Over a year after the passage of SB 1070, what happened at the ballot box in Arizona this November was indicative a national backlash against not just anti-immigrant policies, but similar extremist overreach in state legislators on a number of issues. The verdict that Arizonans handed down on State Senator Russell Pearce this November was an historic one, as he became the first state lawmaker in Arizona history and the first Senate President of any state to be recalled. His support for extremist policies – including his close ties with the controversial, corporate-backed American Legislative Exchange Council – resulted in a bipartisan group of activists leading an ultimately successful charge to rein in his radical agenda.
This week, as the corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) convened its annual States & Nation Policy Summit in Scottsdale, Arizona, labor, civil rights, and activist groups took advantage of the opportunity to highlight ALEC’s role in advancing conservative legislation on everything from voter ID to SB 1070 copycat bills. National groups such as Common Cause and MoveOn joined the state AFL-CIO, Occupy Phoenix, and others to plan five days’ worth of events during the duration of the conference to highlight the detrimental effects that ALEC-backed policies have had on the economic security of families in both Arizona and states across the country — and to warn about elements of their destructive agenda that may be introduced in coming legislative sessions.
Last week, voters nationwide said no to the right-wing efforts of some state political leaders. Those in west Mesa's Legislative District 18 ousted one of Arizona's most powerful conservatives, partly because of his focus on illegal-immigration enforcement. Phoenix and Tucson elected Democratic mayors. In other states, voters overturned legislation that would have restricted unions and also rejected a ballot measure to ban all abortions. The outcomes of these elections have politicians and analysts wondering whether the nation is moving left.
Exactly one year ago, conservatives swept the states on Election Day, thanks to promises to focus on jobs and the economy. But in states where conservatives were able to advance their agenda in 2011 sessions, voters only saw attacks on workers, the middle class, women, immigrants, and historically disenfranchised communities. This week, voters from every corner of the nation - form Ohio to Maine to Arizona to Mississippi - sent a striking and direct message in response, rejecting the overreach of right-wing legislatures and governors in 2011 on a range of issues.
As the middle class remains under sustained attack in state legislatures, media attention is increasingly turning to the corporate interests orchestrating a national spread of industry-written bills seeking to weaken state economies, strip workers of their rights, suppress voter turnout, and capitalize on the politics of division and fear – all in pursuit of private profit. In a spate of recent reports, specific scrutiny is being focused on the role of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in allowing corporations access to influence state laws that benefit their bottom lines at the expense of the economic security of families.