Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Their master's voice

North Carolinians can thank the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) for some dandy legal reform legislation and can especially thank Representative Rhyme and Senators Apodaca and Brunstetter for carrying the organization's water.

ALEC is a tax-exempt organization that provides a forum for big businesses to coordinate on legislative agendas. As its FAQ page states, "The potential solutions discussed at ALEC focus on free markets, limited government and constitutional division of powers between the federal and state governments." One of the "services" that the organization provides is to develop model legislation.

As part of a complaint challenging ALEC's tax-exempt status, Common Cause has obtained a database that ALEC used to track the progress of its legal reform legislation in various statehouses. The database shows that:

Rep. Rhyme introduced H 542, the Tort Reform for Citizens and Businesses Act, which was based on ALEC's Reliability in Expert Testimony Standards Act. ALEC's law was enacted in June.

Sen. Apodaca introduced S 33, Medical Liability Reforms, which was based on ALEC's Noneconomic Damages Awards Act and Periodic Payment of Judgments Act. ALEC's law was enacted in July.

Sen. Brunstetter introduced S 674, Civil Justice System, which was based on ALEC's Trespasser Responsibility Act and its Reliability in Expert Testimony Standards Act. Most of this bill became moot when H 542 was passed.

ALEC has drawn fire for, among other things, promulgating the "stand your ground" legislation that figures into the homicide of Trayvon Martin.

Rep. Rhyme, Sen. Apodaca and Sen. Brunstetter are supposed to represent the interests of North Carolinians; instead it appears that they are doing the bidding of out-of-state business interests.