Every year, our state legislators propose thousands of bold new laws and creative ways to spend our money.
And luckily for us, most of those ideas die a slow, painful death. Because there are a lot of bad ones out there. Anybody remember the proposed monument to the unborn child?
What a lot of people don't realize is who, exactly, is behind much of this. Earlier this week, political reporters Robert Behre and Stephen Largen wrote about the rash of model legislation written by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a group of corporations and lawmakers.
They claim to be bipartisan, which means one of their board members once voted in a Democratic primary.
These are the folks who brought you Voter ID and “Stand Your Ground” laws, which are based on a Florida law at the center of the Trayvon Martin case.
The group Common Cause has filed an IRS complaint against ALEC, claiming the group isn't really a nonprofit, it's a lobbying group.
Yeah, it wouldn't be the first time lobbyists have written our laws. But that's only bad some of the time.
Most lawmakers will tell you it's not always wrong to take suggestions.
Legislators are part-time guys — you can't expect them to know everything. Sometimes lobbyists can alert them to a real problem, even ALEC.
But it's dangerous when elected leaders walk in lock-step with these groups, whether it be a conservative cabal or a union. They are called special interests for a reason. And their interests aren't always in our best interest.
Come on, do you really want environmental laws written covertly by groups that pollute said environment? How do you think that's going to work out?
State Rep. David Mack, D-North Charleston, says he has had a problem with ALEC's Voter ID bills, which he calls “voter suppression.”
“It should be nonpartisan to want people to vote, and to suppress that is un-American,” Mack says. “You look at it and the goal is to shave off enough votes in key stats to affect the presidential election.”
Yep. You know why everyone pushing Voter ID uses the same talking points? Because some shadow group fed them those talking points. And the people reciting them aren't politicians, they're pawns.
Like people who blindly do the bidding of faceless groups.
State Rep. Jim Merrill says the problem is that “people fall into a cycle of not asking where a piece of legislation comes from.”
That can tell you a lot about its purpose and value. But too many of elected officials don't think, they are just team players — which is crazy. Neither team is always right. Lawmakers are supposed to think for themselves and do what they think is right, regardless of which team proposes it.
“An elected official is sent up here to make up his own mind,” Merrill, R-Daniel Island, says.
Of course, many don't. But what do you expect?
Many of the people who elect them still haven't learned that lesson.
Reach Brian Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @BriHicks_PandC.