About 500 people, mostly lawmakers from across the country, are expected to converge next week in Oklahoma City for the spring meeting of an organization that promotes free-market and conservative ideas.
The American Legislative Exchange Council will hold its spring task force summit Thursday and Friday at the Cox Convention Center.
More than 2,000 legislators, or about one-third of all sitting lawmakers in the country, belong to the group. The vast majority are Republican.
It's the first time for a national meeting in Oklahoma, said Rep. Gary Banz, R-Midwest City, elected in December to serve on the board of directors.
The group, called ALEC, is a private, nonprofit organization made up of lawmakers, businesses and foundations. They produce model legislation for state legislatures.
Group advised Fallin
ALEC was among several groups that advised Gov. Mary Fallin in 2011 to resist development of a state health insurance exchange, a primary component of the Affordable Care Act.
Model legislation includes proposals to reduce personal income taxes.
Its legislative priorities for 2013 include limiting taxes and government growth, improving education and preventing lawsuit abuse.
Oklahoma lawmakers pay their own fees to the group, Banz said.
About 70 of Oklahoma's 149 legislators are members.
“There's no taxpayer dollars that go to support ALEC from Oklahoma,” he said.
“It is not a lobbying group,” Banz said. “It's a giant coach's clinic for legislators and we gather three different times throughout the year.
“The work product is simply model policy,” he said. “That's what these task forces meet and do. They produce model policy that then can be taken back to the respective states for vetting through the legislative process.”
ALEC has been criticized because most of its funding comes from corporations and foundations and for the group's influence in the legislative process.
“There's a lot of misinformation out there what ALEC stands for or what it's embraced or endorses,” Banz said.
“The bottom line is if it's not on our website, it's not an issue or area that we have embraced.”
Governor to speak
Fallin, who was named a legislator of the year by ALEC when she was a state representative in the early 1990s, is scheduled to speak Friday and discuss this year's legislative session and the success of pro-growth policies in Oklahoma.
Also Friday, participants are scheduled to pay tribute to those killed and injured by the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Building by visiting the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum.