KHI News Service

Three national groups provide guidance to state legislators

ALEC is the most controversial of the three

By Phil Cauthon | August 29, 2011

These are the three main national organizations dedicated to providing policy and research to state legislators across the country. ALEC is the most controversial of the three.

ALEC: American Legislative Exchange Council

ALEC is a tax-exempt, non-profit organization formed in 1981 by a group of conservatives that included activist Paul Weyrich and Illinois Congressman Henry Hyde. Its members include state legislators, government officials and private-sector policy analysts. It promotes conservative principles through model legislation, publications and conferences. It has been criticized for refusal to publicly disclose the funding it receives from corporate sponsors who are allowed to help craft the group's policy proposals. And has been the subject of recent public protests and journalistic exposes. The American Association for Justice (formerly known as the Association of Trial Lawyers of America) has accused ALEC of "ghostwriting the law for corporate America."

ALEC's site says it was founded to be a "nonpartisan membership association for conservative state lawmakers who shared a common belief in limited government, free markets, federalism, and individual liberty."

Last month, the Center for Media and Democracy published some 800 pieces of model legislation produced by ALEC, including the "Freedom of Choice in Health Care," a version of which the Kansas Legislature passed in March.

NCSL: National Conference of State Legislatures

A bipartisan, non-governmental organization formed in 1975 that serves the nation’s 7,382 state lawmakers by providing research, data and other resources to help them make informed policy decisions.

NCSL's site says says that it was founded to: "Improve the quality and effectiveness of state legislatures; Promote policy innovation and communication among state legislatures; Ensure state legislatures a strong, cohesive voice in the federal system."

CSG: Council of State Governments

A bipartisan, non-profit organization formed in 1933 to help state governments form public policy, primarily with regional forums intended for the exchange of ideas.

CSG's site says these forums offer "unparalleled regional, national and international opportunities to network, develop leaders, collaborate and create problem-solving partnerships."

Related story: A legislator's guide to repealing Obamacare — Are Kansas officials studying the ALEC playbook?