law. Here are two of those emergency bills (more below):

Bill: Voter Photo-ID Act
Perry’s Involvement: emergency item—regular session
Authors: Eight ALEC senators, including ALEC state chairman Sen. Kel Seliger and Sen. Troy Fraser, the recipient of $314,000 from its corporate members
Sponsors: Four ALEC representatives
Co-Sponsors: 28 ALEC representatives, including two ALEC state chairmen
ALEC Model Legislation: Voter ID Act
Similarities: requires a valid photo ID to vote; sets a strict six-day statute of limitations on provisional voters
Outcome: Perry signed into law on May 27

Bill: Tort Reform Act
Perry’s Involvement: emergency item—regular session
Authors: Two ALEC representatives, including state chairman Rep. Jim Jackson
Co-Authors: 30 ALEC representatives
Model Legislation: Litigation Accountability Act
Similarities: creates disincentives for citizens suing corporations by assigning all litigation costs to the claimant when a court dismisses a case as “groundless in fact or in law”
Outcome: Perry signed into law on May 30.

Perry has recently used his political capital to push policy positions strictly out of the ALEC playbook, even though his state faced a staggering budget shortfall, struggles with the highest percentage of residents without health insurance in the nation and ranks as the worst state for carbon pollution. His close financial and personal relationships with both ALEC and TPPF, however, shed some light on his legislative priorities.

Out of the 2,000 state lawmakers included among ALEC’s members, Perry has benefited “far and away the most of any candidate in the decade of data analyzed,” taking in more than $2 million in donations from 50 of its corporations. Just last August, he accepted the group’s highest honor, The Thomas Jefferson Freedom Award, which includes among its previous recipients the Koch brothers. Perry even spoke at ALEC’s Dec. 2010 conference.

Furthermore, he has nurtured strong working ties with TPPF, which Perry has described as “a quality outlet.” The ALEC state affiliate has also donated extravagantly to Perry’s campaigns over the years, with its 14 board members responsible for nearly $1.5 million in funds. He has reimbursed the conservative group’s investment by giving them all the proceeds from his latest book–and by appointing its members to important positions.

TPPF President Brooke Rollins used to serve as Perry’s Deputy General Counsel and as his Policy Director, and Perry has appointed three of the other board members to high-profile seats on the Regents Boards for Texas state university systems. Through those appointments, he has not been shy about pushing TPPF’s outcomes-based education policies, starting back in 2008 when he summoned all of the Texas regents to a TPPF seminar introducing seven “breakthrough” education initiatives.

But the biggest concern should be that, if Perry does end up throwing his hat in the ring for the GOP presidential nomination, his legislative agenda–and its ties to corporate America and ALEC–could impact more than just Texas.

For more examples of ALEC-influenced bills Perry has pushed, click here:

Bill: Truth in Condemnation Procedures Act
Perry’s Involvement: emergency item—regular session
Co-Authors: All eight ALEC senators
Model Legislation: TPPF published four recommendations for tort reform in a Feb. 28 article; all four made it into the bill.
Similarities: creates a “buyback amendment” and changes “public purpose” to “public use”
Outcome: Perry signed into law on May 19, alongside former ALEC state chairman and current Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples

Bill: Balanced Budget Amendment Resolution
Perry’s Involvement: emergency item—regular session
Authors: Three ALEC representatives
Co-Authors: 29 ALEC representatives, including Jim Jackson
Co-Sponsors: All eight ALEC senators
Model Legislation: The Balanced Budget Amendment
Similarities: call for Congress to draft and send a constitutional amendment to the states mandating the federal government maintain a balanced budget
Outcome: Perry signed on June 17.

Two bills that reflect his priorities in the 2011 special session:

Bill: No Sanctuary Cities Act
Perry’s Involvement: emergency item—both the regular and special sessions
Authors: All eight ALEC senators
Model Legislation: No Sanctuary Cities for Illegal Immigrants Act
Similarities: prohibit government entities from blocking either the enforcement of any federal immigration law or the sharing of immigration-status information
Outcome: Tabled in a House committee on June 20

Bill: Medicaid Block Grants
Perry’s Involvement: call for Medicaid legislation in special session
Author: Three ALEC senators, including Seliger
Model Legislation: Resolution on Federal Medicaid and Welfare Block Grants
Similarities: changes the Medicaid financing model to a capped block grant, thereby giving the state more control over who receives benefits
Outcome: Perry signed into law on July 18

Two legislative responses to the Affordable Care Act and increased Medicaid spending:

Bill: Resolution in Support of the Tenth Amendment
Perry’s Involvement: call for resolution as it could kill federal initiatives “outside of the scope of the federal government’s constitutionally designated powers…such as Obamacare
Authors: Three ALEC representatives
Co-authors: 30 ALEC representatives, including ALEC state chairman Rep. Charlie Howard and immediate past chairman Rep. Tom Craddick, who has received $828,000 in ALEC donations
Model Legislation: In its “The State Legislators Guide to Repealing Obamacare,” ALEC calls for state resolutions supporting the repeal.
Similarities: call for a constitutional amendment prohibiting the over-reach of federal power
Outcome: taken off the House intent calendar on May 25

Bill: The Health Freedom Act
Perry’s Involvement: The bill never made it far enough to draw a statement from Perry, but he has described the federal health-insurance mandate as “an egregious violation of our Constitutional rights.”
Author: ALEC Rep. Ken Paxton, who admittedly “relies on TPPF research
Model Legislation: Freedom of Choice in Health Care Act (also recommended by the ALEC State Legislators Guide)
Similarities: affirms the right to choose a health provider; prohibits the state from requiring health insurance participation
Outcome: left pending in committee on Mar. 17

Three bills aimed at reforming Texas education to mimic the corporate, outcomes-based model:

Bill: Higher Education Outcomes-Based Funding Act
Perry’s Involvement: call for action on the proposal
Authors: Three ALEC representatives, including House Higher Education Chair Rep. Dan Branch—a regular TPPF speaker
Co-Authors: Two ALEC representatives
Model Legislation: Resolution Calling for Greater Productivity in Higher Education
Similarities: takes into account graduation rates in higher-education funding allotments
Outcome: Perry signed into law on June 17

Bill: Teacher Retention Models Act
Perry’s Involvement: pushed results-based education reform that rewarded teachers’ performance in 2004, saying, “Texans will support school funding that is results-based because Texans want more education for their tax dollars”
Author: ALEC Sen. Florence Shapiro
Co-author: Three ALEC senators, including Seliger
Model Legislation: Teacher Qualification and Recognition Demonstration Act
Similarities: attacks tenure in favor of “teacher appraisals”
Outcome: Perry signed into law on June 19

Bill: Credit Agreement Act
Perry’s Involvement: 2009 executive order on education reform includes articulation agreements
Author: Branch
Model Legislation: Credit Articulation Agreement Act
Similarities: ease the credit transfer process between two-year and four-year state institutions
Outcome: Perry signed into law on June 17

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