This week’s pilgrimage to New Orleans by more than 30 conservative members of the N.C. General Assembly turned out to be something of a victory lap. House Speaker Thom Tillis, a Republican from Mecklenburg County, was one of eight lawmakers honored as “legislators of the year” by the American Legislative Exchange Council at its annual meeting.
The yearly gathering has attracted more attention than in years past. Not only has it drawn more attendees than it has in five years, nearly 2,000, it has also inspired a protest conference with its own speakers, workshops and a march today on the New Orleans Marriott hotel where the conference is taking place.
ALEC is a free-market organization that crafts “model legislation” by putting corporate representatives and state legislators together. Critics -- including the Center for Media and Democracy, labor, community organizers and others -- object to the secrecy of the process. Supporters say the organization provides state lawmakers with resources they need. States all over the country have turned ALEC’s models into law, especially this year in North Carolina with its new Republican majority.
A sampling of Tweets by attendees at this year’s conference portray a Jeffersonian wonk’s dream: “The Heritage booth is open.” “Hanging out at the Cato booth.” “Enjoying a morning federalism discussion.” “Dr. Laffer: ‘The revolution you are leading today will make the Reagan one look like kids’ play.’”
Earlier in the week, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal received ALEC’s highest award. The North Carolina delegation in New Orleans includes 32 House members and at least one senator (Sen. Tom Apodaca).
It isn’t known yet how the North Carolina legislators paid for the trip. None have requested reimbursement.
BTW, when Dome first reported this on Tuesday, we neglected to include the list of House members attending. Here it is:
Paul "Skip" Stam