ALEC—THE DIRTY DETAILS

My recent post here presented a broad outline of ALEC, the American Legislative Executive Council, and its efforts to introduce uniform legislation in many states on a variety of issues.

http://wp.me/pS6ry-i0

I wrote of the expose of ALEC by the Center for Media and Democracy (CDM) and iterated the introductions to the areas of law that ALEC aims to influence along with links to the actual legislative proposals.

Here I will explore some of these proposed-and in some cases now passed-laws and explain why they just ain’t good for you…or the country.

One issue which has been much in the news is the adoption by a number of states of a requirement that voters present a photo ID at the polls. I had addressed this earlier on my blog.

http://wp.me/pS6ry-g9 

My protestations about these laws can be boiled down to a double barreled argument.

1. These laws offer solutions to a nonexistent problem, i.e. voting fraud based on people not having such ID

and

2. The fact that millions of otherwise eligible voters may be disenfranchised because of the difficulties and impracticalities they might encounter in obtaining the proper identification.

Demographically these people tend to be racial minorities, the poor, and the elderly, all segments of the population who, as a group, tend to vote for Democrats. Significantly the states that have adopted these new laws are mainly ones whose legislatures and governorships are currently in the hands of Republicans.

In that blog entry I tore apart published claims of examples of voter fraud to demonstrate that they had nothing to do with lack of ID but stemmed from corrupt public officials or padding voter registration rolls by people paid to get new registrations, not attempting to produce actual votes.

On my Facebook page I challenged anyone, and I have a number of conservative friends, to produce one case of such fraud. None did.

Some folks use the argument that a photo ID is needed to board a plane or buy liquor or for other activities. None of these entail a Constitutional right as does voting.

Furthermore, these voter ID laws carry at least a whiff of racial prejudice. Most of the early states to adopt, and some with the harshest laws are the states who used to employ poll taxes and literacy tests to prevent blacks from voting, until such measures were outlawed by the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Men, women and children died violently striving to erase those discriminatory laws.

One aim of ALEC is to establish interstate compacts with the purpose of allowing states to manage functions in which they have a common interest.  They emphasize that such compacts are provided for in the Constitution in Article I Section 10, subject to the approval of Congress.

That is true. However, the majority of such compacts already established were done so in order to deal with issues peculiar to geography but crossing state borders. For instance the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey manages transportation between and among the two states including trains, buses and river transit.

A few compacts enable states to deal consistently with issues common to them that generally do not come under federal jurisdiction such as those co-ordinating enforcement efforts for drivers’ licenses and the supervision of adult offenders.

For a list of all interstate compacts see this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interstate_compact

Now this arises:

Alexandria, Va. (Nov. 30, 2011) – The Health Care Compact Alliance today announced the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the nation’s largest nonpartisan individual membership association of state legislators,has adopted the Health Care Compact as model legislation.

They begin this press release with the big lie that ALEC is bipartisan. Far from it. The legislators who make up its membership are, with few exceptions, Republicans, and its agenda is decidingly conservative with many of their positions and those of Republicans mirroring each other.

http://healthcarecompact.org/alec-adopts-health-care-compact-model-legislation

This proposed compact, already approved in several states, provides for all federal health care programs, most particularly Medicare and Medicaid, to be turned over to the control of the states.

Currently states have leeway to set eligibility requirements and other administrative rules for Medicaid, but have no say  in Medicare. In Medicaid currently you have situations like this in Mississippi.

It’s not easy to qualify for Medicaid. The state is among the dozen with the strictest income limits in the country for Medicaid – an adult in a two-person family in Mississippi can’t earn more than 44 percent of the poverty level, about $6,472 a year. Childless adults can’t get on the program, no matter how poor. Still, 22 percent of the state’s 2.9 million residents are enrolled in Medicaid, half of them children.

http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/Stories/2011/March/11/barbour-medicaid.aspx

That is $125 a week for two people to live on.

But these eligibility requirements will become moot when the Medicaid provions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) become effective in 2014. Thereafter adults under the age of 65 and with income less than 133% of the federal poverty level will be eligible.

