Who writes our laws? - WNEM TV 5

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Who writes our laws?

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It's called ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council. 

The Arlington, Virginia based non-profit bills itself as representing limited government, free markets, and, federalism. It’s an organization where legislators and private sector leaders team up to discuss anything from education to healthcare.

Critics said it has too much influence on lawmakers in Michigan, more so than your typical lobby group.

"It will be shocking to some people that a lot of these folks are coming to Lansing, and going to these events with groups like ALEC, and sponsoring bills on behalf of corporations," said Lonnie Scott, with Progress Michigan.

His group opposes ALEC because they feel it has a heavy hand in the legislative process, including actually writing model legislation that its members often end up sponsoring.   

ALEC’s state chair is Senator Mike Green

He, along with Representative Tim Kelly, agreed to talk to TV5 about their involvement with the group. Green's pre-condition was that TV5 provide him with the topics in advance.

"ALEC has no pull in the legislative process," Green said. "They have a website. If you're not involved with ALEC, they have a website you can go to look over all the pieces of legislation that was developed by the different people attending ALEC conferences. It's put together by them and you can pull from that and use it if you're not a member."

Green said he doesn't recall ever introducing any of that model legislation.

But Kelly doesn’t back away from pointing out he has, for a measure to voucherize special education services.

"It basically would just allow parents to take their resources and purchase special ed services on the open market," Kelly said.

But who pays the membership fees so they can participate in ALEC?

Kelly said he doesn't use public dollars for that.

But Green said he does, because he insists his participation with ALEC actually benefits his constituents.

"I did use $100 out of my office expenses to pay my dues four years ago," Green said. "And I also used $100 to use for what it takes for us to join this year. I could pay for it out of my own pocket, but this is my job. Why shouldn't the people who have hired me to do this job pay for something that I expect to go to to learn about how to solve their problems."

With ALEC under the microscope, Kelly particularly feels the scrutiny is unwarranted, putting the blame squarely on liberal democrats.

"I don't think there's a balance at all," Kelly said. "Particularly in the media, no. I think it's all one sided, it's bullying, and I've particularly had enough of it. There's absolutely nothing wrong with ALEC. There's absolutely nothing wrong with the Koch Brothers. If you're suspected of groups trying to influence government, look on the other side as well."

Scott said they're pushing for new laws that would require ALEC-modeled bills to have a disclaimer because as it stands now, unless a legislator like Kelly tells you he used it, you may never know.

ALEC has responded to the criticism with this statement:

"Progress Michigan’s claims about ALEC are absolutely false. ALEC members’ groundbreaking work in educational freedom continues to open the door of opportunity for all students around the country. Progress Michigan’s policies, on the other hand, are the types of big-government failures that led Detroit to bankruptcy. ALEC members work to make government more efficient, effective and accountable, and it is a shame Progress Michigan works against those goals."

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