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Progress Florida examines ALEC’s role in education

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013 by John Kennedy

Progress Florida, the liberal advocacy organization, released a report Tuesday examining the wide-ranging influence the American Legislative Exchange Council has on public education in Florida and across the nation.

ALEC, which has been criticized as a collaboration of multinational corporations and conservative lawmakers, has become a premier force behind the charter school movement, corporate voucher programs and online education, Progress Florida concludes.

“Floridians need to know who is representing, and how cozy their lawmakers are with, the for-profit education industrial complex,” said Mark Ferrulo, executive director of Progress Florida.

ALEC helped shape sweeping changes to the Florida Retirement System proposed in the state Legislature this spring. Although the plan advanced by House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, failed to clear the Senate, Weatherford has said he expects the measure to be back next year.

ALEC also has advocated changes in environmental and labor laws, voter ID measures and pro-gun laws such as the “stand your ground” legislation, which came into focus following Trayvon Martin’s shooting death last year in Central Florida.

In Florida, where free-market conservative Republicans control every phase of state government, ALEC’s model bills have proved a touchstone for many policies. But the model legislation can also prove a two-way street, with ALEC’s stand-your-ground proposal shopped nationally after first being approved by Florida lawmakers.

ALEC quits gun policy, lefties want more

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012 by Dara Kam

It isn’t enough that the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, has backed down from Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law after spreading it around the country, some left-leaning groups say.

Now they want lawmakers to quit the group as well. Progress Florida has launched a statewide campaign urging its supporters to tell legislators to “disavow the group’s extremist and secretive influence on Florida law making.” Other national groups are urging state lawmakers and more businesses to do the same.

ALEC – the business-backed organization that provides prepackaged bills for lawmakers, many of which have been used by the GOP-dominated Florida legislature – yesterday announced it was discontinuing its “Public Safety” and “Elections” task forces that promoted controversial measures including “Stand Your Ground” and voter ID laws that critics say make it harder for minorities to cast their ballots.

The move came after at least 10 corporations refused to renew their memberships in ALEC, a decades-old organization relatively unknown until the Trayvon Martin shooting thrust ALEC into the national spotlight.

Neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman claimed he shot the unarmed teenager in self-defense. Florida’s first-in-the-nation, 2005 law allows people to use deadly force when they feel threatened. ALEC pushed Florida’s NRA-backed bill, and about two dozen states have adopted similar laws.

Progress Florida as well as national groups, including Common Cause, complain that the corporations behind ALEC are crafting the model bills then sponsored by state lawmakers.

For example, state Rep. Rachel Burgin, R-Riverview, earlier this year sponsored a memorial urging Congress to cut the federal corporate tax rate.

But the proposal’s first “whereas” clause mistakenly revealed the source of the bill language.

“WHEREAS, it is the mission of the American Legislative Exchange Council to advance Jeffersonian principles of free markets, limited government, federalism, and individual liberty,” Burgin’s memorial reads.

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