On Saturday, a Florida jury found George Zimmerman not guilty of shooting unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin. The case has put a spotlight on the state’s Stand Your Ground Law, which enabled Zimmerman to initially walk free because it allows the use of deadly force in self-defense. In the wake of the jury’s ruling, President of the National Urban League Marc Morial turned attention back to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative, corporate-backed group that crafts model legislation and is behind the country’s wave of Stand Your Ground laws.
ALEC has pushed other destructive laws across the country, many of which are already being adopted:
1. Pushing voter suppression laws: The group’s model legislation was a big factor in the wave of voter suppression laws passed ahead of the 2012 election in states such as Texas, Wisconsin, and Florida. These bills include restrictive ID requirements, cutting back on early voting, residency restrictions that often impact enrollment for college students, putting roadblocks in the way of mass voter registrations, and others. While the group vowed to focus just on economic issues after corporations pulled funding in response to these voter efforts, the efforts are still moving forward in many states.
2. Reducing or eliminating income taxes: Research conducted for ALEC has claimed that cutting the income tax rate in states will spur growth and create jobs, and many states have followed up on this research and proposed just such plans. The group’s connection to anti-tax efforts was made abundantly clear when a state lawmaker neglected to remove its mission statement from a boilerplate bill.
3. Blocking paid sick leave bills: While the movement to guarantee workers paid sick days has gained momentum at the city and state level, as New York City just joined four other cities and Connecticut with such a bill, ALEC has been behind a counter effort to make sure these laws can’t be enacted. The latest such bill passed in Florida, where local governments are now forbidden from enacting paid sick leave legislation. They have also cropped up in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Mississippi.
4. Attacking efforts to raise wages: More than 100 bills have been introduced in 31 state legislatures since 2011 that are aimed at repealing or weakening laws that raise wages at the local level, 67 of which were “directly sponsored or co-sponsored by ALEC-affiliated legislators,” according to a report from the National Employment Law Project. Eleven of those have already been signed into law. The proposed laws attempt to repeal state minimum wage laws that are above the federal floor of $7.25 an hour, reduce the minimum wages for young people and tipped workers, weaken overtime compensation, and block local governments from passing bills that increase pay to a living wage.
5. Taking down state renewable energy standards: In partnership with the Heartland Institute, ALEC has written model legislation called the “Electricity Freedom Act” that rolls back state standards. It argues that renewable energy mandates are “a tax on consumers of electricity” and that they go beyond what market forces would call for. Such a bill was being considered in North Carolina, although failed in committee, and it is now under consideration in Kansas. States have also pushed an ALEC-backed bill to teach climate change denial in schools.
6. Banning the exposure of unsafe or cruel farm practices: Seven states are considering “ag gag” bills that would prevent whistleblowers from exposing inhumane factory practices against farm animals, requiring that evidence be turned over to law enforcement within 24 or 48 hours. These bills have their roots in ALEC’s effort on legislation that labels people who interfere with these operations terrorists and makes it illegal for activists to take pictures or video of them.