Arizona Is the “Petri Dish” for Corporate-Influenced Legislature

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Arizona, with 49 out of 90 legislators with membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), is a darling of the bill drafting body and home to several bills modeled on the council’s legislation targeting workers’ compensation, unions and public education.

A report by People For the American Way Foundation, Common Cause, the Center for Media and Democracy and Progress Now details the bills drafted by ALEC’s large concentration of affiliated legislators in Arizona’s State senate, and compares it to model legislation identified as ALEC-drafted in the past in “ALEC in Arizona: The Voice of Corporate Special Interests in the Halls of Arizona’s Legislature.”

“ALEC-member legislators are unabashedly continuing to push legislation straight from corporate headquarters to Arizona’s lawbooks,” said Marge Baker, executive vice president at People For the American Way Foundation. “Well-heeled special interests are circumventing the democratic system and bypassing Arizona’s citizens, who can’t match the level of access that ALEC provides. As a result, Arizonans are facing an endless assault from laws that serve the interests of the rich and powerful instead of everyday people.”

Two-thirds of Republican legislative leaders, and at least eight previous Senate presidents in Arizona have been ALEC members, said the report, noting that the lack of a definitive list of legislators involved in the council may be even higher.

The report details several companies that Arizona State legislators have been involved in, including the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, which opposes over-the-counter contraceptives and federal health care reforms; Taser International, a manufacturer of “non-lethal self defense weapons”‘ and the Goldwater Institute, which “studies public policy with an emphasis on privatization.”

The Protect Arizona Employees Paycheck bill SB1484, would make it more difficult to collect union dues by requiring a third party doing automatic payroll dues collection to reauthorize its contributions, or they will cease.

The legislation, passed in February, was supported by 11 ALEC-affiliated senators and two representatives.

Another bill, SB1487, would bar the automatic deduction of an employees wages for paying union dues. Currently in the rules committee, the legislation is modeled on ALEC’s Right to Work and Public Employee Freedom Act bills.

On the workers’ compensation front, SB1336 is co-sponsored by five ALEC-affiliated senators and six representatives, and according to the report, it: “is presented as relieving businesses from liability if they have followed the law [but] the bill would protect even companies that knowingly endanger the public, as long as they were under no specific regulatory obligation to inform regulatory agencies of known or suspected safety problems.”

And bills now making their way through Arizona’s legislature also continue to push charter schools and the privatization of education, found the report.

The Parent Trigger Act, known as SB 1204, would allow public schools to be shut down upon a petition signed by more than 50 percent of parents or legal guardians of students attending the school, and is modeled on ALEC’s Parent Trigger Act.

In many ways, say advocates, Arizona is the lab for corporate interference in legislators.

John Loredo, a member of Arizona Working Families and a former Arizona House Minority Leader, said in a press release: “Arizona has one of the highest concentrations of ALEC legislators in the country, and that makes us a petri dish for anti-worker legislation and a host of other bad ideas.”

Ten companies formerly affiliated with ALEC have dropped their ties from the company – including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Coca-Cola and KRAFT – in recent weeks. This has been in response to campaigns from nonprofit groups and public anger around ALEC’s connection to the “Stand Your Ground legislation,” under which the killer of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin was not charged for the shooting for more than a month.