Breaking Tampa Bay, Florida and national news and weather from Tampa Bay Online and The Tampa Tribune |
  • Home

Oops! Burgin leaves ALEC fingerprint on bill

Posted Feb 1, 2012 by William March

Updated Feb 1, 2012 at 05:32 PM

Most legislators aren’t eager to have it known when their legislative initiatives are dictated by an outside group, including the American Legislative Exchange Council, a well-funded, conservative business advocacy group.

ALEC courts state lawmakers with deluxe conferences and seeks to get conservative legislation passed in state legislatures around the country.

But when state Rep. Rachel Burgin of Riverview filed a bill in November, she accidentally left a clue in the text of the bill.

The bill is a resolution by the Legislature asking Congress to cut corporate tax rates. If passed, its only effect would be to put the state GOP-dominated Florida Legislature on record favoring the move.

When Burgin filed the bill as House Memorial 685 on Nov. 16, it included an opening paragraph that didn’t belong there: “Whereas it is the mission of the American Legislative Exchange Council to advance Jeffersonian principles of free markets, limited government, federalism, and individual liberty ... .” That’s a sentence attached to ALEC’s legislative proposals, which they distribute to lawmaker-members.

Burgin quickly withdrew the bill Nov. 17 and refiled it the next day as HM 717—identical, but without the ALEC fingerprint paragraph.

Burgin said she’s a member of ALEC, went to an ALEC conference last year in New Orleans, and is on the group’s tax policy committee.

“I have no qualms whatever about ALEC‘s model legislation,” she said. “I think they did a fine job.” She said she can’t think of any other ALEC-produced legislation she’s filed, but “concepts I’ve worked on may have come from them,” and noted that many organizations produce model legislation.

“I don’t know why it’s a big deal,” she said.

Democrats say ALEC was the source of more controversial Florida legislation passed last year limiting early voting hours, imposing strict requirements on voter registration drives and making it harder for voters to cast ballots if they have address or name changes.

Democrats say those changes were aimed at cutting the 2012 turnout of minorities, who use early voting heavily; and young voters and women, who tend to have address and name changes.

More than a dozen other states have passed similar new voting restrictions recently, measures known to be favored by ALEC. U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson has called for Congressional and Justice Department investigations over whether this amounts to a conspiracy to violate voting rights.