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The American Prospect: Laboratories of Progress

Originally published in on October 5, 2005 by Rep. Jim Marzilli [...] One of the hidden giants moving against climate-change initiatives in the states is the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, which calls itself “the nation’s largest bipartisan, individual membership association of state legislators” and is backed by conservative corporate funding. Donors sit at the table with legislators and draft model legislation and resolutions on state policy. Now 32 years old, ALEC has assembled a network that includes more than 100 of the nation’s state legislative leaders and five governors, in addition to 98 members of Congress. Not surprisingly, ALEC opposes carbon-dioxide-emission standards, opposes state responses to the Kyoto Protocol, and is in favor of “sound science” in the climate-change debate. You want more information on what ALEC does? Too bad: Its Web site, including all of its model legislation, is password protected and unavailable to nonmembers. Federal preemption laws remain a potent threat anytime the states move aggressively. The proposal to prohibit state regulation of carbon-dioxide emissions from autos joins other preemptions added in the new federal energy act. These include the placement of liquid natural gas facilities and the construction of electric transmission lines. Previously Congress had preempted state action on auto fuel efficiency, energy standards, and some appliances. ALEC uses its muscle in statehouses across the country to lend a veneer of state support for federal preemption of state authority. The far smaller National Caucus of Environmental Legislators operates on $150,000 annually but still manages to do serious educational work with legislators. The latest arrival at the state level is the Progressive Legislative Action Network. Unlike many other progressive policy networks, its tax status will allow it to have an explicit advocacy agenda. It sees itself as the progressive alternative to ALEC. [...] Jim Marzilli is a Massachusetts state representative and the chairman of the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators.