More than a thousand conservative lawmakers and business executives have gathered this week for a conference that could shape a new wave of Republican legislation in state capitols pushing for deeper tax cuts, limits on union powers and a private-sector makeover for government Medicaid programs.
Attendees at the American Legislative Exchange Council were countered Thursday by a roughly equal number of protesters upset by the close ties between big businesses and lawmakers. As meeting participants handed out awards and dined at a meal sponsored by the Texas Oil and Gas Association, picketers denouncing "corporate greed" paced the sidewalks and clogged the street in front of the Chicago hotel hosting the conference.
Community activists, labor groups, and other progressives are continuing the protests on Friday with a heavy police presence expected again after brutal arrests on Thursday:
Unions members attended the protests, ALEC Exposed was on hand, as well as teachers. The protests shut down Monroe Street in front of the Palmer hotel.
Police were doing "snatch and grab" arrests and beating school teachers.
In the first part of the video below, police are using metal barriers to hem in demonstrators in front of The Palmer House Hilton Hotel in Chicago on Thursday, then moments later a police commander (white shirt) shoves a demonstrator from behind and makes a grab at another, prompting a short tugging match. Police then charge into the crowd randomly tossing people to the pavement:
Next, this video is from the "Stand Your Ground Die-In" protest as ALEC advocates "Stand Your Ground" legislation:
No word yet on how many arrests there have been, or if anyone has been injured. Probably because there is little national news coverage of the protests. I'll update as information comes in.
Friday's protests have begun, and you can view the action via the livestream below:
The conservative organization's 40th annual meeting comes as it is experiencing increased influence due to a growth in Republican-led legislatures and enhanced opposition from liberal-leaning groups that have successfully persuaded some corporations to drop their support of the council. Businesses provide the bulk of the financing for the association, and industry officials serve with lawmakers on closed-door, issue-oriented task forces that develop model legislation for states.
The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) released a new report in time for the ALEC gathering: "ALEC at 40: Turning Back the Clock on Prosperity and Progress." The report identifies and analyzes 466 American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) bills introduced in 2013. CMD researched five areas: 1) Voter ID and Stand Your Ground legislation, 2) wages and worker rights, 3) public education, 4) the environment, and 5) citizen access to the courts. Research continues on other areas of ALEC’s agenda. Key Findings:
CMD identified 466 ALEC bills from the 2013 session. 84 of these passed and became law. ALEC bills were introduced in every state in the nation and the District of Columbia in 2013. The top ALEC states were West Virginia (25 bills) and Missouri (21 bills).
Despite ALEC’s effort to distance itself from Voter ID and Stand Your Ground by disbanding its controversial Public Safety and Elections Task Force, 62 of these laws were introduced: 10 Stand Your Ground bills and 52 bills to enact or tighten Voter ID restrictions. Five states enacted additional Voter ID restrictions, and two states passed Stand Your Ground.
CMD identified 117 ALEC bills that affect wages and worker rights. 14 of these became law. These bills included so-called “Right to Work” legislation, part of the ALEC agenda since at least 1979, introduced in 15 states this year. Other bills would preempt local living or minimum wage ordinances, facilitate the privatization of public services, scrap defined benefit pension plans, or undermine the ability of unions to organize to protect workers.
CMD identified 139 ALEC bills that affect public education. 31 of these became law. Just seven states did not have an ALEC education bill introduced this year. Among other things, these bills would siphon taxpayer money from the public education system to benefit for-profit private schools, including the “Great Schools Tax Credit Act,” introduced in 10 states.
CMD identified 77 ALEC bills that advance a polluter agenda. 17 of these became law. Numerous ALEC “model” bills were introduced that promote a fossil fuel and fracking agenda and undermine environmental regulations. The “Electricity Freedom Act,” which would repeal state renewable portfolio standards, was introduced in six states this year.
CMD identified 71 ALEC bills narrowing citizen access to the courts. 14 of these became law. These bills cap damages, limit corporate liability, or otherwise make it more difficult for citizens to hold corporations to account when their products or services result in injury or death.