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ALEC's model state

While most Hoosiers were coping with the season's first snowstorm last week, several Republican state officials were in sunny Arizona, where they played major roles in the American Legislative Exchange Council's national meeting. State schools chief Tony Bennett was the keynote speaker; state Rep. David Frizzell, R-Indianapolis, is the newly installed chairman of ALEC's national board of directors.

Occupy Phoenix protesters picketed the event. It probably goes without noting that they were pepper sprayed by police, according to a Phoenix TV news report.

Bloomberg Businessweek has a lengthy and informative article on the shadowy ALEC, published Thursday, "Pssst ... Wanna Buy a Law?"

John Nichols penned "ALEC Exposed" for the August issue of The Nation.

"ALEC is a critical arm of the right-wing network of policy shops that, with infusions of corporate cash, has evolved to shape American politics," he wrote. "Inspired by Milton Friedman's call for conservatives to develop alternatives to existing policies keep them alive and available, ALEC's model legislation reflects long-term goals: downsizing government, removing regulations on corporations and making it harder to hold the economically and politically powerful to account. Corporate donors retain veto power over the language, which is developed by the secretive task forces. The task forces cover issues from education to health policy. ALEC's priorities for the 2011 session included bills to privatize education, break unions, deregulate major industries, pass voter ID laws and more."

Much of that education legislation was approved in Indiana, of course, which is why Tony Bennett likely earned the spot as keynoter for this year's confab. Check out the similarities in the ALEC model charter board legislation and House Enrolled Act 1002, the charter school law that establishes a state-level board to approve charter schools.

When GOP lawmakers roll out their 2012 legislation, we'll get a look at what ALEC and its corporate sponsors have in store for us next year.

Karen Francisco, editorial page editor for The Journal Gazette, has been an Indiana journalist since 1981. She writes frequently about education for The Journal Gazette opinion pages and here, where she looks at the business, politics and science of learning as it relates to northeast Indiana, the state and the nation. She can be reached at 260-461-8206 or by e-mail at