Point of View

ALEC chief: Group provides lawmakers a chance to share, learn and grow

May 9, 2013 

In recent days, attention has been given to last week’s national meeting of state lawmakers, including members from the North Carolina delegation, at the American Legislative Exchange Council.

While some suggest exchanging ideas and learning from other legislators is a bad idea, continuing education and exposure to a variety of viewpoints enable legislators to make more informed decisions.

Democracy is a participatory process where ideas are shared and the best ideas are advanced.

Lawmakers are not experts on every public policy issue upon which they are asked to vote, but their constituents expect them to make the best decisions in partnership with their communities. Good legislators, in order to effectively represent the people in their communities, seek information from a variety of sources, including industry experts, policy analysts and interested citizens.

The American Legislative Exchange Council provides lawmakers with a valuable opportunity to learn from the ideas and experiences of their counterparts from around the country, to see how policies have worked in other states and to learn from others’ mistakes so they are not repeated. Legislators are offered academic research and policy analysis from industry experts who actually work with the issues, processes and problem-solving strategies upon which they vote.

During these meetings, policymakers engage in candid and informative dialogue. They seek the best solutions for government accountability, removing unnecessary regulations and trimming state budgets to allow taxpayers to keep more of their money, enable businesses to grow, hire more people and improve state economies.

Legislators learn about business operations because it is important to understand the industries they intend to regulate. These legislative meetings allow lawmakers to return to their state capitols with ideas, information and examples from other states to help them institute plans for success and government efficiency at home.

One such policy, in development as a result of lessons learned after Superstorm Sandy destroyed critical infrastructure throughout New York and New Jersey, will help first-responders and governments work together to ensure minimal service interruptions.

After Sandy, tens of thousands of Americans were left without communication and electricity for weeks, and some continue their recovery. Repair crews traveled from across the country to assist but faced complicated tax liabilities such as business activity, unemployment insurance and payroll taxes, simply for being out-of-state companies that offered assistance after a natural disaster. First-responders should be focused on the task at hand rather than wondering whether they need a tax lawyer to provide assistance in the midst of crisis.

Based on what was learned from New York and New Jersey, legislators working in a Council Task Force developed model policy to ensure when natural disaster strikes, first-responders will be put to work and not burdened with complicated tax issues and other challenges that inhibit their ability to lend assistance.

Ideas like this come from exchange between legislators regarding real-world situations. They are not arrived at blindly. No one has a monopoly on good ideas. And while lawmakers interact with their communities on a daily basis, they also look to other legislators and experts for input.

Last week, legislators from North Carolina attended conferences held by the National Conference of State Legislatures and the American Legislative Exchange Council, the largest voluntary membership organization of America’s state elected officials. Some legislators even made efforts to attend both conferences because they understand that we all share a common goal: to exchange ideas, learn from one another and partner to create opportunity for all Americans.

Ron Scheberle is executive director

of the American Legislative

Exchange Council.

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