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Conservative Lawmakers, Businesses Gather in Grand Rapids

One of the bills promoted by ALEC would require stickers listing gas taxes at the pump, which critics charge is a way to turn voters against tax increases meant to fund infrastructure. (Cohdra/Morguefile)
One of the bills promoted by ALEC would require stickers listing gas taxes at the pump, which critics charge is a way to turn voters against tax increases meant to fund infrastructure. (Cohdra/Morguefile)
April 27, 2018

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The American Legislative Exchange Council holds its annual Spring Task Force Summit Friday at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in Grand Rapids. The group of conservative lawmakers and private-sector corporate members is set to discuss a number of bills that ALEC will attempt to replicate in state legislatures across the country, including Michigan.

Lonnie Scott, with the nonprofit Progress Michigan, says the organization – which is closely associated with the Koch Brothers and the DeVos family – has a history of promoting policies that benefit big business, often at the expense of everyday Americans.

"The lawmakers that attend these events are generally asked to sponsor bills and to look at sample bills that ALEC has proposed that really assist the corporate sponsors of ALEC,” says Scott. “And look out for their needs over the people of the state that they're supposed to represent."

ALEC's website says it is a proponent of limited government, free markets and federalism. This year's bills include ways to discourage large demonstrations that can hamper pipelines and other infrastructure projects on public land, and forbidding states or cities from requiring greater transparency in contributions to political campaigns.

Another topic on the agenda is a bill that would require gas stations to put up a sticker at the pump explaining any state and federal gas taxes, in the name of transparency. Scott says it's really an attempt to turn the public against gas taxes in general.

"They want to make people believe that taxes are bad, but the reality is, it's their priorities that are bad. Because you know, I think most people would be happy to pay for types of things that make a better quality of life – like better roads and bridges, better schools and investing in our future in the state,” says Scott, “as opposed to investing in corporate tax breaks, which is what's happened here in the state of Michigan over the past decade."

ALEC participants will also discuss ways to funnel more kids into charter schools and promote school vouchers, an issue that has gotten a lot of attention in Michigan – where Betsy DeVos, now Secretary of Education, has focused much of her advocacy on behalf of charter schools.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - MI