Two days ago, the Guardian released some papers that were leaked from the August 2013 ALEC – American Legislative Exchange Council. The initial papers that were leaked shows that ALEC is in financial trouble due to some of the mega-corporations having let their memberships lapse due to concerns over ALEC’s lobbying for “stand-your-ground” or “shoot-to-kill” laws and for suppressing voting rights, environmental protections. Despite this run with the money, ALEC is continuing to push this right-wing agenda throughout the country and here in Pennsylvania.
ALEC’s Funding, Task Forces, and Agenda
Ninety-eight percent of ALEC’s funds come from corporations, corporate trade groups, and corporate foundations. The remaining funds come from dues paid by conservative Republican legislators. These funds are then used by the organization to craft so-called model legislation that the corporations believe will positively affect their bottom line. This legislation is crafted within one of nine task forces. According to ALEC-Exposed, “The organization boasts 2,000 legislative members and 300 or more corporate members. The unelected corporate representatives (often registered lobbyists) sit as equals with elected representatives on nine task forces where they have a “voice and a vote” on model legislation.”
These task forces create state-level one-size fits all model bills that are designed to remove regulations on corporations. Corporations have veto power over any bill that is crafted. Legislator members are then indoctrinated at regular meetings of the organization (often paid for by ALEC “scholarships” or by the state travel budget for legislators). These legislators then return home and introduce these bills as their own. Among the types of bills crafted within the task forces are bills to privatize education, limiting access to the voting booth through voter id laws, union-busting bills, and an anti-green agenda that, for example, penalizes homeowners who install solar energy. One of ALEC’s newest targets is preempting local communities from adopting and enforcing their own laws on paid and unpaid sick days, a higher minimum wage and other workplace standards.
Pennsylvania Legislative Involvement in ALEC
Preemption and Who in the PA Legislature is a Member of ALEC
In Pennsylvania, there are currently 39 Republican state Representatives who are members of ALEC. One of them is Representative Seth Grove (R-York). He is a member of ALEC’s Telecommunications and Information Technology Task Force, one of the committees that focuses on limiting local control through preemption bills. Using ALEC and his membership, Representative Grove introduced a new preemption bill – HB 1807 – that preempts or prohibits county and municipal governments from adopting and enforcing their own laws on paid and unpaid sick days. The bill specifically prohibits any local control over paid or unpaid leave of any type; it states:
A political subdivision in this Commonwealth may not enact or administer a mandate requiring an employer to provide an employee or class of employees with vacation or other forms of leave from employment, paid or unpaid, that is not required by Federal or State law, and may not require an employer to compensate an employee for any vacation or other forms of leave for which Federal or State law does not require the employee to be compensated.
The other co-sponsors include Representatives R. Lee James (R-Butler & Venango), Ryan P. Aument (R-Lancaster), Tina Pickett (R-Bradford, Sullivan, & Susquehanna), Garth Everett (R-Lycoming), Mindy Fee (R-Lancaster), RoseMarie Swanger (R-Lebanon), Stephen Barrar (R-Chester & Delaware), Ron Miller (R-York), Susan Helm (R-Dauphin), Will Tallman (R-Adams & York), Kurt Masser (R-Columbia, Montour, and Northumberland), Marguerite Quinn (R-Bucks), Duane Milne (R-Chester), Stephen Bloom (R-Cumberland), Ron Marsico (R-Dauphin) and Gordon Denlinger (R-Lancaster). Five—Barrer, Helm, Marsico, Pickett, and Ron Miller—of these sixteen co-sponsors are also members of ALEC.
Status of this Preemption Bill
The bill was introduced into the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and referred to the House Labor and Industry Committee on October 23, 2013 on which Representatives Grove and Aument sit. It immediately became one of the fastest moving bills in the legislature. On November 18, this committee amended the bill to grandfather local communities that have already passed a preemption ordinance prior to January 1, 2014 and then passed the bill out of committee along party lines (15-9). It immediately came up and passed under first consideration and is now set for second consideration where amendments may be offered.
As of today, the House has announced that they are at least temporarily tabling the bill. Supporters however are saying that they will pass the bill out of the house by the end of the year. So we need to keep up the pressure and tell our legislators to vote NO on HB 1807. The following are some talking points you can use when writing or calling your Representative.
The following talking points were created by a coalition of organizations in Pennsylvania concerned about this preemption bill.
- Across the country, grassroots efforts to enact paid sick days, higher minimum wages and other common sense workplace reforms are gaining momentum. These policies improve the lives of working men and women, their families, communities and local economies.
