Florida Legislature
1:40 pm
Tue December 4, 2012

Progressives Warn State Lawmakers About ALEC's Influence

The American Legislative Exchange Council has had years of influence in Florida politics.
The American Legislative Exchange Council has had years of influence in Florida politics.
Credit ALEC.org

Progress Florida and Florida Watch Action-- two influential progressive groups in the state-- have launched a preemptive attack on the influence of ALEC in the Florida Legislature. 

ALEC, or the American Legislative Exchange Council, is a pro-business political outfit that hands out model conservative legislation to state lawmakers who follow a conservative agenda.

In Florida, ALEC has had significant influence. More than 60 members of the Legislature pay dues to the group and several ALEC bills have been introduced through the past few years. The bills  ranged from anti-health care reform bills, to prison privatization and immigration reform bills.

Progress Florida and Florida Watch Action sent a letter to every member of the Florida Legislature letting them know of ALEC's influence and that they are watching how they will respond to it.

Specifically, they are asking each member (including returning members) to let them know whether they will join ALEC. 

Damien Filer, the political director of Progress Florida, says that this is the newest idea of theirs in an effort to  curb ALEC's influence in Florida.

"Last year, we did an extensive report on their influence that was intended to remove the curtain on how a group like ALEC works," he says.

He says now that the new members are coming in to Legislature they felt they had to let them know the way ALEC works and that they will likely be contacted by the group soon.

"We want to warn them," Filer says.

Here is the complete letter being sent to Florida Legislators this week:

First, hearty congratulations from Progress Florida and Florida Watch Action on your Election Day victory. We look forward to working with you to protect Florida’s middle class and build a better Florida.

Progress Florida and Florida Watch Action are statewide, multi-issue progressive advocacy organizations working to address pressing social and economic issues. We partner as a communications hub for the progressive community to provide a strong, credible voice in advancing progressive policy solutions.

Our organizations have been active on many issues that protect middle class Floridians: social justice, health care reform, environmental protection, economic fairness, strengthening public education and more. We advocate for sensible policy solutions by empowering citizens in their communities. Each year, we release our scorecard of “Middle Class Champions” to recognize lawmakers that demonstrate through their votes that they are working for middle class Floridians and not corporate special interests.

Speaking of special interests, in addition to our letter of congratulations and introduction, we are writing today to warn you about another organization that may contact you: the American Legislative Exchange Council, otherwise known as ALEC. When it comes to out-of-state special interests exerting undue influence over Florida policy making, no group is more prolific than the bill mill known as ALEC.

Through ALEC, behind closed doors, corporations hand state legislators the changes to the law they desire that directly benefit their bottom line, often at the expense of the public interest.  Along with legislators, corporations have membership in ALEC. Corporations sit on all nine ALEC task forces and vote with legislators to approve “model” bills. It is unlikely that ALEC will share this background with you when they solicit your membership; more likely they will present themselves as a resource for state legislators and a hub for legislative ideas.

In Florida and across the nation, people are becoming increasingly concerned about corporate influence over our elections and our lawmaking. Progress Florida and Florida Watch Action have worked closely with state and national allies to expose ALEC's influence in Florida and elsewhere. You can view a full description and report of their activities in our state by visiting http://media.progressflorida.org/files/alecinflorida.pdf.

When you are contacted by ALEC, they will likely ask you to become a member to help push their anti-middle class agenda that has already proven harmful to our state. That’s why we are asking new and returning legislators to write us back and identify whether or not they will become an ALEC member.

It is important for Floridians to know that their elected representatives are focused on legislation that will benefit real Floridians, not out of state corporate special interests. Legislators who inform us that they will not be joining ALEC are invited to join us for legislative actions to help turn the tide against corporate special interests and their influence in Tallahassee. For more information, please visit www.ALECExposed.org or contact us at 727-289-2612.

Sincerely,

Mark Ferrulo, Executive Director

Progress Florida

Susannah Randolph, Executive Director

Florida Watch Action