Open to the third page of today’s Argus Leader, and you’ll see a full page of three reader responses to the taxpayer subsidy for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) that South Dakota’s Republican legislators approved in early May. They are worth reading in their entirety. But here are excerpts from each for your reading:
Ryan Gruber, 35, of Sioux Falls, is principal horn for the South Dakota Symphony and a former Republican legislative staffer in Wisconsin, 2001-2005.
“When it comes to public policy, ALEC is the middleman that wipes the fingerprints off the murder weapon. Major corporations and wealthy donors don’t want their names attached to legislative initiatives, as it makes passage more difficult. So they work through groups such as ALEC that gladly afford them the degree of separation that they need to better advance their agenda. How do they do it? Corporations cut big checks to ALEC. ALEC then holds conventions that state legislators (and sometimes spouses and families) attend with financial assistance provided by these same corporations (ALEC laughably calls them “scholarships”). Legislators mostly socialize, but attend a few meetings that primarily serve as a conduit for distributing pre-prepared, donor-friendly model legislation that these legislators then take back to their home states and try to pass into law.”
Robert Burns, Ph.D., 70, of Brookings, is professor emeritus, Political Science Department, South Dakota State University.
“Documents show that at ALEC conferences, state lawmakers are presented with state model legislation prepared by corporate, free enterprise and conservative interests and are coached by ALEC staff and corporate representatives on a legislative strategy to introduce and shepherd the legislation through the state legislature. Recent year “model legislation” includes “stand your ground” legislation like that in Florida, restrictive state immigration acts that have since been found unconstitutional by federal courts, state voter I.D. and limited early voting legislation suspended by federal courts in some states during the 2012 election, anti-public employee and anti-public school union legislation, privatization of public school functions legislation, anti-state environmental protection legislation, low business and corporation tax legislation, reduced business workplace regulations, pro-gun legislation, anti-animal rights legislation including the criminalization of photographing or video taping commercial treatment of animals… The recent action of the South Dakota Legislative Research Council Executive Committee to authorize payment of individual legislator’s membership fees in ALEC and to fund individual legislator’s attendance and participation in ALEC conferences is perhaps comparable to funding the same for membership in and attendance at National Chamber of Commerce or NRA events. It is a highly questionable and clearly a partisan use of public money.”
Rep. Paula Hawks(D-Hartford) is a state legislator from District 9.
“This has been publicly defended as an educational opportunity for our legislators. As a professional educator, I appreciate any chance for continuing education. However, as a professional educator, if I wanted to maintain a professional membership (National Science Teachers Association, National Education Association and South Dakota Science Teachers Association), I had to pay those dues out of my own pocket. If I wanted to attend a summer conference for my own continuing education (that my school was not requiring me to attend), I had to pay for the travel expenses and conference fees out of my own pocket. When I needed to renew my certificate so I could continue teaching, I paid for the classes and the renewal fee out of my own pocket. I did not ask — nor would it have occurred to me to ask — the taxpayers to pay for that for me. That is my professional responsibility.”
Fed up with Republican legislators using tax dollars for ALEC dues and travel? Be a petition signer and email this article to your friends today! With your signature, we can show Republican legislators that they’ve abused South Dakota taxpayers for too long, and using tax dollars for ALEC dues is the last straw.