When North Carolina voters elected Pat McCrory as their governor in 2012, it was the first time in 28 years that North Carolinians had elected a Republican governor, and the first time in 100 years that Republicans controlled the governor’s office and the state legislature in the Tar Heel state. Since the gubernatorial election, the conservative North Carolina legislature has had the opportunity to propose and pass some extreme and restrictive pieces of legislation — and they did just that, with the help of certain special interest groups.
According to a report in The Charlotte Observer, The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has had just as much say in the state’s policies as any elected official.
ALEC is a self-described “nonpartisan membership association for conservative state lawmakers who shared a common belief in limited government, free markets, federalism, and individual liberty” that began as President Reagan took office in 1981. The Charlotte Observer reports that ALEC had proposed 466 bills modeled on the organization’s conservative vision for states throughout the country.
“Republican lawmakers passed 338 laws this year that will touch every North Carolinian’s pocketbook, every student’s classroom and every voter’s experience at the polls, writes The Observer. “Their sweeping changes have drawn praise from conservatives, scorn from Democrats and punch lines on Comedy Central.”
“At one point, Raleigh’s News & Observer counted at least two dozen bills that matched ALEC priorities,” the article goes on to say. “They included voter ID, publicly financed vouchers for private schools, and prioritizing energy exploration.”
Two North Carolina lawmakers sit on ALEC’s board of directors: Former House Speaker Harold Brubaker (R), and current House Speaker Thom Tillis (R) (who is also squaring off against incumbent Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC) for her senate seat in 2014.) Tillis won ALEC’s “Legislator of the Year” award in 2011.
ALEC’s Commonsense Consumption Act, designed to combat New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg’s attempt to limit the size of soft drinks sold in the city, was approved by ALEC board members in 2004 and again on January 28, 2013. HB 683, which passed in the North Carolina legislature and was signed by Governor McCrory on July 18, 2013, included some of the exact language from the ALEC model.
ALEC also introduced the Freedom of Choice in Health Care Act, which they boasted was the model for North Carolina’s House Bill 2. As stated in an ALEC press release, “This legislation protects the rights of citizens to pay directly for medical care, and would prohibit the government from penalizing North Carolinians for failing to purchase health care.” The bill passed through North Carolina’s legislature, but was vetoed in 2011 by former Governor Beverly Perdue (D).
“ALEC is just one part of a larger picture of (lawmakers) writing legislation to benefit wealthy corporate contributors.” Justin Guillory, the research director for Progress N.C., told the Observer, “I don’t want to diminish ALEC’s impact, but they’re only one part of the puzzle.”
The Observer also cites two North Carolina-based groups for their hand in controlling legislation. The Civitas Institute and the John Locke Foundation, both funded by McCrory’s budget director Art Pope, have introduced multiple proposals that have been adopted into state legislation. A book of ideas published by the John Locke Foundation was taken into consideration by Republican legislators and many proposals pertaining to the economy, taxes, and Medicaid were implemented. John Hood, president of the Locke Foundation, said, “Virtually everything we proposed in the book in 2012 was enacted in 2013.”
Grassroots North Carolina serves as another example. The pro-gun-rights group advocated for legislation that allows people to carry weapons on school campuses, bars, and restaurants with a concealed-carry permit.
Despite the best efforts of the conservative groups, however, North Carolina’s hard right turn may ultimately prove be shortlived; according to a recent PPP Poll, the North Carolina general assembly holds a bleak approval rating of only 24 percent.
Photo: James Willamore via Flickr.com