State Sen. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, is getting heat from her opponent regarding Angel’s involvement with the American Legislative Exchange Council. This is something we addressed in the 2013 election, but since this treads into matters of substance, it’s worth revisiting.
ALEC is a nationwide organization that goes to great efforts to get conservative policies enacted in state legislatures. Angel is a conservative and has been affiliated with the organization for some time. She has never really denied that, but when she wrote the Facebook post you see pictured on the left here, she never let on that Rick Perry, Texas governor and one-time candidate for president who recalled two of the three agencies he planned to eliminate, was speaking at an ALEC conference when she snapped his picture and gushed, “what a champion!”
At its core the question that seems worth asking is whether Angel or Arbogast better represent the values of the 26th District, and Angel’s affiliation with ALEC could be evidence to support whatever conclusion you make. Instead much of the debate centers on whether legislators should be sponsoring what are called “model bills.” A model bill is one written in one place and used either verbatim or as a template in several states.
Some of ALEC’s model legislation would ban states from prohibiting insurance companies from using credit scores to deny or charge more for coverage, is tough on minimum wage standards, goes after Obamacare and would limit how much a state could require electric utilities to provide a certain percentage of its energy from clean energy sources.
This issue arises from the following exchange that took place in the Oct. 7 Bremerton Area Chamber of Commerce Eggs & Issues forum between Angel and Democrat Judy Arbogast.
Question: Can ALEC really write laws that best serve a state as diverse as Washington, and if yes, how?
Arbogast: Absolutely not. ALEC provides ready-made legislation for every state and that’s the biggest problem. It’s also backed by big corporations, not the people who are trying to actually solve the problems. People who know me know that I’ve been very opposed to ALEC since I first heard about it. I certainly know that it’s not good for the people. That’s why any bills that I propose will come from the people themselves, They will not be premade as some of the bills have been presented by my opponent.
Angel: Your opponent has never offered an ALEC bill that I’m aware of, (And at this point you can hear people laughing at the statement) the only ALEC bill, seriously, the only ALEC bill that’s come to the Legislature actually came through your governor, Gov. Inslee, And I want to talk, I’m so glad this question came up, because ALEC stands for the American Legislative Exchange Council. I belong to that. The mission statement is free market and individual liberties. I am proud to stand for that. I make no apology and I actually question anyone that would question those values. As far as model legislation, we sit on task force, which I am proud to sit on Economic Development, Commerce and Insurance. That task force works on issues nationally. The last task force meeting I attended we worked on national catastrophes like the slide that we just had, how did that affect everybody ’s insurance premiums. Now if a model bill is written it is up to the legislature whether they take it back to their state. And if the state House and Senate pass it and the governor signs it, maybe it’s a good bill.
We’ll dissect those arguments later, but following the debate and after my story was written, Samara Ressler, campaign manager for Arbogast, sent me an email titled “Forum Clarification.” She then provided a list of three bills Angel co-sponsored Ressler said come from ALEC model bills. They are Senate Bills 6300 and 6307 during the 2014 session and House Bill 1804 in 2011.
SB 6300 would have required more unions to increase financial reporting requirements and does seem to have much the same language as ALEC’s model legislation, “Union Financial Responsibility Act.” SB 6307 prohibits local jurisdictions from enacting minimum wage requirements higher than the state’s. It is much the same as ALEC’s “Living Wage Mandate Preemption Act.”
The House Bill 1804 in 2011 would have prevented the state from spending any money to implement Obamacare. At the time the justification was the health care reform measure was still making its way through constitutional challenges. Supporters said they didn’t want to burden the state with efforts for a program that could become moot. I don’t see ALEC’s direct fingerprint on this bill, but it’s old enough that it might have just disappeared from the organization’s website. And ALEC wrote a lot of legislation aimed at weakening health care reform, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility this started with ALEC.
This gets to the core issue. Whether the bill was an ALEC model or not, it would have limited the impact of federal health care reform efforts. What is the more important factor to you?
When we addressed this similar question in 2013, we pointed out that lots of organizations write model bills. ALEC might do it the most, but several organizations do it. Legislators don’t write many of the bills they propose. They are written by lobbyists, lawyers and others who have an interest. And I’m willing to bet that when legislators do write their own bills, they get lots of help.
This is not to say that finding out whether a bill is a model bill is unimportant. An organization like ALEC has a specific mission and won’t typically write legislation that doesn’t forward that mission.
So let’s break down the forum comments.
Arbogast: ALEC provides ready-made legislation for every state and that’s the biggest problem.
“Model” legislation is a “problem” in the sense that it could be trying to solve a problem no one was aware anyone had. Beyond that, though, you have to give the Legislature enough credit that it will tackle issues it deems important. If a model bill, tweaked to reflect what’s needed in legislative language in Washington, addresses an issue enough legislators think is worthy of attention, the bill can make it to the governor’s desk.
Arbogast: People who know me know that I’ve been very opposed to ALEC since I first heard about it. I certainly know that it’s not good for the people.
This is the values statement that would seem to be the more important issue.
Arbogast: That’s why any bills that I
propose will come from the people themselves, They will not be
premade as some of the bills have been presented by my
Angel: Your opponent has never offered an ALEC bill that I’m aware of.
If Arbogast wins I suspect some on the right will watch the
bills she sponsors to see if there’s anything else out there that’s
similar to trace a bill at its roots. It might be a model bill from
an organization on the left.
Angel’s claim that she never offered an ALEC bill rests on whether you think “offered” means she was the prime sponsor. We showed that she co-sponsored bills using ALEC bills as models, but she has not been prime.
Angel: The only ALEC bill that’s come to the Legislature actually came through your governor, Gov. Inslee.
We did address that claim last year and there is some dispute. The governor’s office said its bill dealing with one aspect of climate change did not come from an ALEC model, but a spokesman for the Washington Policy Center said that it did. Angel is off in saying the “only ALEC bill” unless what she meant by “come through to the Legislature” was “passed the Legislature.” Otherwise, her co-sponsorship of two ALEC-based bills seems to negate her statement.
Angel: ALEC stands for the American Legislative Exchange Council. I belong to that. The mission statement is free market and individual liberties. I am proud to stand for that. I make no apology and I actually question anyone that would question those values.
When Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Bershire Hathaway Energy, Intel, Bank of America, etc. decided to stop participating with ALEC I doubt any of them were troubled with the concept of free markets or individual liberties. Google’s Eric Schmidt was especially harsh answering a question from a caller to the Diane Rehm show:
Kristen: I’m curious to know if Google is still supporting ALEC, which is that fund lobbyist in D.C. that are funding climate change deniers.
Schmidt: We funded them as part of a political game for something unrelated. I think the consensus within the company was that that was sort of a mistake. And so we’re trying to not do that in the future.
Rehm: And how did you get involved with them in the first place? And were you then disappointed in what you saw?
Schmidt: Well, the company has a very strong view that we should make decisions in politics based on facts. What a shock. And the facts of climate change are not in question anymore. Everyone understands climate change is occurring. And the people who oppose it are really hurting our children and our grandchildren and making the world a much worse place. And so we should not be aligned with such people. They’re just literally lying.
I’m guessing Angel would differ with Schmidt on that.