- To stop this progress, corporate lobbyists and the state legislators they control have quietly begun to enact dangerous and undemocratic “preemption” laws.
- Preemption” laws passed at the state level prohibit cities and counties within that state from adopting their own laws on paid sick days, a higher minimum wage and other workplace standards.
- Laws that preempt local decision-making strip cities and counties of their right to adopt policies that will benefit their communities, in violation of core conservative and democratic principles.
- Preemption has been a nationally coordinated, go-to strategy of special interest lobbyists for years, used to undermine and eviscerate smoking bans, nutrition labeling laws and other food safety measures, and gun violence prevention measures. Now this strategy is being used by the National Restaurant Association and the corporate group ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, to target modern economic policies that help working people and their families.
- ALEC is the industry-backed organization responsible for “stand-your-ground” or “shoot-to-kill” laws and for suppressing voting rights, environmental protections and more. It is comprised of both lobbyists for multi-million dollar corporations and legislators who are aligned with and take contributions from those corporations.
- Preemption is yet another way that ALEC is attempting to “steal” democracy from voters. In addition to trying to control who gets to vote, ALEC also wants to control what citizens can vote on.
- Instead of fighting grassroots paid sick days and minimum wage efforts city by city, corporate lobbyists are working with their legislator allies in the state capitals, where they have more influence, to keep local governments from doing what’s best for their people and communities. In fact, they’re pushing paid sick days preemption law in states that don’t even have any municipal efforts to pass the measure – just to head off grassroots momentum before it starts.
- Nine states have already passed paid sick days preemption laws – Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia and Wisconsin. And the opposition is getting more aggressive: Six of these nine laws were passed in 2013. A tenth state – North Carolina – has passed a narrower preemption bill that affects state contractors. Bills are pending in at least six other states – with more expected in 2014. It’s obvious that they’re being coordinated on a national level.
- Local innovation is the lifeblood of progress. Preemption efforts, driven by special interests, should not stand in the way of local innovation or self-rule, which historically has paved the way for meaningful statewide and then federal action on minimum wage, family leave and other issues. Bills like this represent an ominous attempt to remove power from locally elected officials and make the voters mere bystanders in the democratic processes that define the character of their communities.
- Strong statewide earned sick days and minimum wage standards are preferable, but in the absence of statewide policies, localities must have the freedom to do what’s best for their people and communities. Millions of workers without paid sick days are too often forced into going to work sick, sending sick kids to school, putting off needed health care, or losing pay and even their jobs if they stay home. Local lawmakers are increasingly recognizing that paid sick days policies are both an economic and a public health imperative, and are learning from the positive experiences with paid sick days standards in San Francisco, Seattle and Connecticut.
- Even if preemption bills seem to have a narrow focus, passage of this type of legislation could result in preemption of a wide range of local ordinances, whether passed through voter referendum or by city councils, in municipalities throughout the state. These include efforts to expand protections for those who have experienced domestic violence, laws prohibiting wage theft, consumer protection initiatives, and many more. Corporate lobbyists don’t want any regulations standing in the way of their profits.
What You Can Do to Stop This Bill
We need to have members of the House of Representatives called to tell them to vote NO on this bill. Keystone Progress has set up a call-in page for us to use. Let’s start getting calls in to legislators right now! Once you make your call, please forward this email to your constituents, members, friends, family – anyone who can make a call. Here’s the contact call page:
You can also tweet about this – here are a few Sample Tweets:
- PA’s House Labor Cmmte just passed a bill taking local control from YOUR local officials. Tell them what you think: http://bit.ly/1aNdZLe
- Stop corporate vetoes on our local laws: call your legislators now! http://bit.ly/1aNdZLe #paidsickdays
- ALEC attempting to preempt local control of paid and unpaid sick leave in PA. Tell #PALegis what you think: http://bit.ly/1aNdZLe
- ALEC attempting to preempt local control of paid and unpaid sick leave in PA. Tell @PAGOP what you think: http://bit.ly/1aNdZLe
- #Preemption is another way that ALEC is attempting to “steal” democracy from voters. Tell @PAGOP what you think: http://bit.ly/1aNdZLe
- #Preemption is another way that ALEC is attempting to “steal” democracy from voters. Tell #PALegis what you think: http://bit.ly/1aNdZLe
- #Preemption bill threatens local efforts to assist Domestic Violence survivors. Call your legislators now! http://bit.ly/1aNdZLe
You can also let your friends, family, and neighbors know about this corporate threat to local control by talking, emailing, using social media, and/or forwarding this blog on to them. There are several links at the bottom of this blog: choose what works for you.