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Howell defends low-taxALEC organization
Date published: 4/13/2012
RICHMOND--House Speaker Bill Howell on Thursday staunchly defended the American Legislative Exchange Council, saying critics are pressuring some corporate sponsors to abandon the group.
Known as ALEC, the council is a group that promotes conservative, low-tax governing principles and provides "model legislation" to state lawmakers.
One of those model laws is "stand your ground" legislation, now in the spotlight in the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting in Florida.
Several left-leaning progressive groups have been pushing corporations to part ways with ALEC, and in recent weeks several have. They include Coca-Cola, Kraft Foods and McDonald's.
Howell, who's been an ALEC member for 20 years and is on its board of directors, came out swinging in ALEC's defense when asked about the corporate defections at a press conference held to promote Virginia's high ranking on a new ALEC report on state business climates.
Howell said the criticisms are "a reflection of the fact that ALEC has been quite successful."
He said the groups attacking ALEC have been "very open in the fact that they want to destroy ALEC [by] intimidating corporate sponsors."
Howell dismissed the loss of those corporate sponsors as "not life-threatening to ALEC."
He accused the anti-ALEC groups--including ProgressVA--of "frivolous" charges against ALEC, and said linking ALEC to the Martin case in Florida is wrong.
"It isn't a case of, because of ALEC this incident happened in Florida at all," Howell said. "That's very typical of the distortion."
After the press conference, things heated up when Anna Scholl, ProgressVA's executive director, approached Howell to ask what, exactly, he believes her group has distorted.
Howell said ProgressVA, defines itself as a "multi-issue progressive advocacy organization" has made a big deal of the fact that Virginia spent several thousand dollars sending legislators to ALEC conferences, while not similarly noting that the state has also spent money for legislators to go to conferences from other groups, like the National Conference of State Legislatures.
As they argued, Howell finally said, "I guess I'm not speaking in little enough words for you to understand."
"I'm a smart girl, actually I think words with multiple syllables would be just fine for me," Scholl responded.
While Virginia lawmakers nearly approved "castle doctrine" gun bills this year--which protect a person who shoots an intruder in his or her home--the state has no "stand your ground law," which is aimed at self-defense shootings outside the home.
Howell said he doesn't think anyone has even introduced a "stand your ground" bill in Virginia.
Chelyen Davis: 804/343-2245