South Dakota taxpayers will pay dues for all state legislators to join the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC. The state’s legislative executive board met this week and voted to include ALEC in its roster of national legislative associations. The new policy includes travel expenses for state legislators involved in ALEC leadership.
ALEC is a national organization that supplies state legislatures with model conservative legislation. Critics say the organization is funded by corporations, and that its model legislation benefits Corporate America.
Senator Larry Lucas voted against paying dues and travel expenses for state legislators to become involved.
“We get a lot of the legislation that comes back to all states that comes out of that organization, and to be honest about it, it’s a lot of stuff that I oppose,” Lucas says. “And if private people want to do that, that’s fine but I’m not sure that taxpayers’ money needs to support those causes.”
But Senator Deb Peters says the private sector involvement in ALEC equates to testimony vetted by legislators: “Public testimony comes from the private folks, it comes from the legislatures. The policies and procedures are always voted on by the legislators.”
She says ALEC doesn’t operate any differently from the National Council of State Legislatures or the Council of State Governments. The South Dakota legislature, as a body, belongs to both.
ALEC memberships are $100 for each of 105 legislators.
The new travel policy starts on May 1.