Are ALEC, U.S. Chamber, Eagle Forum, Etc. Running the TN Legislature?

A lot of the bills filed in the Tennessee legislature were conceived and promoted by national groups — most all of them, in the current legislation, having a conservative or Republican orientation in the current session.
Excerpts from Chas Sisk’s review of the phenomena;
Several of the most controversial bills debated in the legislature this year, as well as some that have slipped under the radar without much attention, were written and promoted by groups outside Tennessee, a trend some political observers say reflects an attempt to push the nation in a conservative direction using state lawmakers.
On issues ranging from online instruction in public schools to the risks presented by followers of Shariah law, legislators have worked with an untold number of lawyers and policy experts based around the country to draft bills that could reshape Tennessee.
Supporters say this practice is well established among Democrats and Republicans alike. They also say that outside advisers and groups, such as the American Legislative Exchange Council and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, bring expertise beyond the help that can be found within the legislature itself.
But critics say outsiders have come to exert too much influence over the legislature, leading lawmakers into controversies and stances that have little to do with the problems facing Tennessee.
“We’ve taken model bills in the past, but very rarely did you see model bills passed without any changes or amendments,” said state Rep. Mike Turner, the House Democratic Caucus chairman. “Some of this stuff they’re running this year is straight out of the ALEC playbook.”
Democrats have worked throughout the session to highlight the role of outside groups. In committees and on the floor, they have questioned the sponsors of controversial legislation about the origins of their bills, in an effort to undermine them by exposing connections to out-of-state groups.
Republicans have not attempted to disguise how their bills have come into being. But even as they acknowledge outside help, they describe their measures as solutions tailored to the state.
“We’re a citizen legislature. We’re not experts on everything,” said state Rep. Debra Maggart, the Republican Caucus chairman. “I do think it’s important for the public to understand that we do not have a huge staff down here, and that we do our very best to try to craft legislation that doesn’t have unintended consequences and is good for the people of our state.”

One thought on “Are ALEC, U.S. Chamber, Eagle Forum, Etc. Running the TN Legislature?

  1. benintn

    Maggart’s comments remind of something I saw on a campaign button: “Those who can, teach. Those who can’t pass laws about teaching.”

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