Next wants to make you a Smart ALEC.
That's not a typo, ALEC is a thing, not a person.
ALEC is the American Legislative Exchange Council.
The group is holding its annual meeting in Denver this week. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will speak on Thursday, which is why you may run into a few hundred protestors downtown, like there were on Wednesday.
The conference will also host Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta and Interior Secretary Ryan Zink.
The part of the conference we're most interested in is the part where legislation is crafted and then taken back to different state capitols and sponsored as new bills. Here's an example of legislation that will be discussed at the meeting.
You'll see it's a bit like Mad Libs -- "insert legislator member name" and "insert state name."
"What worked in one state isn't going to work in another state and anything that's taken from here, if it would be considered in a state, it would go through your own state's legislative services and legislative drafting. It would go through a hearing process, a floor debate and eventually a vote, all of which are free and open to the public," said ALEC Chief Operating Officer Bill Meierling.
The part of the conference where lawmakers debate policy and craft potential legislation take place in what are known as "task forces." Those are not open to media coverage without prior approval by ALEC.
"If lawmakers are meeting here discussing policy, what would make that situation private?" asked Next reporter Marshall Zelinger.
"I think it's more that lawmakers are here discussing ideas, and just as I can't go to everyone's conversations, it's the same sort of thing. What we're looking at doing is creating an opportunity and a platform for people to have discussions that allow them to test ideas. That's one of the bigger differences, and it's important to understand. Testing an idea is different than discussing and debating an idea and people need the freedom to test things in ways that may be unpopular or may not actually be good," said Meierling.
ALEC is heavily attended by conservatives. The group stands for "limited government," "free markets" and "federalism."
There are two state chairs to ALEC from Colorado, State Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Canon City, and Rep. Lori Saine, R-Firestone.
"Are bills written at this conference?" asked Zelinger.
"Model policy is adopted, but it's adopted not only with the private sector, but the public sector as well. All those model policies are on the alec.org website," said Saine.
She pointed out two bills that were the result of ALEC last year.
"Free speech on college campuses" and another idea that was nurtured by ALEC was the "Civil asset forfeiture reform bill."
"There's a lot of ALEC language in their from the model policy, but it's something that came through ALEC first," said Saine.
Senate Bill 62, "Student Free Speech Public Higher Ed Campuses," which was signed into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper, prevents colleges and universities from "limiting or restricting student expression in a student forum."
Senate Bill 136, "Reporting and Limiting Civil Forfeiture," was also signed into law on the last day possible by Hickenlooper. It gives more rights to people who have their property seized in criminal investigations.
Colorado lawmakers we spotted at ALEC:
- Rep. Lori Saine
- Rep. Justin Everett
- Rep. Pete Lee (yes, a Democrat)
- Sen. Mark Scheffel
- Sen. Chris Holbert
- Sen. Kevin Lundberg
- Sen. Kent Lambert
- Former Senate President Bill Cadman, who recently served on ALEC's Board of Directors.
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