ALEC’s guy is Thom Tillis

May 7, 2013 

Curious, it seems. N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis headed off recently to the spring conference of the American Legislative Exchange Council in Oklahoma City. It’s a national group funded mainly by large corporations that advocates for conservative causes and even takes the step of helping lawmakers of a like mind in various states draft laws.

ALEC, as it’s known, has provided language for bills that’s even been used this session in North Carolina, ranging from creating an independent board to take charter school governance away from the State Board of Education to protecting a Philadelphia-based company from lawsuits involving asbestos exposure to installing an anti-union amendment in the state constitution. Closer to home, the Civitas Institute, a conservative group, used ALEC literature in an indoctrination...er, training...session for freshman lawmakers.

The organization is, in other words, going to pass any litmus test for arch conservatives. For his part, Tillis is national board member and Gov. Pat McCrory’s legislative lobbyist, Fred Steen, is a past state chairman of ALEC.

But now here’s the curious part. The day after he got back from Oklahoma City (was he meeting or taking dictation?) Tillis sent out a Facebook post in which he appeared to be suggesting Republicans who’ve backed Voter ID and an anti-gay marriage amendment and opening all sorts of places to gun-toting patrons and a host of other wacky bills should...get ready...pull the reins.

History lesson?

In his post, Tillis noted that when Democrats were in power, they were hostage to liberals and so they “could not resist the pressure to move too far too soon” and lost their majorities. He seems to encourage his fellow Republicans to slow down a bit and not to demonstrate a “lack of discipline” which might cost them control.

Tillis’ spokesperson declined to elaborate and indicated the post was more of a history lesson than anything. But that doesn’t really fly.

For the comments came not long after one of Tillis’ own, state Rep. Larry Pittman of Concord, criticized the speaker at a tea party meeting for basically not being conservative enough, something that got him the cold shoulder from Tillis and resulted in a lukewarm apology from Pittman. So was the speaker emphasizing the need for members to stay in lockstep?

Or, could it be that Tillis has seen some polling showing that his conservative Republican servants on Jones Street aren’t flying too well with the general public? Their actions to liberalize gun regulation, after all, do go against national and state polling that shows strong support for tougher background checks on purchasers, for example.

Gearing up for ‘14

Then again, it may be that Tillis, who’s likely to run next year for The U.S. Senate seat now held by Democrat Kay Hagan, knows that he’s going to have to broaden his base to include more than the most conservative Republicans if he is going to get elected to any statewide office.

For North Carolinians of any political philosophy, however, the larger concern here is that laws are being written by those outside the state with only an ideological interest. ALEC, except for advancing its agenda, likely could care less about issues specific to North Carolina, things of intense, day-to-day concern to North Carolinians.

And not only are bills being influenced by ALEC, the speaker of the House is on the group’s board.

Thom Tillis and his Republican mates on Jones Street weren’t elected to march to orders issued by some national organization. Perhaps if they kept their eyes and ears open for constituents, their legislative agenda might be more about them and less about doing ALEC’s bidding.

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