Last year, our state legislature considered a bill familiarly called the “ag-gag” bill, which sought to prevent whistleblowers from exposing animal abuse, unsafe working conditions and environmental violations on industrial farms. Once the public became aware, strong opposition stopped the bill.
What we may not have noticed is that bills of identical or almost identical wording were introduced in conservative-majority statehouses across the country. One explanation is that the measure was initiated by the Republican National Committee or a major conservative think tank. That’s not the case.
If we were paying attention, we would’ve noticed presumably coincidental legislative events in red states across the country, including Tennessee, involving bills to limit workplace rights and labor standards, to complicate voting rights, to instate “stand your ground” policies, to use public monies to subsidize private K-12 schools and to attack teachers and their unions. None of these bills originated with the Republican National Committee, and likely none was conceived or written by the legislator who introduced it.
These bills are the latest of hundreds introduced over decades from a common source — the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC wasn’t on the public radar until 2011, when a whistleblower handed the Center for Media and Democracy an exposé of the history and inner workings of the organization and copies of 800 model bills of the 1,000 or so that have now been written and approved by ALEC members.