Setting the Record Straight: The Energy Discrimination Elimination Act
What is the American Legislative Exchange Council? There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding surrounding ALEC these days – both what it is and what it isn’t. ALEC is America’s largest voluntary membership organization of state legislators, guided by the non-partisan principles of limited government, free markets, and federalism. ALEC is not a place where laws are enacted in secret.
While false stories of policy being agreed to surreptitiously are nothing new, readers now need to be suspect of motive, sources and political alignment of almost everything they read. Most recently, The New Republic and The Guardian published false claims that ALEC approved a model policy called the Energy Discrimination Elimination Act (EDEA). The stories allege that ALEC wrote the model policy and is now working behind the scenes to advance similar legislation in state capitols around the country.
These claims are false and misleading.
The Energy Discrimination Elimination Act (EDEA) –which addresses state government contracting and agreements with financial service companies who choose not to do business with energy companies– has not been approved as model policy. Although it was considered in two of our Task Forces, it is still being debated and discussed among our members as a part of our deliberative process. This is the way ALEC operates—in the open and transparently.
Model policies can only be submitted or proposed by ALEC’s public sector members. A state legislator and ALEC member submitted the EDEA as a draft model policy in 2021. In other words, ALEC itself did not write the EDEA. After the draft worked its way through our member debate and approval process, it failed to become an official ALEC model policy, and was returned to the Task Forces for additional consideration.
A common “gotcha” line in news articles about ALEC and EDEA is that it is no longer posted on our website. The explanation for this is simple: ALEC posts draft model policies on our website before our major meetings. Policies that are approved become “official” on our website, and the rest are removed. While it is well within the rights of our country’s free press to link to archived versions of draft model policies that have been removed, it is inaccurate to portray these as approved ALEC policies that we surreptitiously “push” to legislators around the country.
But regardless, individual bills must still be introduced, considered, amended, and approved by state legislatures. Legislators in Oklahoma, West Virginia, Indiana, and Louisiana – some of the top energy-producing states in the nation – introduced versions of EDEA in what they view as an effort to protect major industries in their states. This is a predictable action of legislators doing what they believe to be in the best interests of their constituents.
Another oft-repeated but never sourced allegation is that ALEC has a history of extreme denial of climate issues. In reality, ALEC is dedicated to education and discussion about the environmental issues facing our states (see last year’s official ALEC model Resolution on Environmental and Economic Stewardship). In fact, one of the most popular topics of discussion at our last meeting was about what state legislators can do to promote and enforce good environmental stewardship to reduce wildfires, which are among the top producers of greenhouse gasses and particulate matter in the country.
While EDEA did not become an official ALEC model policy in 2021, discussions may continue this year among members who fall on all sides of the issue. Indeed, legislators representing views across the entire political spectrum were in attendance at the last ALEC meeting in San Diego. Any of these legislators were free, at any time, to suggest amendments or argue against or in favor of the EDEA—or any other proposed policy for that matter.
As a nonpartisan organization dedicated to advancing deliberation and debate amongst our state elected leaders, we welcome members of all stripes partake in this process. All ideas are welcome, and the best ideas—the ideas vetted and amended through debate that support limited government, individual liberty and federalism principles–become ALEC model policies. It is why ALEC models become law with incredible frequency, and it is also why so many target ALEC with uneducated attacks aimed at confusing the public about our work.