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ALEC Politicians Caught Plagiarizing ALEC Bill, Drafting Error and All

This isn’t the first time that ALEC politicians have pushed ALEC legislation without paying much attention.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has vetoed a bill that included a drafting error copied-and-pasted from American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) model legislation, and criticized ALEC members for having “simply parroted … the ALEC model act without alteration.”

“While some may believe that such an error is ‘close enough’ for a model act, it cannot be allowed to become the law of this State,” Nixon, a Democrat, wrote in his veto message. “Particularly in an area of the law that is the subject of ongoing litigation, a glaring defect such as this cannot be ignored.”

Missouri Senate Bill 508, sponsored by ALEC member Sen. Mike Parsons, was modeled after the ALEC Navigator Background Check Act, and aimed to create new hurdles for health care “navigators” who enroll Missourians in healthcare plans under the Affordable Care Act. The bill was voted on by ALEC’s corporate and politician members at ALEC’s December 2013 meeting, and became official ALEC policy in January 2014.

The original ALEC model legislation would have required a navigator to submit fingerprints to the state highway patrol for a background check, and referenced the federal Public Law 92-554 — but the correct reference is to Public Law 92-544, which deals with federal criminal records. The error in the ALEC model bill was copied-and-pasted verbatim into the Missouri legislation.

“Some state legislatures that have considered similar navigator-related legislation derived from ALEC model legislation have taken the opportunity to fix the incorrect reference from the ALEC model before enacting it,” such as Arizona, Nixon wrote in his veto message. “However, like the Missouri General Assembly, other state legislatures considering such legislation have simply parroted the incorrect reference from the ALEC model act without alteration,” noting that politicians in neighboring Kansas made the same mistake.

This isn’t the first time that ALEC politicians have pushed ALEC legislation without paying much attention. Two years ago in Florida, Florida state Rep. Rachel Burgin (R) forgot to remove ALEC’s mission statement from a bill she introduced.

The Navigator Background Check Act was one of several ALEC model bills introduced in the Missouri legislature in 2014, according to a list compiled by Progress Missouri. Between 47 and 57 Missouri politicians are ALEC members, according to a report from Progress Missouri, Center for Media and Democracy, Common Cause, and Missouri Jobs with Justice Voter Action.

ALEC held its most recent meeting in Kansas City, Missouri in May.

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