Disbanded ALEC Task Force Chair: Gun and Voter Issues No Longer Priority

The former chair of the American Legislative Exchange Council's recently disbanded Elections and Public Safety Task Force said most of the committee's work on voting and gun issues probably will not continue elsewhere within ALEC, but said some could be pursued if they have ties to economic issues.

“The criminal justice area has been one where we have had consensus in doing the kinds of things we're doing with justice re-investment and with the things like our smart on crime initiatives and those things I hope don't get damaged by these actions going on now to break up what we've been able to put together,” said Republican Texas State Rep. Jerry Madden, former chair of the committee.

Madden made the comments following the announcement last week that ALEC would disband the committee after it drew complaints for its role in promoting NRA-backed gun laws and voter restrictions. ALEC says it will now refocus on economic legislation.

The National Rifle Association, a longtime member of and donor to ALEC, reportedly objected to the change.

During the previous week at least 10 companies left the organization following Color of Change's campaign that encouraged corporations to cut ties with ALEC due to its promotion of such laws.

The Christian Post reported earlier this week that Madden said ALEC planned to pursue many of the same issues elsewhere within the organization:

Republican State Rep. Jerry Madden of Texas chairs the Public Safety Task Force and although he is disappointed the committee is disbanding, he said many of the issues will be transferred to other committees.

“ALEC's decision won't impact the important issues we've worked on,” Madden told The Christian Post. “But I will say this, these groups are targeting ALEC because when conservatives get together, we influence state and federal policy in a major way and these groups are scared of us - and should be.”

Contacted by Media Matters on Wednesday, Madden said most of the gun and voting issues previously targeted by his committee will likely not be pursued as ALEC continues. But he hinted that some might have ties to economic concerns that would make them valid subjects to target

“The legislation that is truly economic, the things that I was really interested in and the things that I was working with in ALEC did deal with our justice reinvestment initiatives that we were doing in the criminal justice field,” he said, later adding, “most of those are economic in that they deal with a major part of all state budgets which is the criminal justice portion, which make up between 5 and 10 percent of most state budgets and is the fourth largest item in almost every state budget so it fits well within the economic things.

”What we were doing was looking at how do you change the criminal justice population? How do you reduce the number of prisoners that we have in prisons and how do we move those funds and things like that back to local areas so that they can have additional reinforcement to deal with the crime problems within their area and basically reduce our prison populations."

Asked specifically about gun issues such as the Stand Your Ground law that had drawn concern, Madden said they likely would not be continued. But he said that is not definite.

“Most of them were not what would fit in the economic things,” he said of the gun legislation. “Now will I say none ever would? We did two bills this last time in a committee meeting - one that dealt with how does law enforcement dispose of weapons that they have? ... Another one dealt with fraudulent applications for licensing things. So that was the extent of those. Probably those don't apply, probably don't fit into the economic grounds of things that we have been doing.”

He later said of gun issues being pursued by ALEC in the future: “If there are any, I don't know of any and I have not heard of any specific discussions by any of them as far as those bills that were in the committee. I suspect that they're not going to be left, just die as proposals, but I don't know that.”

On the issue of legislation intended to prevent what conservatives claim is an epidemic of voter fraud, Madden said, “I don't know what they are going to do with all of those. The board was looking at various ones that they had issues on. I think most of those will probably not be issues that they have. From what I understand but I can't tell you that for sure. I know the board is looking at all of the policies that they had and see where they fit or they didn't fit. I don't know that those will be ones that they'll be leaving on the table. I suspect they won't be.”

Asked about legislation related to immigration, Madden said there could be an economic tie that keeps it on ALEC's laundry list.

“Some of those things certainly are economics, I think those things that deal with economic issues certainly still very much will be on the table. But I can't tell you specifically what they will be doing because we didn't have the immigration things, most of them were not in my committee.”

He later added: “Obviously if it's an economic issue, businesses that are hiring illegals for example I would think would be one that we've always been high on, penalizing those businesses that hire and violate the laws of the United States and doing that hiring. Those are the kinds of things that I would think might very well fit within the things they were talking about, but I haven't talked about anybody so I would be a bad one to quote on any of those things that I specifically don't know all of those issues of what they would be doing with all of those.”

Madden did admit that the opposition to ALEC would hurt its efforts in areas he supports.

“I think it's going to hurt us some in what we're trying to do in the criminal justice system, things that I've been working with so much to get a broad consensus of support,” Madden said.

Officials at ALEC did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.