As fierce debate continues to surround the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, a policy group that backed expansive self-defense laws like Florida’s Stand Your Ground measure announced this week that it will disband the task force — headed by a Texas legislator — that was responsible for gun laws.
State Rep. Jerry Madden, R-Plano, has served as chairman of the American Legislative Exchange Council's Public Safety & Elections Committee, which focused on developing policies on crime and elections for state governments. The elimination of the committee means that ALEC will no longer work on gun legislation, he said.
“ALEC has done a great job being part of all of the major improvements that we’ve been making in the criminal justice area,” said Madden, who will remain with the group until he retires from the Legislature at the end of his current term. He also said he was "honored by the opportunity to serve" as committee chairman. It wasn't immediately clear when the committee would officially dissolve.
ALEC, a nationwide policy group with a membership of businesses and nearly 2,000 state legislators, produces draft bills for legislators to use as models in their states. A "loser pays" lawsuit reform bill and a voter ID bill that contained elements of ALEC model bills became law in Texas last year. Members say ALEC's annual conferences serve as productive forums for exchanging ideas, while critics denounce the group as beholden to special interests.
In a news release earlier this week, ALEC national chairman David Frizzell said the decision to end the committee was a result of ALEC's refocused commitment to economic issues. A phone call to ALEC was not returned.
Madden told the Tribune that he will be reassigned to another committee in the group. Some of the criminal justice issues that his task force dealt with will also be reassigned.
“I am definitely convinced from my discussions with [the ALEC board] that we will be continuing those kinds of things that deal with the economics of criminal justice,” Madden said. “It’s one of the top four budget items in every state in the union. So, it fits [ALEC’s] economic model, whereas some of the other things didn’t fit nearly as well.”
The committee has drawn criticism in recent years for pushing voter ID laws that liberal groups say harm minorities' voting rights.
Madden, a 2011 ALEC state legislator of the year, said the group was returning to its “basic principles” by turning away from social policy. He said ALEC will not continue working on “Second Amendment items,” such as Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, which has been the subject of heated national debate in recent weeks.
“That was one of the bills that was model legislation years ago, but there’s some laws that are in place around the country in about 25 states that — they’re not identical by any means — but they’re varying degrees of protection on property,” Madden said. He added, “Things with the National Rifle Association items will not fit within the ALEC model.”
Madden also said ALEC will probably no longer deal with policies on elections that are unrelated to economic issues.
The ALEC board, which Madden does not serve on, decided to disband the committee amid a coordinated campaign by liberal organizations calling on companies to drop their support of ALEC for pushing Stand Your Ground laws. In recent weeks, companies, such as Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Kraft, Intuit and McDonald’s have announced they are withdrawing their membership.