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Progress Florida pressures Fla. lawmakers with ALEC ties

The American Legislative Exchange Council--the group behind the rapid spread of Stand Your Ground and voter identification laws--has a big target on its back, and Progress Florida is the latest group taking aim.

Progress Florida  has asked Florida legislators with ties to ALEC to break up with the group, which has operated largely out of the national consciousness prior to the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, which put Florida's Stand Your Ground law on the national stage.

“ALEC represents what is essentially an unelected, shadow Legislature in Florida,” said Progress Florida executive director Mark Ferrulo, in a statement.  “Responsible lawmakers should disavow the group’s extremist and secretive influence on Florida law making.”

After the National Rifle Association helped pass Florida's Stand Your Ground law in 2005, ALEC used its massive network of state legislators and political insiders to get similar laws passed in two dozen other states.

On Tuesday, ALEC announced it was disbanding its Public Safety and Elections task force, and shifting focus from social to economic issues. A number of corporate members--including Coca Cola and Kraft Foods--have cut ties with the organization in the wake of Trayvon's death.

More than 40 of Florida's 160 state lawmakers are dues-paying members of ALEC, and several attended its most recent conference, where draft legislation was presented. 

Progress Florida, a left leaning group, is calling on those lawmakers to sever ties with the organization, pointing out that ALEC helped pass controversial voting laws in Florida and tried to push for prison privatization, a parent trigger education bill and strict immigration laws modeled after the state of Arizona.

 “With such an extremist, anti-middle class track record, there is no excuse for our representatives to continue to have any involvement with ALEC,” Ferrulo said. The group said it would mobilize its 100,000 members to put pressure on Florida lawmakers who are members of ALEC.