ALEC stands for the American Legislative Exchange Council. Many of you know all about it. I guarantee that many more people out there--people you know and love, people you work with--don't. This one's for them.
Back in July, Fired Up! reported on the ALEC-sponsored junket many Missouri legislators took to Salt Lake City. (See the link below.) In May 2010, the American Association for Justice issued a broader report on ALEC's history, mission, organization, and composition across the country. (See the link below.)
As a writer, mother, and teacher, I'm always on the lookout for people who can explain clearly, unbiasedly, and wisely the most tangled aspects of our political landscape. Someone who is neither shrill nor overwrought. Someone who has skin in the game, as we all do, but who approaches what's going on around here in a genuine spirit of inquiry. Someone who has the sense to root the present and the future in our shared history. Please see what Bill Cronon has to say. And take your time.
I was reminded, reading these documents, of something one of our delegates said to me on the way home from Charlotte, as we were waiting at the gate. "There is something to be said for institutional knowledge," said Mary Elizabeth Dorsey of the First Congressional District, in the context of minimally experienced (or ALEC-educated) legislators* submitting poorly drafted bills. Bills which have to be challenged. Bills which are found unconstitutional as written. And then Democrats are accused of being activist and impossible.
There is so much to think about, so much coming at us from all sides this season. The other day my September issue of Missouri Wildlife appeared in the mail and I felt relieved to sit down over a bowl of cold cereal and read about grouse and trout. But alas, no cool grouse stories this month. Instead, on page 28, there was the Missouri Department of Conservation's update on the effects of this summer's drought on our forests, fish, and wildlife. Depressing enough were the reports of fishkills, starving elk, and bear spending their days walking uncharacteristically through the water of small streams. But catch this.
"June was the sixth driest on record in MIssouri."
"In July alone, temperatures topped 100 degrees on 15 days in central Missouri."
"More than 2/3 of the state was in extreme drought, and the Bootheel and adjacent counties were in an exceptional drought, the most severe classification recognized by the National Climatic Data Center."
"[There was] a 150-percent increase in the number of reported fires from May through June. This does not include fires on the 1.5-million acre Mark Twain National Forest."
"MDC has recorded 2,280 fires affecting 26,944 acres. Those fires destroyed 15 homes and 151 outbuildings and damaged 331 other structures."
As we always say in education, people are very good at drawing connections and seeing patterns. They've just got to be given the whole picture in order to see the pattern. Well, here we've got a pattern. Those Missouri Conservation numbers tell me that we're fired up in more ways than one. And I know from reading Bill McKibben's Eaarth that summers like this one, and wild downpours like we had in St. Louis last Friday, are what lie ahead.
How exactly are the people of ALEC, including their Jefferson City surrogates, making the lives of the people and condition of the land of Missouri any better? Should any of them be representing any of us?
*Not all of whom are Republican, by the way; check the roster.