ALEC and the 2014 Kansas Legislative Session

We've covered what ALEC is, and how much influence they have in the Kansas Legislature. But what are the effects of that influence? The effects have been striking. This session saw ALEC-modeled legislation that gutted public education, environmental protections, teacher rights, and more.

You have to keep in mind that it is very hard to discover just what bills are ALEC-produced, which are merely ALEC-inspired, and which are which are just common goals for all the extremists. ALEC is secretive not just about their membership, but about all their dealings. Here's the moderate position on that:

If you have to make laws in secret, you're not doing it right.

Why do it in secret? Well, ALEC legislation is written and funded by corporations to protect or increase their profits. ALEC model legislation has been introduced in State legislatures across the country. There are myriad stories of botched attempts by lazy legislators, some forget to remove the ALEC placeholders, some don't bother to read the legislation before introducing it. The legislators who introduce these bills are not representing their constituents. There is no public input. 

So, what about Kansas?

Here then, some of the efforts introduced in the 2014 Kansas Legislative Session that were produced or inspired by ALEC priorities and "model" legislation.

Next Generation Charter Schools

In March, House extremists introduced their answer to the KS Supreme Court's requirement that they equitably fund Kansas schools. This was House Bill 2773. It included language that the Wichita Eagle described as, "taken directly from 'The Next Generation Charter Schools Act,' a piece of model legislation crafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council, an organization known for promoting conservative legislation." [ Source ]

Just as with the ALEC model legislation, this bill was going to set up a separate School Board just for Charter Schools. That Board was going to be appointed by the Governor. This bill was going to remove restrictions on religious education in charter schools, restrictions that are enforced under the current, existing Kansas charter school legislation.

Of course, that bill raised a furor, and was replaced a few days later by one without charter schools included.

Removing Teacher Due Process

This provision, removing the option for an administrative hearing when a teacher is fired, was introduced as part of the education finance bill without discussion, without passing through the Education Committees, and without public input. "State Sen. Tom Arpke, R-Salina, introduced the amendment and had difficulty answering questions about it later in the debate." [ Source ]

This provision was included in the education finance bill that passed and was signed by the Governor. Here's the ALEC model where this policy was found, called the Teacher Quality and Recognition Act.

Innovative School Districts

The ALEC-model Innovative School Districts were introduced and passed last year (as HB 2319), but implemented this year. Once designated an Innovative District, a school district can opt to waive state requirements for student achievement and teacher certification. The ALEC model is designed to introduce charter school aspects into the public education system. In Kansas, it is unclear if these Innovative districts will be removed from the control of the Kansas State Board of Education, a key goal of the ALEC legislation. The Attorney General, Derek Schmidt (R) has not answered a request for clarification from the Kansas Department of Education. [ Source ]

Tax Credit Scholarships

A key ALEC policy, this was signed into law by the Governor, attached to the education finance bill. The measure failed to pass any education committee in the legislature, but was added at the end of the process anyway. Basically, corporations can "donate" money to the State, receiving a tax break of 70% of the donation. These funds are then given as "scholarships" to individual students to pay for any non-public school. "...the qualified schools spelled out in the bill are not required to be accredited, practice nondiscrimination, participate in state assessment tests or report student performance to the Kansas Board of Education." They can be religious schools, too, opening up the possibility of public money paying for religious education. [ Source ]

Repeal of Renewable Energy Requirements

A current statute requires that utility companies in Kansas include a certain percentage of renewable energy in their portfolios, most of it wind energy. ALEC and other groups have made a concerted effort to repeal these requirements, which would effectively kill green energy production in Kansas. While this repeal was defeated by a coalition of moderates and western Kansas legislators (where wind energy has produced jobs and saved farms), it may still come up again in the veto session. [ Source ]

Removing credit for solar energy at the meter

This session saw a failed effort by ALEC (introduced as HB 2458) to remove the ability of electric utility customers who generate their own energy (e.g., from solar panels) to receive credit on their bills for energy they contribute back to the grid. [ Source ]

Preventing competition for Cable utilities

SB 304, introduced based on model ALEC legislation, was designed to protect large cable utilities, but ran afoul of community cable efforts, and had to be scrapped. [ Source ]

State invalidating Federal Regulations

ALEC has long envisioned a model where states can ignore federal regulations when they wish to do so, and have model legislation supporting this. In Kansas, this effort was apparent with several initiatives directly opposing Federal regulations: The Healthcare Compact bill, designed to remove Kansas from the Federal ACA, if that is ever made legal [ Source ]; a bill declaring the Federal protection of the lesser prairie chicken "null and void and unenforceable" [ Source ]; a bill "that asserts that Kansas will make its own decisions about emissions from coal-fired plants." regardless of Federal regulations [ Source ]; last year's signed bill making it illegal for Federal agents to enforce gun laws on "Made in Kansas" firearms [ Source ] which was followed up by a bill this year wresting control of local gun regulations from local governments.

And More

The Center for Media and Democracy and Progress Missouri have released a report in the last few days on ALEC's influence in Kansas and Missouri. They include more bills that were introduced in the Legislature with ALEC ties. Read it here. 

The Guardian has published an article indicating that ALEC is creating a new sister organization whose mission is to provide model legislation to cities, towns, and municipalities. Is that the end of non-partisan local elections that we hear coming? The Guardian

Bill Moyers maintains a section of his site as an Eye on ALEC. His was the organization that produced the United States of ALEC documentary you should all watch.

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