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Sen. Susan Wagle: ALEC about finding effective solutions

  • Published Sunday, August 25, 2013, at 12 a.m.

H. Edward Flentje’s commentary “Pay own way to ALEC gathering” (Aug. 18 Opinion) left my head spinning. I couldn’t tell which he dislikes more: private business, the Republican Party or the concept of limited government and capitalism, since he found a way to attack them all.

First, Flentje decried the use of state funds for registration to American Legislative Exchange Council policy conferences, alleging a partisan agenda at taxpayer expense. Then he complained that companies sponsor a variety of discussions and events at the conference, and accused corporations of buying influence. Flentje then attacked ALEC’s principles of free markets, limited government and individual liberty as ideological rhetoric.

Let me make some sense of these false accusations and misinformation:

The truth is Kansas lawmakers attend a variety of policy and legislative conferences throughout the year. Similar to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the Council of State Governments, the National League of Cities and the National Governors Association, ALEC is an educational nonprofit organization, does not lobby and is not a voting institution. In essence, the conference is a table at which lawmakers, policy analysts and business leaders meet to exchange ideas and inform one another on effective solutions to state and local matters.

Conferences hosted by all organizations work in partnership with private sponsors. There is nothing out of the ordinary here, nor is there any conspiracy. Renting hotel or convention space, providing meals, bringing in educational speakers and paying the people who service the conferences all cost money. Given Flentje’s distaste for government budget cuts, he should applaud the fiscal responsibility of organizations that seek sponsorship to help finance meetings.

Further, Flentje seems to think it is possible to be “bought” by a banquet meal that accompanies an educational speaker or policy presentation. Such a suggestion says more about the professor, his worldview and his lack of trust in his fellow Americans than it does about those of us who value ongoing policy education.

It is fundamentally appropriate for me, as a legislator, to seek input from the businesses my votes may impact. It is potentially devastating to business owners and the families they employ for me to make policy decisions without having first done my research.

I’m not interested in Republican ideas; I want the best ideas for Kansas. If Flentje wants to dismiss free markets, limited government and individual liberty as “Republican” ideas, so be it. I happen to consider them American, Kansan values.

I remain committed to continuing to promote these values.

Susan Wagle of Wichita is president of the Kansas Senate.

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