Our Voice: State should not pay lawmakers’ dues to ALEC

Farm Forum

South Dakota’s Republican-controlled legislative Executive Board last week decided that each member of the Legislature should be a member of ALEC — the American Legislative Exchange Council.

That’s $10,500 of your money: $100 membership each for 105 South Dakota lawmakers’ memberships to a partisan group that is not looking out for the people of South Dakota.

Then, when lawmakers go out of state to ALEC conventions, South Dakota will foot the travel bill, too.

This is a boneheaded move by Republicans who clearly don’t have the best interests of South Dakotans in mind.

They are instead serving the interests of a partisan lobbying group that gives them their marching orders.

ALEC is a conservative political organization that matches corporations with state lawmakers from around the country to craft boilerplate legislation that can be taken back to the states and rubberstamped.

If you’ve ever wondered why, one year, illegal immigration is the most important issue facing states and the next, it’s gay marriage, look no further than the braintrust of ALEC.

They are the people who brought Florida its “stand your ground law” at the heart of the Trayvon Martin case.

There are legitimate, longtime, nonpartisan legislative groups that can offer state lawmakers information that can inform bills back home. But we don’t think the state should fund membership for those groups, either.

If individual legislators want to spend their own money to join ALEC, that’s fine. Or, readers, if you think you would like to pay those dues, feel free to cut out the middleman and send that check to the statehouse in Pierre. We’re sure it will get into the right hands.

And if these lobbyists think South Dakota legislators and voters are so important to their goals, let them spend the cash to fly to South Dakota, stay in our hotels and eat in our restaurants. Maybe they’d find that cookie cutter bills aren’t what South Dakotans want.

State Democratic leaders have already told the Executive Board, “Don’t pay our dues.” At least one Republican, Rep. Stace Nelson of Fulton, has also seen the irony of conservatives wasting money and refused to have his membership picked up on the taxpayers’ tab.

Of our local lawmakers, we have to ask Sen. Cory Brown, R-Gettysburg, and Rep. Charlie Hoffman, R-Eureka: What were you thinking voting in favor of this?

Don’t mistake us: If the Democrats were in power and suggested wasting money on something like this, we’d cry foul, too.

It’s time for Republican leadership in South Dakota to do more than talk like conservatives. Conserve this money, and let the lawmakers pay their own freight to these partisan parties.

— American News editorial board