The Compact would negate this provision and all these requirements would be set under it…possibly not much of a concern since states do have great power over Medicaid already. But Medicare?

This is another solution without a problem. Medicare operates just fine now though it has some acknowledged problems with fraud and an aging population that will bring added cost, as well as experiencing the skyrocketing costs in health care generally that even affect private insurers. But its administrative costs are a small percentage of those of private health insurers who, after all, have the profit motive. To secure those profits among their favorite methods are denying coverage and raising premium rates.

Placing these programs with the states could lead to disparities in coverage, among other ills. There are large numbers of seniors who are “snow birds”. That is, they spend winters in warm weather locales and the balance of the year in their home states. They are equally likely to avail themselves of their Medicare coverage one place as another and need consistency.

Too, Medicare is not now self-supporting. The revenue from the Medicare tax must be supplemented to pay all the bills. With block grants being the only means to finance these health care programs at the state level, what happens if the cost of the care needed in one state exceeds that state’s grant? Now, for good or bad, Congress must come up with the difference.

So what happens with a state funding shortfall? I can only speculate but it is logical to fear that coverage would be denied. In the alternative I suppose the rates Medicare enrollees pay for Part B coverage would have to be raised.

Now a reasoned analysis by others offers doubt that such a compact would ever be completed. There is the problem that funding would be frozen at certain levels with the federal government no longer able to bail out the states. And getting the approval of Congress, required under the Constitution, is no sure thing. For more:

http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/Stories/2011/September/18/health-care-compact.aspx

This compact or other laws on ALEC’s slate would also serve to eliminate federal measures that make health care insurance more widely available such as the exchanges set up pursuant to the ACA. These laws would benefit private insurers at the expense of health consumers.

Arizona, with its recent anti-immigration and other contentious laws proposed and passed, proposed and passed but vetoed, or proposed but not passed has been a visible battleground/laboratory for ALEC to get its legislation enacted.

This report details a number of the bills introduced with the entire text as well as a brief overview of what the legislation would accomplish. Many are geared to immigrants and their employment. Several others deal with the privatization of prisons and prison industries, the latter of which would essentially provide ultracheap labor to favored businesses.

http://site.pfaw.org/pdf/ALEC-IN-ARIZONA.pdf

You will also read there legislation similar to what has become law in states like Wisconsin and Ohio eviscerating the rights of members of public employees’ unions.

But one new Arizona law is disturbing in a way that some may not recognize at first.

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed a bill to prohibit abortions after the 18th week of pregnancy; a bill to protect doctors from being sued if they withhold health information about a pregnancy that could cause a woman to seek an abortion; and a bill to mandate that how school curriculums address the topic of unwanted pregnancies.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/10/az-abortion-bills-arizona-gestational-age_n_1415715.html

I’m not going to enter an abortion debate. But what bothers me about these laws, and I assume governor Jan Brewer will sign them, is the one where doctors can withhold important information about the development of a fetus from the subject parents. This is done in fear that if the news is bad, the parents, or at least the mother-to-be, will decide to abort the pregnancy.

That may indeed be the case but if there are potential problems and the parents continue through to birth, this knowledge can help them prepare for the event but also allow their medical team to initiate preventive or corrective measures that may alleviate or lessen the impact of whatever defect is diagnosed.

To me that is unthinkable that doctors would do this simply because they oppose abortion and I would submit that this failure to inform would be a violation of their Hippocratic Oath, if not established law in some instances.

I could go on and on for thousands of more words and entertain you with more examples of this harmful model legislation concocted by the fertile and greedy minds of the corporate sponsors behind ALEC. Though it brags of its membership of state legislators, these elected folks would not be able to mount an attack on the welfare of common Americans without the money of the Koch Brothers et al.

I suggest that we be alert to the bills introduced into our state legislatures, question our representatives on the source of their inspiration, and demand that these bills be fully vetted to understand the consequences. Much model legislation through the years with input from a variety of individuals and organizations has veen valuable in addressing real problems.

The people behind ALEC have education and brains. More importantly they have money and power…tons of both…and want more. But remember “Smart ALECk” has always been a perjorative term—and still is.

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