Nashville, TN (December 7, 2017 – The American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, is convening for a policy conference in Nashville this week. Tennessee Republicans have a long history with ALEC and many will be in attendance. ALEC is part of the Koch Brothers network of organizations that includes the advocacy group Americans for Prosperity (currently pushing the Republican tax plan) and think tanks like the Beacon Center that are part of the State Policy Network.
ALEC’s influence can be seen across Tennessee as their new strategy of “preemption,” or overruling local governments, has taken hold. Shelby County, which encompasses Memphis, a city with the highest child poverty rate in the country, passed a “Living Wage” ordinance in 2007. The state legislature overturned it, using an ALEC model legislation. Last year, led by State Senator Jack Johnson, the legislature overturned a Nashville Metro Charter Amendment that required local hiring on certain city projects. The amendment passed in 2015 with 58% support of Nashville voters.
“ALEC legislation has tied the hands of cities and towns from giving people the opportunity to have a good paying job, a roof over their head, and a safe place to work. They overturned the will of the voters in many cases. Republicans in Tennessee talk a lot about how local governments know best, but they keep taking away the tools they need to improve their communities,” Mary Mancini, Chair of the Tennessee Democratic Party said.
Many cities in Tennessee have experienced huge increases in housing costs causing displacement of long time residents and much of the local workforce whose wages have not kept up. Cities like Franklin, Chattanooga and Nashville are exploring ways to confront the housing crisis. In 2016, Rep. Glen Casada led another preemption effort, banning cities from implementing ‘inclusionary zoning,” a policy designed to grow the number of affordable and workforce housing units. Nashville moved forward with an alternative, incentive based plan to create new housing. Yet even that plan is drawing the ire of ALEC groups, as the Beacon Center of Tennessee has filed a lawsuit against Metro Nashville to stop the policy.